Archive for the budget Category

summertime blues

Posted in aafb, budget, food, food banks, fun, random with tags , , , , , , on August 10, 2009 by foodbankguy

Man, has it been hot lately or what?  Hot enough that this is just nuts! KIDS:  DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!  The heat always seems to get me dragging a bit even though I’m a native, and indeed I have been way too lax in blogging lately.  Certainly there have been worthy things to share, but it’s just finding the time to get to them all… enough wallowing though, and on to interesting things!  Yes?  Yes!

Do you like to eat breakfast for dinner?  I sure do, and I plan to take part in the Hickman’s Eggs PJs & Eggs event this Friday, August 14 at various restaurants around Phoenix… Kiss the Cook in Glendale is where I’ll be, as it’s close to my pad.  Get free eggs, donate pajamas to foster kids, and help benefit Arizona’s Children Association… what more could you want?  Plus you are encouraged to actually wear your pajamas, which on one hand might be a good idea since you’ll get some Halloween-esque practice in, while on the other hand the pajamas I’m wearing in this heat would get me arrested… just don’t get arrested, that’s all I ask.

can your read all this fine print? if not, visit www.thehotsheetblog.com for details and participating locations

can you read all this fine print? no sweat, visit http://www.thehotsheetblog.com for details and participating locations

Fun… or not so fun… factoid: AAFB member food banks distributed an amazing 42.2% more food throughout Arizona in the 2008-09 fiscal year vs. 2007-08.  It’s truly remarkable to see the food banks step up to meet rising demand, but it’s also a sobering indication of just how hard the economy has hit many individuals and families.  We’ve also started hearing more stories like this, which is not good news at all.  Help out if you can.

Did I mention it’s hot outside?  Donate bottled water to your local food bank or homeless shelter because it’s definitely needed, and as an added bonus you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside, if not actually cooler…

What else… hmmm… oh yeah, the state’s budget situation remains unresolved with little hope of an agreement that actually benefits the majority of Arizonans, food stamp participation is up to record levels–this despite many eligible households not taking advantage,  and it’s still hot.  In the words of my man Conan, be cool my babies!

fun in the sun & breaking budget movement

Posted in budget, food drives, fun, metro phoenix with tags , , , on July 29, 2009 by foodbankguy

First, the fun: the Back-to-School Clothing Drive at the Goodyear Swap Meet was this past Saturday, and while it was hot outside, participation was tremendous.  It was estimated that twice as much clothing was swapped this year compared to last, and fortunately there was an abundance of volunteers to sort the clothes.  Yours truly was there to help accept and transport food donations.  Bright and early Monday morning, I dropped off 200lbs of food to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

Beyond the food though, it was great to see a community come together to support one another.  As you may know, the far westside of metro Phoenix, including Goodyear, has just been decimated by foreclosures and the poor economy.  This event was a great showing by those who are sticking it out and making it work, and it was very gratifying to see the community come together.  I also want to give a shout out to Jennifer, the Arizona Grocery Guru, who was very nice and proved popular with the locals.

Minor irritation: while I was out there, KPHO, the local CBS affiliate, was out there covering the event, which I presume aired on their evening news.  I tried to find a link on their website for you to check out, but damn if their website just sucks.  You can’t find specific videos if someone put a gun to your head.  With no ‘Videos’ menu choice, I had to use their search function, typing in “goodyear swap meet”… the seven results I got included amongst other things: Andy Rooney on Walter Kronkite, a video of a bird hitting an airplane, and something on Major League Soccer.  WTF?  Come on KPHO, you need to try harder here.  You’d think they’d want the extra hits, pageviews and videos played.

*     *     *

Regarding Arizona’s budget, there appears to be some quick movement, with a possible vote coming as soon as tomorrow… this is probably not good news.  Looks like Brewer’s tax increase will be put to the ballot, but only because a bunch of other tax cuts aimed at big business and the wealthy will also be included.  Emerging details here and here.  Be sure to have your popcorn and/or tissues handy…

budget update & personal reflections

Posted in aafb, budget, economy & politics, food banks with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by foodbankguy

Here’s the latest, copped straight from the AAFB Public Policy page:  Governor Brewer has signed the Budget “feed bill” SB1188 with line item vetoes in various sections, including line item vetoing the lump sum reductions to DES and DHS. This permits State Government to continuing to keep the doors open.

