State Budget Proposal

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George Cunningham, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Janet Napolitano joins Horizonte to provide an in-depth analysis the Governor’s newly released budget proposal.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Tonight on Horizonte, earlier this week Governor Janet Napolitano released her budget proposal for the upcoming years. Key parts of the budget are immigration, health, education. A local community organization continues its commitment to educate and service the Latino community. Also the ongoing initiatives taking place throughout the state that Horizonte will be tracking as they develop. All this next on Horizonte. On Tuesday Governor Janet Napolitano released her 2006-2007 budget plan. The $10.1 billion plan calls for increased border security, improved education, including the expansion of all day kindergarten and increased funding for the English language learners program and tax cuts. Joining us tonight to discuss the budget plan is George Cunningham, deputy chief of staff to governor Napolitano. George, good to have you back.

George Cunningham:
A pleasure to be here.

José Cárdenas:
A lot of specifics we want to talk about. Let's start with the overlying principles of the governor's proposals.

George Cunningham:
The governor offered a balanced budget which provides funding for the themes that were in her state-of-the-state where she talked about an Arizona that is safe, strong and prosperous. So in that context there are components, which pay back debts that the state incurred when the economy went down in the early 2002 and 2003. Investments in education and other areas that will help move Arizona forward, thirdly, put some money away in savings accounts, rainy day accounts so when the economy downturns again we'll have a soft landing, and to provide some targeted tax relief for the citizens of the state of Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
Education has been described as the governor's number one priority. Let's talk of what she's doing in that area.

George Cunningham:
In education she has several initiatives there. First and foremost is the full funding of the kindergarten through 12th grade for basic state aid for school districts to be able to continue to provide quality education in Arizona. Secondly --

José Cárdenas:
And that's about 114 million?

George Cunningham:
Full funding is actually having to do with the base, and that's $238 million, has to do with inflation and increased enrollment. In addition to that there's the voluntarily full day kindergarten, which is the $114 million on the screen, which would extend voluntary full day kindergarten across the state to all school districts. As you know, in the past two years the governor has implemented increments of approximately 10% each, and this will close that out. Thirdly she has a teacher pay package. The teacher pay package includes two components, one is to ensure that every teacher in the state of Arizona has at least a salary of $30,000, and then secondly to provide some additional salary increases for every teacher. And that's about a $45.2 million package. In addition, she provides $45 million to hold teacher the harmless for some employee contributions to the retirement system that are going to increase. That makes $90 million. And then she also has $45.2 million in there for English language learners to ensure that English -- students that need English language learning have the ability to achieve that so that they can graduate from high school and they can become part of the economy and so forth. You know, the governor's feeling here, and what she has indicate add number of times is that education is really the great economic equalizer in our society, the equalizer between those who are born of wealth and those who learn in school and gain the knowledge and ability to achieve economic independence or prosperity as a result of their learning. So a quality education system is so important. And an investment in education pays off so much to all the citizens of the state of Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
George, you talked about the connection between the themes of the governor's speech and her budget. One of them was a safe Arizona. She seemed to focus in particular on border security. We've got a graphic on that, too, what she's doing in that area. Let's talk about that.

George Cunningham:
The governor has a border security package. It's approximately $100 million. And it is designed to stem the tide of criminal activity associated with the border. That criminal activity includes such crimes as human smuggling, drug trafficking, car theft, domestic terrorism, as well as gang related activity. The funding that would be provided is for, in part, for technology and equipment such as the smart fence that is a radar or a ground based radar system which allows for signals to be sent to various monitors as a result of activity that occurs in various sections. It is not a fence -- it is not a fence in the sense of a wall. It's an electronic surveillance kind of machine.

José Cárdenas:
Who would actually be using that technology? Local law enforcement or are we talking about this being made available to the border patrol or who?

George Cunningham:
It would be in fact local law enforcement that would be utilizing this technology. And there is funding also in the border security package for law enforcement personnel who become through training and other efforts become better equipped to apprehend, investigate and prosecute criminal activity related to the border.

José Cárdenas:
Now, the governor also talked about using the National Guard in connection with this. But as I understand it, that's not necessarily a budget item. That's a request to the federal government to pay for that, am I right?

