In her State of the State address last Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer expressed her continued optimism about the direction of Arizona’s economy, and called for increased competition in the realms of job creation and education.
While the commentary was met with resounding applause by the packed house floor of the Westin La Paloma, there was, literally, a lone audience member clapping when Brewer touched on another subject – that of her surrendering push against the Affordable Health Care Act, and an agreement to a large expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, a key component of President Barack Obama’s health care reform.
The response would suggest a largely Republican audience, as Democrats have overwhelmingly supported the decision. Those on the right, however, have remained confused, or in opposition to Brewer’s latest health care stance, some even saying she has abandoned her own party by allowing Medicaid expansion
“Frankly, I hate to see it – I really do,” said Sen. Al Melvin, District 11-Oro Valley. “I wish she would stand shoulder to shoulder with her fellow Republican governors and resist this as much as we can.”
But, where Melvin stands firm against Medicaid expansion, Brewer claims there are limited options otherwise.
“Try as we might, the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Brewer. “The President was re-elected, and his party controls the U.S. Senate. In short, the Affordable Health Care Act isn’t going anywhere – at least not for the time being.”
By agreeing to expand the state’s Medicaid program, Brewer said Arizonans will see certain advantages, including: protecting rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by their growing costs in caring for the uninsured, taking advantage of the enormous economic benefits by injecting $2 billion into the economy – saving and creating thousands of jobs – and lastly, providing health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans.
Melvin doesn’t see the benefits as optimistically as Brewer, though.
“It looks like easy money, but over 40 cents on the federal dollar is borrowed from the Chinese from generational theft,” he said. “I can’t believe she wants to engage in this."
The answer, according to Melvin, is creating more jobs.
“We are well on our way now, and there is more she can do in that area, particularly relating to the Union Pacific Railroad, which would create tens of thousands of jobs, and Rosemont Copper Mine, which would create 2,200 jobs,” he said.
A refusal of Medicaid expansion locally would mean Arizona’s tax dollars are instead used to provide health care for citizens in other states, according to Brewer.
State Rep. Steve Smith, a R- LD11, was hesitant to speak on Brewer’s decisions on health care policy until reading the exact legislation. However, on the topic of Brewer’s sales tax reform, which calls for a blanketed tax code for businesses, Smith said Brewer’s plan looks perfect – almost.
“The new legislation does not ensure that local construction sales tax stays local,” said Smith. “After speaking with places like Oro Valley and Marana, I want to address this and make sure that tax stays at the local level.”
While local Republicans continue to question some of Brewer’s motives, there seems to be a more harmonious relationship when it comes to the topic of school safety. Still, how to best go about assuring the proper effectiveness and affordability of protecting schools is also an unresolved matter.
In light of the recent Newtown, Conn. shooting at an elementary school, Brewer is calling for the continued use of School Resource Officers on campuses.
“My budget plan will expand state funding for these trained officers,” reads the transcript.
While Smith said he is not opposed to having resource officers on school campuses, it is “difficult to write legislation against crazy.”
“In Colorado, the shooter entered a movie theater,” he said. “Do you put an armed guard in front of every theater now? What do you do when you have these lunatic, moronic idiots out there? There are some things you can do, yes. I’m not against having SROs on school campuses, though I’d prefer to have retired police or military, where it’s not as cost prohibitive.”
Determining an appropriate solution to the nation’s mental health issue will be just as challenging, says Smith.
“In some of these shootings, the shooter wasn’t even diagnosed,” said Smith. “How do you prevent someone who is not even diagnosed from doing this? Do you force someone into treatment?”
There’s one thing Smith is sure of though – a ban of any sort against firearms is not the solution, nor will he stand for legislation passed down from the federal government that would enforce such policy.
“I’m 100 percent against that,” said Smith. “Arizona will not adhere to any federal regulation in the limiting of gun ownership, assault rifles, or clip size. I plan to immunize Arizona from such federal policies.”
On Jan. 16, President Barack Obama rolled out a four-part plan that includes: closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and taking other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence; making schools safer; and increasing access to mental health services. He stood on stage with four young students, each of them had previously written the President a letter prompting an end to gun violence.
Foregoing congressional approval, Obama also issued 23 executive orders to begin making immediate process. Some Republicans have begun calling for impeachment proceedings as a result of his actions.
“I personally believe that we need to make sure this is not done by executive order, but by legislation,” said Melvin. “I think what he is doing, and using children as he did is morally and ethically wrong.”
On Tuesday, New York became the first state to sign into law a gun control bill, which included a major expansion of the state’s assault weapon ban.