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Gov. Jan Brewer is seeking to balance the 2011-12 state budget by tightening the eligibility rules for the state's health-care program for the poor, called AHCCCS. In most states, it is Medicaid, funded largely by the federal government.

Reduced eligibility would save the state $541 million next fiscal year, Brewer says, whole dropping 280,000 adults from state-supported health care. Where they will go for health care, what the effects will be on hospital emergency rooms and other facilities and what the overall economic effects will be are questions yet to be answered.

But one thing is known, having come clear in an interview for Friday's Arizona Week broadcast: if Arizona gets federal approval to cut $541 million, it stands to lose more than $1 billion in federal matching money. So the reduction is much larger than it looks on the face of Brewer's budget. That was brought forth by Kristin Borns, senior policy analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.

Some have suggested that if Arizona doesn't get the federal waiver, it should consider dropping its participation in Medicaid altogether, hearkening back to a time decades ago when the state declined to participate in the beginning days of the program.

If the state were to drop its participation, it would risk the loss of $7 billion in federal matching money for health care for the poor, leaving them, the state's hospitals and many small businesses in dire straits.

AHCCCS Arizona State University Kristin Borns Medicaid Morrison Institute for Public Policy,


Gov. Jan Brewer's proposals to balance this fiscal year's budget and set a budget for next fiscal year include a series of onerous cuts to education and health care. Public safety, in the form of money for state prisons, would increase under Brewer's proposal.

The Legislature will begin vetting it this week, and on Arizona Week, we will talk with key legislators getting involved in the process.

Republicans are blaming Democratic former Gov. Janet Napolitano for huge increases in state spending in her six years in office, 2003-2008, or the mess Arizona is in. Certainly, spending rose sharply in those years, with three consecutive years of 15-percent plus increases in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

All this occurred on the cusp of the great recession, making the effects even more pronounced as the state went into an unprecedented cyclical revenue reduction that saw 30 percent of state revenues go away.

But before that, the stage was set by Republicans in a series of tax cuts over 15 years -- back to 1995, that effectively cut state revenues as a share of personal income nearly in half.

Economist Matthew Murray of the University of Tennessee studied Arizona's situation at the behest of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. Murray found that in 1995, state tax revenue per $1,000 of personal income was about $50. In 2010, after steady declines and a series of major income tax cuts and one significant property tax cut, that fell to about $27 per $1,000 of personal income.

Another way to look at it is that residents were paying about 5 percent of their personal income to the state in taxes in 1995, and by 2010, they were paying about 2.7 percent.

In Murray's words, via e-mail: "Personal income measures the size of the economy, but since it is 'resident based' income, i.e. income earned by residents, it also reflects your ability to pay taxes and thus fund government services. In short, you are spending less and less of your income in support of government. This is a rather dramatic reduction especially in such a short period of time."

Combine that factor with the steady and sometimes dramatic increases in state spending, and we have the current situation -- a structural deficit in the order of $2 billion or more, with no rebounding economic cycle. And even if there were a rebound, it wouldn't help without long-term adjustments in both revenue and spending.

Hence, when it comes to finger pointing, everyone should get a share of the blame.

Economist Matthew Murray Governor Janet Napolitano University of Tennessee,


Last week's tragic shootings in Tucson have driven several political issues to the surface in Arizona, and nationally.

Several politicians have used the tragedy to call for civility in political discourse as a way to be true to oneself and others, as Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams said, and to honor the memories of those who died, as President Obama said.

How long that will last is up for question. The journalists analyzing and commenting on tonight's debut edition of Arizona Week weren't certain that it would have "legs" beyond the realm of shock and mourning that Tucson, Arizona and the nation are undergoing.

Another issue brought to the fore is that of gun availability and gun control. On that, Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce is adamant that nothing will lead to any rollback of 2nd Amendment rights in the state. And the commentators on Arizona Week agreed, with Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic saying that it simply won't happen.

Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce Robert Robb,


Friday's debut program of Arizona Week will take a look at how recent news events and political developments may be shaping Arizona's image as a state.

The program will include interviews with Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce and Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams and commentary and analysis by two journalists, Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb, via satellite from Phoenix, and Arizona Public Media online producer Gisela Telis, joining us in Studio A.

Arizona has been in the national spotlight on an almost ongoing basis of the recent past for a series of political decisions, precedent-setting court cases and culminating in last week's tragic shooting rampage in Tucson.

Other issues that have called attention to Arizona: passage of SB1070 last year by the Arizona Legislature requiring local officers of the law to enforce immigration laws; a court decision that the state's voter-approved Clean Elections system is unconstitutional; a court challenge to the state's tax-credit program for private schools; introduction earlier this month of proposed legislation to challenge the precedent that the 14th Amendment grants automatic citizenship to those born in the United States to parents who are in the country illegally.


Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams opened his chamber's legislative session with words of conciliation, condolence and healing.

He praised U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, honored those who died and condemned the heinous act as one that was meant to "incite terror in the hearts of Arizonans and all Americans."

He also called for a more civil tone among his colleagues.

"For me, it is a cold reminder that ... second chances to seek forgiveness and repair relationships sometimes never come," Adams said. "That the defining difference between civil society and anarchy is the ability to respect and value those with whom we disagree.

"It is my prayer that this lesson re-learned will be evident in the communications of this body and in our society."

Arizona Legislature House Speaker Kirk Adams,


We are stepping back from original plans for Arizona Week's debut program on Friday. We will reserve exploring the issue of the state budget deficit for a program in the near future.

Instead, Friday's program will focus on the aftermath of the tragic shootings two days ago in which six people were killed and 14 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

We are exploring a number of options for the program, and likely we will spend at least a couple more days listening to and learning from the public discourse as it continues unfolding. Then we will begin setting in place the topics we will cover and the guests we will invite for interviews.

Readers of this blog and viewers of Arizona Public Media are invited to send thoughts and ideas, via comments on this blog or e-mails to me,

Arizona Budget Deficit Tucson-shootings,

About AZ Week Notebook

News and commentary from Arizona Week producer/host Michael Chihak and interns Melanie Huonker and Lucy Valencia.