State Capitol News
5:34 pm
Wed March 10, 2010

State lawmakers want voters to allow a tap in to funds for early childhood development

Phoenix, AZ – A 2006 initiative imposed an 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to
pay for these programs. That brings in about $150 million a year.
And the First Things First fund has about $325 million awaiting
to be awarded in grants to local groups. The plan crafted by
Republican legislative leaders would take the money from the
account and then divert future tobacco tax proceeds to other
state programs. Rep. John Kavanagh said the state's $2.7 billion
deficit means the funds are needed elsewhere. That provoked an
angry reaction from Nadine Basha who helped get voters to approve
the levy.

(It's not that they ever had this before. I think that's the
irony to me, is they act like they always had this money. They
never would have done what we've done. The citizens chose to do
that. We raised taxes on ourselves to do that. They never had
this money.)

Kavanagh conceded the point. But he said the state's economy has
changed since 2006.

(There is need to have and nice to have. And having over $300
million for nice to have project when we're throwing over 300,000
people off of health insurance just doesn't cut it right now.)

Because First Things First was approved by voters, they would get
the last word on the proposal in November. But Kavanagh conceded
even if they approve the change that won't restore the cuts to
the health care program. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard
Fischer.