State Capitol News
5:56 am
Mon December 29, 2008

Tensions With New Governor Loom Early

Phoenix, AZ – The first schism between the incoming governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature may be looming. The question at hand is whether Arizona can continue to afford to pay for statewide full-day kindergarten. It was Democrat Janet Napolitano who convinced lawmakers years ago to fund more than the half-day programs in existence. But the current $1.2 billion deficit and anticipated shortfall of more than $2 billion next year has put the program in the sites of some lawmakers. Even despite this attention, Republican Jan Brewer who will be governor next month after Napolitano quits, told KTAR Radio she is yet to be convinced.

"It's not something that I personally, at this point in time, feel that we need to go in and get rid of," said Brewer. "I know there are people in the community that feel that maybe we should. But I know that on polling that almost 75 % of the public, they do support all-day kindergarten."

Russell Pearce, who will head the Senate Appropriations Committee this session, disagrees. He told Arizona Public Radio that attitude ignores the state's fiscal reality.

"Tell her go give me a list of where to cut. First of all, it doesn't matter if the public likes it. They can't afford it. If they want it, let them vote district by district to have it. I'm not against them having it if they want it," said Pearce.

Pearce also said some studies show the benefits of full-day kindergarten over half-day programs dissipate by the third grade.