Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
You were warned this would happen. Shooter considering banning public testimony on budget bills - Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required):
The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said Tuesday he is considering banning all public testimony when lawmakers take up the state budget later this year.
Public comment? "I heard it last year," Shooter said.
Our tyrannical Tea-Publican legislature's budget, which was crafted in secret behind closed doors (so much for the Open Meetings law), was introduced on Monday afternoon and approved by votes of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees before Noon on Tuesday. Ramming it through and jamming it through committee without the public having any opportunity to receive adequate notice and to comment on the budget before a vote. No-growth budget OK'd by 2 panels; changes possible:
Less than 24 hours after making the plan public, Republican-controlled appropriation committees in the House and Senate voted Tuesday to approve a no-growth budget for the state.
But there already are cracks developing in what is supposed to be a unified GOP front. Several legislators say they want changes before the package of bills gets to the full House and Senate, possibly this coming week.
Several legislators have questions about why the plan crafted by their leaders makes no effort to equalize per-student funding among the state's three universities. And the lack of new funding comes even as the number of students increases.
Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson, vowed to vote against any plan that does not require the state to start accounting for the money being shifted from the highway fund to instead keep government operating.
At hearings Tuesday, representatives of various groups that provide or advocate for public services made their pitches to lawmakers to ease their squeeze on spending.
Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance, said the no-growth plan advanced by Republican lawmakers will cause harm, particularly the refusal of lawmakers to support a request by Gov. Jan Brewer to provide $25.8 million to replace lost federal aid that now is being used for the Department of Economic Security.
Naimark struck somewhat more fertile ground when she pointed out that Brewer proposed $50 million in additional aid to schools for that third-grade reading requirement; the legislative budget has no such allocation.
Crandall said that makes no sense. He pointed out lawmakers gave schools more money when they imposed a requirement that students pass all three sections of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards in order to graduate. Crandall said the same thing needs to happen if the state is threatening to hold back third-graders because of lack of reading skills.
"The states I've looked at, of all those that have passed a third-grade retention requirement, we're the only ones that have so far not put any resources toward that," he said.
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Also missing from the legislative budget is Brewer's plan to start equalizing funding among the three universities.
Joseph Grossman, president of the downtown campus of Arizona State University, said a study performed by the Board of Regents found that the University of Arizona received $6,598 for each student, compared with $5,702 at Arizona State and $5,840 at Northern Arizona University. Brewer, in her budget proposal, moves to start equalizing that with $15 million in "performance funding."
Crandall said the problem of higher education funding goes beyond that because, while no funds were cut, teaching the 4,400 new students at the universities without an increase is the same as a cut.
The real battle over the budget is not between Tea-Publicans and the Democrats; with a super-majority in both chambers the Tea-Publicans will simply disregard the Democrats, and the 40% or so of Arizona residents whom they represent. Their battle is with our Red Queen, Gov. Jan Brewer. It's like a contest among Tea-Publicans to see who can be the most authoritarian, democracy be damned.
The Arizona Republic has an editorial opinion today taking our Tea-Publican legislature to task for its lack of democratic process. Lawmakers' proposal will weaken Arizona:
The budget racing through the Legislature is great -- for Arizona's competitors. This is a plan that would shortchange education, chip away at basic services like law enforcement and ignore building blocks for the future.
It would leave our state diminished and weakened, just as other states are investing to recover from the severe downturn. Even though revenue is picking up, the budget bills crafted by GOP legislative leaders would reduce next year's spending by $106 million, for a total of $8.66 billion.
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The process was as deeply flawed as the product. The budget bills were written behind closed doors and filed Monday afternoon, on the Presidents Day holiday. Hearings started at 8 a.m. Tuesday, just 18 hours later. Some legislators complained that they didn't even have time to read the package of 10 bills.
Yet by noon, the whole kit and caboodle passed the Appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate. This tiny window of time, with virtually no notice, was probably the public's only chance to comment on the budget plan. Shutting out public input is not the sign of a healthy democracy.