PHOENIX - He has become one of the most powerful people in Arizona, and now, State Senate President Russell Pearce says it’s time to live up the promises of a hard fought campaign.
Pearce presides over the most overwhelming Republican majority in Arizona history. With commanding margins in the House and Senate, and a Republican Governor, Pearce recognizes the voter mandate is to straighten out the state’s finances.
He’s just not saying how. At least not yet.
“It's a process. We're committed to the process. What we're going to do is balance the budget,” Pearce said.
He admits the most likely areas for cuts are education and AHCCCS, Arizona’s health insurance system.
“We are fifth in the nation,” Pearce said, alluding to Arizona’s Medicaid funding. “If we cut $750 million from the program, that puts us in line with other states.”
Pearce defended Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to cut AHCCCS funding for those seeking an organ transplant, but his answer may shock those who are seeking help. “Most of those may die anyway,” he said. “This was based on information from doctors about those that probably wouldn't make it when you're making tough decisions.”
Pearce said cuts to education are likely as well, even though voters approved a temporary sales tax increase to help fund education and public safety programs, Pearce says, “we haven’t fixed the problem.” The problem, as he sees it, is too much money going to administrators and bureaucrats and not enough going to teachers and classrooms.
Pearce said illegal immigration is integrated into his budget strategy. Pearce said illegal immigrants cost the state $2.7 billion a year, a figure he quotes from the group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The controversial group has a conservative agenda, and has even been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Pearce and GOP ally John Kavanaugh are expected to push for new legislation this year which would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in this country. The law, if passed, would likely face a court challenge under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
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