She vetoed the BRB’s for Capital Outlay (SB1027), Higher Education (SB1029), State Properties (SB1031), General Government (SB1035) Revenue (SB1036), Health and Welfare (SB1145) and K-12 education (SB1187).

Read Governor Brewer’s Statement (PDF).  She has called a special legislative session beginning 1 p.m. on Monday, July 6 in hopes of reconciling the budget the legislature passed and her vetoes.

Advocates are supportive of this action by the Governor and are working to meet with her in the next hours or days to talk about how to make sure in the next budget plan services are preserved at a level that will permit the needed support for low-income, vulnerable Arizonans who need the services – such as food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, domestic violence centers, senior services, child care for working families and more. They are also seeking to work with all parties to encourage all to come to the table in the next round of the Special Session to work for a long term solution to Arizona’s fiscal crisis.

*     *     *

no comment

no comment

With the official statement out of the way, let me just say that while I’m glad we avoided a government shutdown, this whole process has left much to be desired.  Arizona’s food banks have been preparing for budget cuts for some time now, and in many cases, are seeing an increase in private donations and federal commodities (specifically TEFAP food via the stimulus package) to help offset the huge increases in demand–up some 50-70% statewide this year so far.  How long this will keep up with spiked demand is anyone’s guess, but so far we are weathering the storm.

But it never should have come to this point.  Arizona has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, brought on by the crippling local housing market and depressed consumer spending.  When times were good, the spending was accounted for without a problem–now, should we have put some away in a rainy day fund?  Sure, but the truth is the spending was in-line with Arizona’s population and wealth growth before the economy tanked.  So rather than looking at innovative ways of raising revenues (and much-needed long-term tax revenue stabilization strategies, something long overdue in Arizona), crazy Republican in-fighting has produced deep cuts and a stick-your-head-in-the-stand approach to revenues.  Way to put ideology over reality. 

So here we are.   This isn’t just party politics, we’ve got one party so fragmented that it cannot produce a budget in the best interest of the state or the people they serve.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  If nothing else, it’s been an interesting trial-by-fire for me as I dig deeper into local politics than ever before.  Somebody better drop a rope down if I get too deep!

breaking budget update

Posted in budget, economy & politics, food banks with tags , on June 26, 2009 by foodbankguy

It appears as though a “handshake” budget agreement has been worked out between Governor Brewer and the Arizona Legislature, but details remain fuzzy and it is uncertain as to whether the Legislature has the votes to get it passed by Tuesday’s deadline. Some information is being reported here and here, as well as by the Arizona Guardian (subscription required).  More tomorrow probably…

send hunger packing & budget action items

Posted in aafb, budget, food banks, food drives with tags , , , , on June 9, 2009 by foodbankguy

Today was the official launch of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance’s Send Hunger Packing 2009, a fun way to remember that while summertime means vacations for many, it also means an increased struggle with hunger for far too many Arizonans.  In fact, the summer months are oftentimes a bigger struggle for those with school-age children because those children are away from free or reduced-cost school breakfast and lunch programs.

snazzy logo for a snazzy cause

snazzy logo for a snazzy cause

Sending Hunger Packing is important because community generosity and media coverage typically spikes around the holidays, when nearly everyone is in a festive mood to give back.  When the summer rolls around, it seems more people are hot and surly, and sometimes don’t consider giving even though demand increases.  Did you know that  in a recent report released by Feeding America, 1 in 5 Arizona children live in food insecure households (the 5th worst ranking in the country!), meaning they do not have enough food for their growing bodies?  Unbelievable, but sadly true.  Poor nutrition also contributes to poorer performance in school, as hunger overtakes both desire and capacity to learn.

