by David Safier
Speaker Adams just confirmed on the floor that we will likely be calling a special session by tomorrow in which all normal committees are cancelled and we will focus on the adoption of the Fiscal 2009 budget fix to balance the $1.58 billion deficit. We will then likely be in session on Friday to pass the budget bills to the Senate, conference committee and our new Governor.
But no one really knows whether we will be able to get that done that quickly, whether the votes are there in the House or Senate, or whether the Senate will agree with the House and the Governor. There is a meeting late this afternoon between the House and Senate Republican leadership to attempt to come to consensus so that the skids can be greased on any potential budget deal.
Luckily, university students and other university supporters will be holding their own public hearing on Mr. Pearce's proposed cuts to education. More than 5,000 of them will be descending on the Capitol [Wednesday], not to whine, but to make their voices heard very clearly. If you are in the area, please make your voice heard, too. There will be a press conference here at 11:00am, followed by a program from noon to 1:30.
Democrats released our own budget plan for 09 yesterday and it is a stark contrast to the majority options. Hard cuts are made, and the FY10 budget will be even more difficult, but the 09 proposal is able to preserve the K-12 classroom experience for all Arizona kids, save university funding, and maintain healthcare for kids and their parents, all without any increase in taxes.
From what we hear, some of our recommendations may be adopted into the majority proposal. The voices of the public to protect education have been loud and numerous, and has caused even several Republican members of the Appropriations Committee to vote with ranking member Kyrsten Sinema's motion last Thursday to consider options other than the draconian majority proposals.
Indeed, the business community has begun to be heard as well. The big-business CEO group Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) is in the process of finalizing a joint statement with Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Flagstaff 40 denouncing cuts to education and advocating for better alternatives.
In the words of SALC member John Bremond, regional vice president of KB Home--and not your typical liberal--, "We should be looking for ways to increase our spending on education, not reducing it. I would like to add that the solution to our present challenges should be as focused on enhancing revenue sources as it is on cutting costs."
Whether the Republican majority listens to these business leaders (many of whom are staunch Republicans)--or the rest of the loud chorus of voices asking that we do not balance this budget on the backs of our children, middle-class families, or our economy--remains to be seen.