Welcome to the absurd state of Arizona, Caterpillar.
Welcome to the place where the governor will ease you step-by-step into a new headquarters in Tucson but won’t lift a finger to give free health care to 30,000 Arizona kids.
You should know, Caterpillar employees, that when you move here and climb into your big mining machines, you’re in for a wild ride.
That became clear once again Tuesday, to those of us who dared to hope that common sense would prevail among the decision-makers in Phoenix. Surely, I trusted, the powers that be will embrace the obvious.
KidsCare, Arizona’s version of the national Childrens Health Insurance Program, costs the state nothing, allowing us to use federal tax money to provide health insurance to children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but are still relatively poor. We’re talking about the working poor — people who truly do just need a hand up.
Caterpillar employees, we are the only state that doesn’t take advantage of this program — the exception, one of 50.
So, in essence, when you settle in here and start paying federal taxes from your new home in Arizona, the portion of your taxes that goes to this children’s health-insurance program does not come back here. It will go to the other 49 states.
It costs us nothing, it insures 30,000 kids, and it brings around $78 million in federal tax money into the state.
And of course, our state’s leaders rejected it.
You’ll learn more about this, Caterpillar, but it failed because a few ideologically engorged bullies run your new state.
The obvious one is outgoing Senate President Andy Biggs. Even after the state House passed a bill, HB 2309, that would have reinstated KidsCare, with majorities of both parties supporting it, Biggs refused to allow the bill to be heard on the Senate floor.
Why? Yes, indeed, Caterpillar, the question is why.
Biggs has argued that those kids really are covered by our Medicaid program, even though they aren’t. He’s also said that once they get health insurance, they will come to expect it — as though that was a bad thing, and even though the House bill would have ended the program if the federal government stopped paying.
To understand, you should know this about Biggs, Caterpillar: He’s a millionaire. Not the “job creator” kind who built a business from the ground up and employed people along the way, offering them benefits like health insurance.
No, in 1993, Ed McMahon and Dick Clark visited Biggs, representing the American Family Sweepstakes, and announced he was the winner of $10 million.
“It’s unbelievable,” Biggs said in the TV ad.
You may find Biggs’ opposition to KidsCare unbelievable, Caterpillar.
But what’s even more unbelievable is the behavior of your suitor, the man who brought you here, Gov. Doug Ducey.
The governor, as you’ll see, presents himself as a sort of compassionate conservative, someone who cares about people but thinks the best way to help them is to give them opportunity.
Don’t believe it. The compassionate part is marketing.
The governor could have shown otherwise with this KidsCare decision, Caterpillar. If he had told Republican legislators he wanted KidsCare passed, if he had made it a priority, it would have happened.
But he didn’t. The most expansive explanation of Ducey’s position on KidsCare is what he told Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer on April 26: “What we want is to make sure we are investing in our kids, we’re protecting them and we have a structurally balanced budget. So I’m going to negotiate this budget with the House and the Senate. But I’m not going to negotiate it with you this morning.”
By his indifference, Ducey let the ideologues play games.
Amendments were created that would have torpedoed KidsCare by forcing a vote on new abortion restrictions, for example. Cathi Herrod, of the Center for Arizona Policy, was rumored to be playing a role in these abortion-law machinations, but she denied via Twitter that was the case.
“Your information is incorrect,” she wrote to me via Twitter.
“I have not taken a position on Kids Care.”
Let that sink in, Caterpillar: The state’s most ardent pro-life activist has not taken a position on providing free-to-us health insurance to 30,000 children. That’s the state you’re settling into.
As to Ducey’s actions, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Hank Stephenson reported that the governor’s people talked Tuesday to the Republican who wanted to amend the budget to include KidsCare.
They discussed the pluses and minuses with her, and the next thing you know she backed down because she didn’t want to “blow up the budget.”
That Republican is Rep. Regina Cobb of Kingman, a woman who seems truly compassionate, not just for the sake of marketing. She thanked Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, for introducing her KidsCare amendment on the floor Tuesday, but said she couldn’t vote for it.
“I can’t support it because it’s not part of the budget package that we have negotiated,” she said.
Now that is a sad commentary on this state, Caterpillar.
An amendment that would have provided great benefits and cost the state nothing would have blown up the budget.
You might rightfully ask, Caterpillar, “How does that even make sense?”
It doesn’t, Caterpillar. Get used to it. You’re in Arizona now.