Prop. 100 needed to preserve help for the elderly

Our view: Human element gets lost in debate; basic needs of many at stake
2010-05-09T00:00:00Z Prop. 100 needed to preserve help for the elderly Arizona Daily Star
May 09, 2010 12:00 am

With the state in turmoil over the new immigration law, budget cuts, discontent with local governments and a general distaste for taxes, voters run the risk of making it even worse if they reject Proposition 100 at the polls on May 18. Turning down the 1-cent-per-dollar temporary sales tax would hurt not only public school kids and public safety but also the thousands of Arizonans who rely on the state to help with health and human services.

Prop. 100 is about far more than one school district or government program or group of lawmakers. It's about what it means to live in Arizona as a child, as an elderly person, as a worker seeking a good job to support a family.

Rejecting Prop. 100 because you're angry about how one school district - and let's be honest, we're talking about TUSD - is run isn't fair to the hundreds of thousands of kids across Arizona in other public schools. Voting "no" because you figure you're paying enough in taxes already won't work because, in the end, we will all end up paying one way or another.

And voting "no" because the Legislature has made a plethora of boneheaded moves recently and you don't want to give them one more cent does nothing to punish the lawmakers who have caused the problems - all it does is harm the millions of Arizonans who must live with the effects.

Much of the discussion about Prop. 100 has focused on education budgets and public safety, and how passage of the sales tax would help maintain current levels of funding, already less than optimal.

One-third of the sales tax revenue, however, would be allocated to "health and human services," which includes services people rely on every day, including help for senior citizens across the state.

According to Adina Wingate of the Pima Council on Aging, the agency has already incurred serious cuts to its budget and, if Prop. 100 fails, it would face between $800,000 and $900,000 in new reductions.

On top of the $1.2 million already cut from PCOA and the Pima Health System, a government agency, these cuts would directly affect seniors in Pima County.

"Local home-and-community services represent the front line of assistance - providing basic needs of daily living for low-income and disabled adults," Wingate wrote in an e-mail. "Among these basic activities of daily living provided for homebound residents: assistance to get out of bed, take a bath or shower, put on clean clothes or prepare a simple meal."

Budget reductions from governments and private donors have meant that seniors who need assistance are put on a waiting list for some services, which wasn't necessary in the past, she said.

Opponents of Prop. 100 say that the 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax would cost the "average" Arizona family about $400 a year. We're not sold on that number, because it would mean that the average family would be spending $40,000 per year on taxable (non-food) goods and that's far more than many Arizona families earn in income each year.

But even assuming the $400 figure is correct, it's worth roughly 30 cents per day to ensure that seniors who need help with daily living can get it and remain in their homes (moving to an assisted living or nursing home is much more expensive). Not everyone has family to help them as they age.

The remainder of the Prop. 100 revenue would go to public education and public safety. Prop. 100 won't fix Arizona's problems, but it will help to provide a safety net of sorts, one that benefits all Arizonans.

Arizona Daily Star

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