Budget plan details program cuts
Jan. 17, 2009
offer options on deficits
Mary Jo Pitzl
The state could
eliminate all-day kindergarten and save $218.3 million next year, according to a
plan presented to lawmakers this week.
And there could be an additional $218 million in savings in the budget year that
starts July 1 if lawmakers opt to suspend money sent to the schools for such
things as furniture, textbooks and school buses.
No cuts to these programs are proposed for the current year.
These are among the details contained in a phone-book-size document released
Friday. It outlines more than 500 budget-cutting options from the state's two
budget chairmen to help the state close a $1.6 billion deficit this year, as
well as an anticipated $3 billion deficit in 2009-10.
The proposal would phase out state money to help schools pay bonuses to
experienced and excelling teachers. Schools would need to cut teaching positions
and increase class sizes, said
state superintendent of public instruction.
"It would be harder to attract and retain qualified teachers, and that's the
real impact," Horne said.
Lawmakers were presented with the generalized plan Thursday but didn't get the
details until Friday.
And some were quick to note that the "budget options" plan is far from a final
"Those options are just that . . . options," Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said in
a news release. "Those options did not come from House leadership but do
demonstrate how bad the state's budget situation is for the foreseeable future."
Crandall, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he was stung by the
suggestion that the options represent the will of the Legislature's Republican
Rather, they are ideas set out by House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh,
R-Fountain Hills, and his Senate counterpart,
The two budget chairmen told lawmakers the options are a starting point for
revising this year's budget, as well as building a new budget for 2009-10.
But they cautioned that if any lawmaker wants to rule out an option, he or she
must suggest a cut elsewhere to keep the plan in balance. And as far as the
current-year budget is concerned, they said there is little time to spare.
Kavanagh and Pearce said they want to get a revised fiscal 2009 budget finished
by Jan. 31.
"You can't wait," Pearce said Thursday. Every day lawmakers delay, spending
continues unabated, he said.
Among other details in the options budget:
• Eliminate the KidsCare health-care program, for a savings of $18.3 million
this year and $35.6 million next year. The program provides
to nearly 63,000 Arizona children. These children come from families that do not
qualify for the state's Medicare program, the Arizona Health Care Cost
Containment System, but whose incomes fall below 200 percent of the federal
poverty level of $21,200 for a family of four.
• Eliminate KidsCare Parents, a companion program to KidsCare that covers
parents. Ending the program would save $4.7 million this year and $7.3 million
• Cut funding to the Arizona Board of Regents by $26 million this year and $58
million next year. Among the options: Take the official enrollment count on the
45th day of the semester, rather than the current standard of the 21st day.
Typically, enrollment is lower later in the semester.
• Save $115 million by cutting various university programs this year, mostly
through lump-sum reductions. Another $178 million in savings is suggested for
Arizona State University would lose 26 percent of state money in 2009,
spokeswoman Terri Shafer said. The proposed cuts for 2010 would equal 40 percent
of state money or the equivalent to withdrawing funding for more than 40,000
students, Shafer said.
In a news release,
State University President Michael Crow called the options
plan a blueprint for putting Arizona "on the path to resembling a Third World
But not everyone reacted negatively.
"The Pearce-Kavanagh plan is the only plan on the table that would bring the
state's massive budget deficit under control and thereby put Arizona onto a path
of strong economic growth," said Tom Jenney, director of the Arizona chapter of
Americans for Prosperity, which pushes for lower taxation and less government.
His group's only lament, he said, was that the plan assumes Arizona will receive
bailout money from the federal government.
The budget chairmen's plans anticipate $400 million from the federal government
for this year and an equal amount next year.
They also rely on scooping up leftover money in agency budgets to help balance
Budget work begins Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee and continues
Wednesday in House Appropriations.