I'm a nurse, a longtime Arizona resident, a mom to two teachers, a grandma and a veteran of our country's Naval Reserve. In each of these roles, I've learned how important it is for our community to support those who need our help most - and most often, that's our children.

Unfortunately, the cuts to our state's budget over the past few years are making it more difficult for us to support kids. From the classroom to the exam room, our children are feeling the effect of Arizona's worst fiscal crisis in decades.

Beyond my job as a caregiver, I'm also the chief nursing executive at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Arizona's budget cuts are crippling pediatric health care in this state at the very time our pediatric population continues to grow. More cuts are simply not the answer.

There is a way all Arizonans can help get our state moving in the right direction again and do right by our kids: Please join me in voting yes on Proposition 100 in this spring's special election.

This vote is particularly important to the future of children's health care in our state. The Arizona budget deficit has led the Legislature to make devastating cuts to our state Medicaid program (AHCCCS), which funds everything from health care for low-income children to training for our state's future pediatricians.

At Phoenix Children's Hospital alone, we absorbed $6.7 million in Medicaid cuts in 2008, and we took an additional $8.3 million hit in 2009. The state budget for fiscal year 2011 includes another $10 million in cuts for our hospital.

Meanwhile, we're taking care of more patients who need our help. Since 2004, about 475,000 more people have joined the Medicaid program.

Add all that up, and it means one thing: Not-for-profit, safety net hospitals like Phoenix Children's that care for our state's sickest children are working harder every day to do more with less. That is a very precarious position for us to be in as the only place in Arizona where children can receive a kidney transplant, see a pediatric rheumatologist or be treated for HIV.

More cuts are not the answer - but getting more money back in our state's bank can help. Proposition 100 increases the state sales tax by 1 percent for three years. I see it as a short-term investment for long-term gain. I'm no more of a fan of tax increases than you are, but the future of our state is at stake.

If Proposition 100 fails, we are facing another $1 billion in devastating cuts, including another $200 million that would be erased from health care and human services. As a nurse, an Arizonan, and a grandma, I'm frightened by what that could mean for our kids. We have to decide what kind of state we want for our families. Times are tough, but this is when our children need us most. Please join me in voting yes on Proposition 100.


Debra K. Pendergast, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, is vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nurse executive at Phoenix Children's Hospital.



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