Last night, Republicans in the State Senate voted to cut another $200 million from the state budget. This includes a 7.5% cut to some state agencies and up to a 5% pay cut for state employees. To date over 1,600 state employees have been laid off and over 27,000 have been furloughed. Thousands more were laid off because of state-related contracts. We do not yet know the complete effect of this bill or how many more will be laid off as a result of this bill.
Sen. Rebecca Rios offered an amendment to restore the cuts to the Attorney General's office to help the state continue to protect Arizonans against financial fraud and border crime. While the Attorney General's office has been cut tremendously, other Republican elected officials such as the State Treasurer and Secretary of State have not taken cuts. All Democrats voted vote it and all Republicans voted against it.
Sen. Rios also offered an amendment which would restore child abuse prevention funds. The number of child abuse cases is increasing in part due to increased pressure from the recession. We are already aware that the Department of Economic Services is unable to investigate all complaints it receives regarding child abuse. Again, all Democrats voted for it and all Republicans voted against it.
In the end, Democrats all voted against the bill.
"Bipartisan cuts are ones where all parties are at the table. We are not voting for this bill because we did not have a say in it," said Sen. Rebecca Rios, Assistant Democratic Leader.
The legislature is currently in its Fifth Special Session called by Governor Brewer. The original call included three issues, including a sales tax referral and a referral to raid voter protected funds. The Republicans claim a mix-up in election date prevented the referral from going forward for the March ballot.
Thursday afternoon, Sen. Ken Cheuvront called attention to the "mix-up" during a press conference. He stated that a lack of communication between the Republican Governor, Republican Secretary of State and Republican Legislative Leadership caused the legislature to return to this special session without a concrete plan, which has been a waste of taxpayer dollars. For the vast majority of the last 44 years, Republicans have controlled the legislature despite the desire to blame Democrats for the state’s economic woes.
The House of Representatives is meeting today to consider the bill and the Senate will return to the floor tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.