George Cunningham:
That's correct. There is not a budget item specifically for that. But as we go through the legislative session and so forth and this particular item is considered by the leadership and the legislature as a whole, it might be that the uses for which the dollars are intended may change, may expand or contract.

José Cárdenas:
And there's some differences between the legislative budget proposals and the governor's I want to get to in a little bit. Before we do that, continue with the governor's proposal. She also suggested a number of areas of tax cuts totaling roughly $100 million. Let's talk about that.

George Cunningham:
Yes. The governor had some targeted tax relief that she has proposed. First and foremost is a $1,000 tax credit, healthcare tax credit, to those businesses that -- small businesses between 2 and 24 employees who currently of health insurance. In addition, there's that $1,000 would be made available to small businesses that have 2 to 24 employees who would begin to offer health insurance coverage for their employees. This is an inducement as well as a thank you to small businesses who really have a tough time providing healthcare, and many times they have to choose between employing employees, providing them with salary and providing healthcare. So this is a way to try to expand the coverage of healthcare in small businesses. And small businesses between 2 and 24 are much smaller percentage of those overall of healthcare coverage than do businesses that are much larger.

José Cárdenas:
And for the broader citizen we've got the vehicle license tax cut? What can you tell us about that?

George Cunningham:
The vehicle license tax cut will reward effectively those drivers of vehicles that have high mile the per gallon. And it's a tiered system such that you'll have a -- at the first tier if your vehicle gets between 31 and 35-miles per gallon, you'll have a 25% reduction on your vehicle license tax. And then there's a tier for 36 to 40 and a tier for 41 to 45. If your vehicle achieves a 46-miles per gallon or more, then you effectively will be exempts from the vehicle license tax and the fee that you'll pay is like $10. So it's an inducement for those who conserve fuel with the use of that type of vehicle.

José Cárdenas:
So somebody who drivers a hum per is not going to get much of a --

George Cunningham:
A person who drives a hummer unless they replace the motor in there with a single cycle engine, they would get this.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk quickly about some of the back to school tax credits.

George Cunningham:
The governor has offered a sales tax holiday to the legislature for consideration. And what this would do is it would allow for a cessation of the imposition of the sales tax for a three day period in the first week of august, principally for the purchase of school supplies, clothing and computers. And there's limits on the single item for that.

José Cárdenas:
We've got it on the screen right now. 100 for school clothes.

George Cunningham:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
$50 for supplies and $1,000 for computer. So a person can buy a piece of clothing that would normally be $50 and then they would normally pay approximately 8.2% on that in sales tax. And rather than paying $54 they would pay $50 for that. That's what the sale tax holiday will do. The same with the computer. If the computer were $900 rather than paying 9 p $2, that would be 8% times 900 for that tax, that would be 900. The other major area is business attraction. What can you tell us about the governor's plans there?

George Cunningham:
The governor, one major initiative on her part is an effort to try to create the Arizona -- the innovation Arizona fund. And that fund would be used for the purposes of attracting world class researchers to Arizona as well as providing competitive grants to universities, private institutes, research institutes and others that form a public-private partnership and present a proposal that will result in the research of which will result in a new technology, a new process, a new system or a new product that has a hypo tension for commercialization. And this $25 million, which the governor set aside for this fund, we believe will have a tremendous opportunity to attract world-class scientists to Arizona as well as having the opportunity to conduct research that will bring wealth to Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
George, we've got about a minute left in the show, in this segment, anyway. One other aspect about safety that I'd like you to cover quickly has to do with methamphetamines, shelter for domestic violence victims and so forth. What can you tell us in that regard?

George Cunningham:
In the governor's budget there is $750,000 allocated to the department of public safety to be able to focus specifically on meth-related crimes and health trafficking as well as the manufacture or production of meth laboratories. Also in the governor's budget is $1.2 million to the department of health services, specifically targeted for treatment of meth users. And I think a lot of that -- excuse me.

José Cárdenas:
We're out of time but I think we covered the major elements and we do appreciate you joining us on Horizonte today. George Cunningham, deputy chief of staff. Latinos are among the highest minority groups affected by health issues such as sexually transmitted did seize and die bee cease. Concilio Latino de Salud deals with these issues. They just celebrated 15 years of service. Nadine Arroyo tells us more.

