The KidsCare health insurance program refuses to die.
The program wasn’t included in Tuesday’s state budget deal but on Thursday, House Republican supporters joined with Democrats to try to revive it.
Whether it will be depends on a lot of factors, perhaps ultimately whether the governor will sign it into law. But one thing for sure, if Gov. Doug Ducey had pushed for it, KidsCare would be back in business already.
This program, as I reported Wednesday, is Arizona’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, for the children of working-poor families who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Arizona is the only state in the country that doesn’t take advantage of this program, which is paid for entirely by federal taxes and so has no impact on the state budget. We pay for it through our federal taxes but get no benefit from it.
On Wednesday, after a Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon, I had the opportunity to ask Ducey about KidsCare. My precise question: “How come you didn’t take an active role in promoting KidsCare and getting that passed since it costs the state nothing?”
His answer was convoluted, veering first into a pitch for people to support Prop. 123. But then he pointed out the budget includes $100 million more for the Department of Child Safety and additional dollars for K-12 education. His broad point:
“We have our kids as a priority. We have not been able to fund every priority that we have in the state, but there’s been no priority that’s had more funding than our kids.”
“If the state keeps going in the right direction,” he went on, noting the recruitment of Caterpillar to Southern Arizona, “we’ll have more available dollars to support the most vulnerable, the K-12 education system and our universities.”
That led me to ask this follow-up: “But Governor, you know this wouldn’t have cost the state anything, and it probably would have just taken a little effort on your part to push it through.”
“We’ve completed this budget season,” he responded. “I’m open-minded to new ideas. We want to make sure the budget is structurally balanced, but this is the budget that we have.”
Rep. Chris Ackerley, a Sahuarita Republican, was among a handful of Republicans who sat out Tuesday’s vote to add KidsCare onto a state budget bill. That looked bad since he had previously voted, along with 22 other Republican House members, in favor of resuming KidsCare.
He told me Thursday the Tuesday vote amounted to a Democratic “trap” for him in that it forced him to choose between voting against KidsCare or voting for it and seeing the budget agreement destroyed — an agreement in which he and a few other Republican members had forced additional funding for K-12 education.
On Thursday, he, other Republicans, and the Democratic House members forced the amendment to a Senate bill, prompting passionate, sometimes angry debate between a number of lawmakers.
Ackerley, a teacher in the Amphitheater School District, said on the floor, “I have to go back to school in the fall, and I have to look kids in the eye and say you cannot see a doctor because we will not halt the freeze on KidsCare.”
Gowan’s tough day
The last days of the legislative session are again proving challenging for House Speaker David Gowan, the Sierra Vista Republican whose district reaches up to easternmost Tucson.
Last year’s session ended on a rough note for him, and on Thursday, the Senate voted down two of his bills. One bill, HB 2691, which would have required the state auditor general to conduct a special audit of refugee resettlement in Arizona, lost by a 15-14 vote. Another bill, HB 2398, which would have expanded the type of fireworks legal for sale in Arizona, also lost in the Senate by a 15-14 vote.
Gowan then went on to suffer an embarrassing defeat in his own district. He had pushed for a change in the law governing “community facilities districts,” which pay for infrastructure through the sale of tax-exempt bonds. The bill would have benefited the developer of the proposed Villages at Vigneto project near Benson.
In the afternoon, the bill lost by a 31-28 vote. However, in the evening, showing he still has a little mojo left, Gowan resurrected the bill and three Republicans switched their votes, allowing for passage. How did he get them to switch? Who knows!
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall’s office sent out an offer this week that seems like a great deal. If you sign up as an Uber rider during the month of May and use the promo code 2016Cinco, you will get $15 toward your first Uber ride.
Sounds great, and LaWall and an Uber representative presented the offer as part of an effort against drunken driving. But it turns out the deal is actually routine for new Uber riders.
Colleagues told me this was the case, so I signed up for Uber to check it out, and it’s true: You routinely get a promo code for a $15-$20 credit for your first ride even without the prosecutor’s offer. But hey, use her promo code if you want.
Democrats to Philly
Earlier this week my colleague Joe Ferguson listed the Southern Arizona delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Not all the Democratic delegates have been picked for their convention in Philadelphia, but here are the ones we know so far from Congressional Districts 2 and 3, denoted by whether they’re supporting Clinton (C) or Sanders (S):
CD2: Nathan Bacal (C), Ron Barber (C), Joseline Mata (C), Shasta McManus (C), Michael Gordy (S), Matthew Levy (S), Jenise Porter (S), Eve Shapiro (S).
In CD3, it’s a story of the Hernandez siblings: Daniel, Alma and Consuelo Hernandez all are delegates supporting Clinton. The Sanders delegates are Morgan Graham and Tom Prezelski.