Is state spending too high, too low or just right in these areas?
That’s definitely way too low. We need to invest in public education. I understand that. I’ve got a daughter in TUSD and I volunteer at her school. We’ve got a lot of dedicated teachers that are doing a heroic job on a very small budget, but we cannot continue to impoverish our public school system. I’m proud to have the endorsement of the Arizona Education Association and I think they have endorsed our campaign because I see some of the problems facing the public schools in Arizona and I’m the best candidate to try to solve them.
English Language Learning Program
You know I think that’s essential. I certainly have very big concerns with the way that Tom Horne, the state superintendent of education has politicized and mishandled that issue. I would want to largely leave that up to school boards to decide how they’re going to meet that mandate.
We’re probably spending about the right amount of money on that. Obviously, we need to be prepared. A lot of those responsibilities are aligned with the federal government. I think we’ve seen a lot of mismanagement of agencies like FEMA, and so it’s important for the state to be prepared for disasters because we’ve seen that the Feds often have incompetent responses to that. But at the same time we have a lot of pressing needs in our state, so shoveling piles of money towards the state Department of Homeland Security while we’re suffering in education and the economy and transportation, I think those have to be higher priorities.
The state of Arizona, despite the clear opinion of people in the state, has failed miserably to promote smart planning, smart growth and protect the environment. We have agencies that are badly underfunded, including Arizona Department of Game and Fish, and I think we really should get our state spending much more in line with the strong position of Arizonans, who favor strong conservation and protection of our water, our land and our open spaces and our wildlife. The state Legislature has done a miserable job on protecting our environment and in fact has most recently been hostile towards conservation and the time to change that is now.
Health care is already a huge part of the state budget–it needs to be, people need health care. It’s critical especially in the tough economic times, the need for health care goes up. But one of the biggest problems with health care is its too expensive. Doctors are charging way too much, far above and beyond what most people can afford. The state absolutely has a critical role in health care we need to ensure that programs like AHCCCS and KidsCare are not cut. But at the same time we need to bring down the cost of health care, which is astronomical and is certainly harming our system.
I think it’s about right. I mean, obviously it’s critical, we need to have that. We also need to be focusing just as much, though, on preventing crime and improving education and improving the economy–that’s going to help to prevent crime. I’ve worked directly as a neighborhood president with Tucson police for years to help bring down crime in our neighborhood and we’ve done it very successfully. So I think the level of spending for law enforcement is critical, but what’s more critical is really getting at the root cause of crime instead of just reacting and treating the symptoms.
Transportation and highway infrastructure
The state is not spending enough on mass transit and alternative transportation and that’s a big problem. We continue to see proposals from the Arizona Department of Transportation that I think are outdated, giant freeways, kind of L.A.-style freeway grids, which are hugely expensive, which in the long term don’t do much of anything to reduce traffic. If a Los Angeles-style freeway system relieved traffic, then a place like L.A. would have the smoothest traffic in the world, but instead it has the worst.
People need help. And certainly in my district where I live and served for a long time on the south and southeast sides, people are hurting, especially in this economy. And right now we’re at a time of higher need and I think the state, probably, in order to serve the public interest, should be helping people more.
They need more funding. Those are critical investments and not just universities but also I want to emphasize support for community colleges as well. We have not invested in higher education in community colleges and universities the way we should and not making that investment is foolish because putting proper support in universities and community colleges will benefit our economy.