Friday, June 12, 2015

Arizona and Nevada: Two states, two Governors, two competing visions

Arizona is now recognized as "the stingiest state in the nation".

One measure of what you value is what you spend your money on. Our dear Gov, Il Duce, cut education, rather severely given that crAZy is already dead last in per pupil K-12 spending. So one would have to conclude that Duce really does not value education. And by the same token, one would have to conclude that he does not value much else other than tax breaks for corporations.

Compare Arizona's commitment to cutting education to Nevada's $1.1 billion tax increase to fund education. The full comparison was reported last week in the Washington Post and featured today by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Popular Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval got a tax package through the state's Republican legislature focused on education. Snippets from the Post's report follow.

Cactuses and Republicans are native to both Nevada and Arizona, but this year, that’s pretty much where the comparison ends.

As spring budgetmaking sessions came to a close, GOP leaders in each state emerged with bold — and wildly divergent — plans for the future.

On Monday, Nevada passed its largest tax increase ever — $1.1 billion — in order to raise money for the state’s struggling schools. Local papers heaped praise on Gov. Brian Sandoval (R ) for pulling off this unlikely feat, which took months of coaxing his recalcitrant Republican colleagues.

Arizona made history of a different kind last month. Propelled by his campaign-trail pledge to reduce taxes every year he is in office, Gov. Doug Ducey (R ) led his legislature into passing one of the state’s stingiest budgets in the past 30 years. The hundreds of millions in cuts come at the expense of Arizona’s colleges, Medicaid and the poor.

The Post report is harsh when it comes to crAZy's stinginess towards the poor, sick, and young.

Arizona chose austerity. Ducey, the former Cold Stone Creamery CEO, ran on a pro forma pro-business platform in 2014. Upon being sworn in this year, he came out with a harsh formula for closing the state’s $1.5 billion deficit: cuts, cuts, and more cuts.

From Arizona’s public universities, the budget withholds $99 million, representing a 13 percent reduction in state funding. That’s a hefty sum even in a state as inured to higher education cuts as Arizona, which has halved per-pupil spending since the recession. Students have been forced to make up the difference. Tuition at Arizona’s public four-year colleges has more than doubled in the past decade. Now, Arizona State University is seeking to charge students a one-time emergency fee of $320 to compensate for Ducey’s cuts.

From Arizona’s Medicaid program, the austerity budget imposes a 5 percent reduction in what doctors and hospitals get paid, saving $37 million but risking perhaps many times that in federal matching funds. Another $40 million in savings will come from shifting administrative costs onto counties and cities.

Then there was the cruelest cut.

Starting next summer, Arizona will kick out any family that has been on welfare for more than 12 months. That’s 12 payments, averaging $200 each month, before a household gets banned from welfare for life in Arizona.

Most states have five-year lifetime limits on cash assistance, a condition attached to the $16.5 billion in TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, money the federal government gives states to manage each year. Some states have narrowed that window to three, even two years. But only Arizona has plans to curtail its program to single year.

This latest move, which will make Arizona the stingiest state in the nation, is expected to shake loose some $9 million a year. About 1,600 families, including 2,700 children, will see their time come due next summer, officials estimate.

Some of the pain could have been avoided had Ducey chosen to roll back some corporate tax cuts scheduled to kick in next year. That would have returned about $100 million to the budget. But Ducey took a hard line. His belief in not raising taxes also meant there would be no take-backs on previously promised tax cuts.

Nevada, on the other hand, also has its fiscal problems, and also has a nutty rule against taxing income. But that did not stop the state government from doing right by its public education.

Contrast Arizona to Nevada, where Sandoval made an audacious plan last year to fix the state’s ailing K-12 education system: Raise taxes by $1.1 billion, and funnel that money into schools.

His vision is of a diversified Nevada, a state that attracts high-tech workers, not just gamblers. A cornerstone of his plan is education reform. But only until after Sandoval won reelection with 70 percent of the vote did he make widely known how he would pay for his education initiatives.

Sandoval’s $1.1 billion tax hike includes a new tax on corporate revenues and an increase in the cigarette tax. About $500 million of the money comes from making permanent some temporary payroll and sales tax increases that were enacted during the recession.

Go that? Nevada makes permanent some tax increases -- the action that Dicey Ducey so opposed while in office as state treasurer. Instead, Duce makes permanent tax decreases, a boon to corporations and a bane to public education.

I've maintained for years that the term "conservative" is wrongly applied to today's brand of Tea Potty GOPlins. Sandoval agrees.

"I’m as conservative as anybody, but it’s not conservative to have bad schools. It’s not conservative to have bad roads. It’s not conservative to have budget struggles every other year," he said.

Apparently a majority of the Nevada legislature also agrees.

Now if only AZ would pick a better role model. Nevada looks pretty good right now. Our role model should not be Kansas, Toto.

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