With the 51st session of the Arizona Legislature kicking off, legislators have many items on their agenda. Recent legislative sessions have focused on controversial issues at the expense of more pressing concerns like getting our economy back on track and improving our education system. At the outset of a new session, it is my sincere hope that Gov. Jan Brewer and legislators focus on the following issues:
• Education. The failure of Proposition 204 on the November ballot last year removed a sizeable source of future revenue from the state’s budget, and will put additional pressure on the Legislature to restore funding to our state’s K-12 schools and universities. To compete in a 21st century economy, it is imperative that the governor and the Legislature take steps to invest in our schools. Such steps include: devoting resources to aid schools and teachers in the upcoming implementation of Common Core Standards, providing additional support for “soft capital” projects to fund equipment and building repairs, and restoring a portion of the funding to schools cut during the recession to help lower class sizes and improve educational outcomes. With the state’s rainy day fund estimated to be about $450 million (and growing), and signs that the state’s economy is on the road to recovery, now is the time to start investing in our state’s future.
• Kids Care. Since 2010, Arizona remains the only state in the country that does not fully fund its Children’s Health Insurance Program, called Kids Care. As a result, tens of thousands of children in low-income families remain on a waiting list to receive health care. The cost to fully fund the program is estimated to be about $30 million a year, which is less than 10 percent of the funds stored in the state’s rainy day fund. As a matter of public health, and caring for some of our state’s most vulnerable children, the Legislature needs to take steps to restore this critical funding.
• Loop 202. As an Ahwatukee resident, there are few policy matters as pressing to our community as that of the proposed and consistently delayed Loop 202 project. The struggle over where to build is a problem larger than the Legislature, and will require our legislators from Ahwatukee and surrounding areas to work with the Gila River Indian Community, our federal delegation in Congress, the Arizona Department of Transportation, and other stakeholders to devise a solution that approves the extension in such a manner that does not run through Ahwatukee or the sacred areas of South Mountain.
Taken together, these steps offer a moderate, sensible approach to good governance that all Ahwatukee residents can get behind.
• Ahwatukee native Sean Bowie is a graduate student at the H. John Heinz III College School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.