I started my job as your new State Representative on January 12th. The job is both exciting and challenging! I work at the State Capitol full time. Since I’ve started, we worked until 2:30am Saturday January 31st to balance the state budget which was $1.6 Billion short and we have voted on bills that may become new state law. In addition, I have helped constituents with problems, answered hundreds of emails, and met with great people from all over our district and state. Some people ask why I would do all this for $24,000 per year. The answer is I love learning new things, solving problems, meeting new people, and most of all making a difference.
Balancing our state budget is the biggest challenge facing legislators this year. Our budget shortfall, projected at $3 Billion next fiscal year, is caused by a combination of a very bad economy and spending more than what we are bringing in. Since 2005, our state increased spending by 14% per year, while revenues have historically increased by only 7% per year. Now revenues are decreasing, not increasing. Sales taxes are down dramatically due to huge decreases in car and construction sales. Individual and corporate income taxes have plummeted.
State legislators had no choice but to cut state spending in almost all areas. Doing anything else would have been irresponsible. If we didn’t cut as much in one area, we would have had to cut even more in another.
Six state agencies account for 91% of State General Fund spending. Of those six, Kindergarten-12th grade education makes up 42% of state general fund spending and Universities make up another 11%. (These percentages do not even include property tax or federal monies education receives). As a percentage of their total funds (which includes property taxes and federal monies), Kindergarten-12th grade was cut 2.3%, Universities 4.1%, Community Colleges .6%, Department of Economic Security 3.6%, medical care for the poor (AHCCCS) 1.7%, and prisons 2.1%.
The decisions were VERY difficult. A mother called me desperate that her son would die without an organ transplant. Veterans were concerned about program cuts. People in wheelchairs came to testify, and the AZ Education Association (teacher union) and universities rallied people to oppose education cuts.
I hope this helps you understand the severity of our state budget problem. I know that we will get through these rough times if we work together.
Please know that I am working hard for you. I ask for your patience, your understanding, and your prayers.