By Linda Kor
After a surprise special session called by Governor Jan Brewer, the Arizona House and Senate approved an $8.8 billion budget June 13 that includes Medicaid expansion that will provide coverage for 300,000 more Arizonans.
According to Brewer, lawmakers made the best decision for the people of Arizona with the most sweeping health care legislation in decades.
“As an elected official of more than 30 years, I know that this process was not easy or without political risk. By joining me in extending health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Arizonans, legislators of my own party have come under sharp criticism in some quarters. Some have had threats made not just against their political future, but also their personal livelihood.”
Brewer admitted that the Medicaid Restoration Plan that was passed would not solve all of Arizona’s health care challenges, but it will extend cost-effective care to Arizona’s working poor. “It will help prevent our rural and safety-net hospitals from closing their doors. And it will boost our economy by creating more than 20,000 jobs at a time when Arizona needs them most,” stated the governor.
Brewer embraced a signature component of President Barack Obama’s health care law with the expansion of Medicaid, which will allow for medical coverage for an additional 240,000 low-income Arizonans and continues coverage for 63,000 more, with a $240 million hospital tax to levy $1.6 billion in federal aid.
Also included in the budget is additional funding for the state’s educational institutions. The budget provides $15.3 million in additional funds for Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University to bring per-student aid into parity with the University of Arizona; $2 million in capital funds divided up among all community colleges except in Pima and Maricopa counties; $90 million in inflation adjustment in state aid for public schools; $2.4 million available for schools with high academic achievement or improved performance; and allows public schools to borrow more money, repayable by local taxpayers, to build new schools as the state scraps its prior funding formula.
Regarding last Thursday’s votes, the governor stated, “With landmark votes today in the House and Senate, legislators have tackled the issue that is Job One every session, adoption of a responsible state budget, and enacted Arizona’s most sweeping health care legislation in decades.”
By Linda Kor