Nadine Arroyo:
Arizona residents are being introduce today information about various medical issues effecting the Latino population in record number. HIV, STD, diabetes, immunization, mental health and just a few. The Concilio Latino de Salud staff visit jails, communities, in hopes of creating a healthier community.

Noe Vargas:
Our purpose is to reach those who be underserved due to the fact that they are underserved because they can't get services or are afraid to get services. One of the things we do is refer them to services. And there is a lot of fear right now due to the proposition 200 brought out a lot of fear, not necessarily -- even some of them with documents have fear to go in to get services. So one of the things we do is we talk to them, we educate them, and we also refer them to services.

Nadine Arroyo:
Here Concilio Latino de Salud staff visit the Mexican consulate of Phoenix where hundreds of Latinos arrive at any given moment and many can be reached in a matter of minutes. Materials are provided for individuals to read and in some instances to take home and use. Staff even offers on-site medical testing in quarantined areas for diseases such as HIV and syphilis.

Noe Vargas:
They respond once they understand. Once they know the information, they know that -- they think they are at risk, for instance, for HIV, STD, one thing they understand that they can get services, get tested, confidential testing, and if they are positive they can actually access the services whether they are documented or not.

Nadine Arroyo:
And while some staff members are in the community, others are at the Concilio Latino de Salud center assisting those in need.

Receptioninst:
You fill out these four lines with is your name, social security -- if you don't have one it don't matter.

Nadine Arroyo:
It also provides referral services from job services in children's programs and substance abuse to food boxes.

Noe Vargas:
In order for you to help someone you need to make sure they have first of all their basic needs covered, which is physical, they need to have a roof over their head, they need to have their stomach full. And then you can start working about prevention, about education. If they're hungry they don't have a roof they're not going to want to hear about prevention.

Nadine Arroyo:
This program has been servicing the Latino community for 15 years. According to its member the their commitment lies on several elements. First, trust. Secondly, an empathetic relationship with the community. Thirdly, respect, and finally commitment to families.

Noe Vargas: Social services, in an individual covers so many fast et cetera that you have to make sure you know how to help them to completely, in a way you can just hear the information, read it, and as simulate it. Here's information. Let's talk about it. How it can really change your life.

José Cárdenas:
Joining us tonight to talk about Concilio Latino de Salud and its efforts is its founder and president, Doctor Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez. Doctor Valdez, thank you for joining us on Horizonte. Tell us first of all what inspired you to create the Concilio Latino de Salud.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
My inspiration came from the need of our population to be healthier and to be part of their own health.

José Cárdenas:
And your own background in the health field is?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
It's mental health. I am a psychiatrist. For me it was a cultural shock many years ago to come to the United States and find out that health is not a human right in the United States.

José Cárdenas:
You came to the United States from Mexico?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Yes.

José Cárdenas:
And as we mentioned in the package, the organization is 15 years old. I know you have a publication talking about the history of the organization.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Yes.

José Cárdenas:
Tell us a little bit about how it got from where it started to where it is now.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
It was a movement and continues being a movement when some people with different backgrounds really got involved to respond to the HIV epidemic. But since its start, we decided there was an incredible gap on prevention, that none of our brothers and sisters, non-Latino agencies were addressing health and disease prevention.

José Cárdenas:
And that's the focus.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Yes.

José Cárdenas:
You just made reference to HIV. What are the diseases that are particular impact on the Latino community?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, HIV, cancer, infant mortality, immunization, substance abuse. Those are the issues that hit us the most. While it's very important, most of them are preventable.

José Cárdenas:
We're talking about disparities in terms of the rate at which these diseases effect the Latino community versus the others?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
And also talking about the African American community, the Asian American community and the Hispanic-American community.

José Cárdenas:
Are the disparities -- I think you already indicated this -- they're not necessarily a genetic -- have a genetic basis, maybe the treatment is different for these different groups.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
The treatment is different. But mostly it's because the government and us as institutions have not addressed the protective factors and combat the risk factors that could prevent these diseases. These are preventable. That is what we are about to give the message that you can get through the system healthier.

