Putting a face on Arizona's budget cuts - Tucson News Now

Putting a face on Arizona's budget cuts

By Bud Foster - bio | email

When it comes time to cut budgets, sometimes numbers on a page don't mean very much.

But when you see the faces, the numbers become a reality.

That fact is setting in on Arizona state lawmakers who have cut the state budget by billions. Billions more are yet to come.

The developmentally disabled held a rally downtown Tucson last week bringing attention to their plight.

Many of them will see their programs slashed or done away with altogether. That means for a person confined to a wheelchair, without the mental capacity to function normally or beset by a disease which makes them dysfunctional, the results can be devastating.

It's been a difficult time for Arizona state lawmakers cutting the budget.

"All of us are going to have to do things we're not necessarily comfortable doing," says Vic Williams, a Republican lawmaker from District 26.

"This is a crisis. A true financial crisis," he adds.

Williams voted to cut the Arizona Department of Department of Security budget by $43 million in the waning days of January.

Now the reality is coming due.

"We're tweaking numbers. 7% here. 12% there. Whatever number you want," says Matt Heinz, a first term Democrat from District 29.

"The point is these are humans. They're people. They're your neighbors. And they're in trouble. And I think we think we really need to keep that in mind as we go forward," he adds.

"I think it was a mistake," says District 30 Senator Jonathan Paton.

Paton thinks it was a bad idea to tell DES to cut without giving direction where to cut.

But DES told us today, "These were gut-wrenching decisions for our leadership team. However, as responsible public administrators, we have to manage the programs within the funding appropriated to us."

Williams adds, "from the legislative point of view, we're here to appropriate. I don't want to manage or micro manage DES. They should have the authority to go out to make those decisions because they understand the needs of their constituents, their clients at that level."

The stimulus money, depending on how much it is, will determine what changes are coming in next year's budget.

But the changes made this year, they'll have to live with.

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