Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vets Removed from Arizona's "Budget Balanced on the Backs of" List

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Randy Metcalf/Tucson Local Media
Doug Ducey at the 2015 State of the State

Yesterday I wrote a post condemning Ducey's decision to take money donated to help living post-9/11 veterans and use it to keep cemeteries for veterans running. My headline was, Vets Join Arizona's "Budget Balanced on the Backs of" List. A line from the post:
Let this be a wake-up call to people who think these sons of bitches hold anything—other than cutting taxes for corporations—sacred.
I sent it to Chelo Grubb, the Weekly's web editor, for her to put on The Range. A little while later, she sent me an email saying Ducey had backed down, so my post was on hold. Consider this a replacement for that post and a retraction of the above unpublished quote.

Contrary to my assertion, Ducey & Co. do consider something sacred other than corporate tax cuts: their heads, which were nearly bit off by veterans groups and Republican legislators. Parents and educators can yell all they want about Republicans withholding funding from schools. No problem. Courts can even tell the legislature its cuts are illegal to the tune of $330 million. Republicans appeal the decision, and Ducey talks tough but does nothing. College students and their parents can raise a fuss over regular increases in college tuition because state funding for universities keeps getting cut. Ducey says students need to pay their fair share of the cost of college. The governor can brush off those complaints with a quick swipe of his hand. But he learned an important lesson from his latest attempt at a funding sweep. Don't mess with vets.

Ducey's change of heart shouldn't be the end of this story about the donated money. It says on the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services web page, the money "directly impacts the lives of Arizona's heroes," and that's what it should do. But it's not happening. Ted Vogt, Ducey's chief of operations, said the original plan to sweep the fund wasn't such a big deal (a word of advice to Ted: Never use a phrase like "not a big deal" when referring to veterans) because the fund has $5 million in its coffers. He failed to mention the reason for the unused balance. The advisory committee hasn't decided how to spend the money—because, I guess, they figure Arizona's veterans are doing just fine. The $5 million unused balance is a scandal which was brought to light by the hubbub over Ducey's proposed sweep. The governor's next move should be to make sure the committee does its job and spends the donated funds to offer veterans much needed, and much deserved, help.

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