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Guest Opinion

Realizing Govs. budget benefits shaky at best

San Pedro Valley News-Sun of Benson, Arizona

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The talking points presented during last week's State of the State address by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer were certainly ambitious.

Lower taxes, improve education, create jobs for those out of work and reform social safety nets for everyone from children to senior citizens.

What's not to like? If the governor's vision was to be accomplished, Arizona would have fewer regulations, better schools, and a robust economy. There would be a "chicken in every pot" of every family.

Accomplishing her agenda and realizing the expected benefits she predicts, however, are not only difficult, they are contradictory.

It's not a surprise the Legislature began its 2012 session with a state revenue surplus. Part of it occurs because of the voters' approval of a temporary increase in the state sales tax.

But much of it is because education spending was slashed and support for medical services in Arizona were whacked. That has forced school districts to cut programs and positions; and pushed hospitals, especially in rural areas, to figure out how they can afford to treat people who offer significantly less in reimbursement.

Arizona has pushed the envelope on finding alternatives to public education.

Lawmakers in recent years have cut public education funding and encouraged the development of charter schools. Brewer appears ready to fire the next volley in her administration's war on public education with an initiative to create a voucher system that would allow state funds to be directed to privately-run institutions.

That step would further deteriorate the ability of public schools to afford a full range of education programs for all levels of ability.

We think the governor is on the right track when she recognizes that Arizona needs to encourage business development in the state. And, she's right to link the success of that goal to a need for quality education.

One of the strongest resources a state can offer when it seeks to attract a new employer is an educated workforce.

Unfortunately, based on the priorities demonstrated in previous state budgets, our governor appears more committed to creating an environment that offers corporations greater profits at the expense of public education and social services.

Original Publication Date: January 18, 2012

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