José Cárdenas:
Speaking about the Latino community, the Concilio Latino de Salud deals with different aspects, groups within that community, starting pick specifically with different immigrants and people who are undocumented. Do you find any specific issues in dealing with that population group?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
In dealing with them mostly are the anxiety that is coming to a foreign country that unfortunate is not that friendly and also the separation of the family. They don't have the support system. And they don't have access to information that link which is particularly is appropriate in how to prevent diseases.

José Cárdenas:
And is their undocumented status also become a factor in terms of the trust they might to extend through Concilio Latino de Salud to your brothers?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
The respect that we have that all programs are culturally based are really a critical factor in how do we approach through community, through advocacy, through training where we work with the communities and not intervene upon the communities.

José Cárdenas:
Give me an example of how you might treat somebody from that group different than somebody who is say a second generation Mexican American.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Our cultural values are different, our family systems are different, the language is different, sometimes the religion and education aspects are also different. So you need to really tailor your messages and approaches to the needs and cultural and core values of that specific community. We really acknowledge diversity within our own community. We talk about the Hispanic Latino communities. There is not such a thing as a community.

José Cárdenas:
So for example if you were talking about sexually transmitted diseases to the first community you might be talking abstinence, to the second community might be discussing birth control?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Yes. And the appropriate use of protection. And if your values are about abstinence only we respect that and we deliver a message within those value systems and believers.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand it, the Consillo is not a direct service provider. One of the things that perhaps distinguishes you from our groups is your partnerships. Talk about that.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
We have more than 3500 partners. When we're talking about partners we're talking about the white house, legislators, churches, schools, juvenile system. We're talking about consumers, natural leaders that lead in their communities and they have the wisdom, the trust and the experience and they know the community and they are the ones that deliver the message. We provide the technical assistance to do that.

José Cárdenas:
In terms of funding sources, is it both federal and state?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Federal, state, and hopefully more and more foundations that understand better that prevention is the way to go. We have a health system that is very ill. And it's very ill from many perspectives but one of them is that we do not really put moneys on prevention. So our consumers are very sick. And that is more and more a problem.

José Cárdenas:
Now, in the first segment of tonight's program we talked to the Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff, George Cunningham about different aspects of her budget proposal including tax cuts for small businesses. Are those likely to be a particular benefit to the Latino community?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
That is part of what Concilio Latino de Salud advocates, not in isolation with other agencies, the national organizations. The key here is not just to have access to health insurance and have those tax breaks, but also to invest on prevention so the cost of that health system or that health insurance, it's less costly and more affordable because you enter the system in a healthier way.

José Cárdenas:
Dr. Valdez, we have a little over a minute left. I want to talk about the major accomplishments in the last 15 years and then let's talk a little about what's coming up.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
I think the most important is our liaison with our community at large. And what is coming the challenge of health insurance, the costs, and how do we work with the communities and with agencies so they embrace prevention as a way of life.

José Cárdenas:
And part of what the Concilio Latino de Salud does, as I understand, is policy analysis and advocacy?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
Yes. It's very important. Because anything that is done in a vacuum. We need to target. We need to be involved in the policy analysis and the policy making so it's really an invitation for more people to get involved in health issues.

José Cárdenas:
About three seconds left. Any final thoughts?

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
We can be healthier even if we don't have access to health insurance.

José Cárdenas:
Dr. Valdez, founder of Concilio Latino de Salud, thank you for joining us on Horizonte. Pleasure to have you.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:
My pleasure.

José Cárdenas:
Here are some other items we're keeping an eye on this week. This week the national association for bilingual education is hosting its conference here in the valley. Awards will be presented to individuals who have made an impact in bilingual education. Being honored is Tim Hogue and who will receive his citizen of the year award in his involvement in the Flores versus state of Arizona case. Also this month we brought you a story of the federal judge's ruling ordering the Arizona legislature to come up with an education plan within 15 days. The judge stated if they do not he will impose a $500,000 daily fine for 30 days and that fine can increase up to $2 million a day. January 24th this coming Tuesday will mark the 15 day deadline. Next week Governor Janet Napolitano will be joining us on Horizonte to talk about issues affecting the state. Please join us for that interview. For more information on Horizonte just go to our website, azPBS.org and click on Horizonte in the middle of the page. That's our show for tonight. I'm José Cárdenas. From all of us here at Horizonte, see you next week. Have a good evening.

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