Summer meal programs for children are available, as some of these recent articles highlight.  However, many children live in areas without them, which is why this program is so important.  Visit St. Mary’s website to learn about how you can Send Hunger Packing through donations of food, volunteer hours or monetary donations.

*     *     *

BUDGET ACTION & YOU: Are you ready to Take the Power Back, Rise Up with Fists, or otherwise Take it to the Streets to promote a healthy budget that has the best interests of both present day and future Arizona at heart?  Then check out these details on how you can join AAFB and the Arizona Budget Coalition on a Capitol Visit on June 25, or volunteer at a phone bank in the evenings on Mondays or Thursdays throughout the month of June.  You’ll feel better knowing the People Have the Power!

mmmmmm…. a good rant…

Posted in budget, economy & politics with tags , , , , on June 6, 2009 by foodbankguy

Late this week, the Republicans in the House and Senate have passed their budget which they would typically submit to Governor Brewer for approval, but since she is widely expected to veto it, they are holding back from formally submitting it.  A leverage move under the guise of negotiating I would think.  The longer they can hold out, the closer to the June 30 deadline to get a deal done we get, and thus pressure is applied to get Brewer to cave, especially on her plans for a tax increase.  The next few weeks should provide both agony and entertainment to observers as the results unfold…

For the record, I’m okay with a tax increase because I don’t mind chipping in for a better Arizona.  I don’t use many of the services that my tax dollars go to, but then again I do get to drive on adequately maintained roads.  Somebody responds when I call the cops.  Somebody mows the grass and keeps up the park where I walk my dog.  I don’t believe there are people that aren’t getting something for their tax dollar.  Is it always efficiently spent?  Probably not, but then again the vast majority of us tend to find ourselves in a Circle K from time-to-time, even though you can get pretty much everything they sell somewhere else for less.

Yes, sales taxes are regressive, but the argument that increased taxes leads to reduced spending is a red herring.  In my life I’ve been both a poor college student and fairly well-to-do, and in neither situation have I delayed or eliminated a purchase over the tax rate.  Maybe I didn’t consume as much because I didn’t have the means or maybe I didn’t consume as much because the economy was poor and the prudent thing was to save, but my consumption has never been curbed by taxes.  As if in our materialistic consumer-driven culture people are going to hold off on that plasma TV because of taxes… this same culture that more or less lives on credit and has an insatiable need to keep up with the Jones’… is not going to let cash or available credit burn a hole in their pocket because of an increase in the tax rate?   I don’t buy it.  People are going to buy things if they have the means and have convinced themselves it’s a good idea.  

But… but… they’re gonna buy more stuff online and thus not pay taxes!  Sure, I suppose online spending could increase, but you’ve got to account for the “shipping tax” and lack of instant gratification that comes with the internet too… it may well be a better deal to pay the taxes.

Nobody gets excited about paying more taxes.  I get it.  But the issue isn’t black and white, it’s complex… as Arizona has grown, demand for services has as well.  State revenues are down because of unemployment and the economy, and long-term systemic problems with Arizona’s revenue generation mechanisms, so the budget looks bloated by comparison, but it was perfectly fine in better times.  Making the revenue stream more consistent would go a long way towards avoiding the budget mess Arizona is in… spending isn’t the issue.

Obviously, I’m interested in a budget that provides support to services such as food banks and others that make up what is commonly referred to as the social services safety net.  I believe that an advanced, modern society has a responsibility to provide for those who cannot or have severe troubles providing for themselves.  I believe that society as a whole benefits when neighbors are cared for.  This costs money.  This comes with an understanding that there are those who will purposely use the system for their benefit, and are in essense stealing money from the more honest and hard-working portion of society.  No system is perfect.   That said, I don’t believe a life based on scamming the system is all that glamorous; it isn’t something the vast majority of people aspire to have.  Honest people oftentimes make poor decisions that put them at economic disadvantages, perhaps because they were products of Arizona’s poorly funded public education system.  But flat out abandoning these people altogether because of a few bad apples?  I see those with a good education, upbringing and superior moral compass missed the lesson on high horses.

budget update

Posted in budget, economy & politics, people on May 21, 2009 by foodbankguy

Have you been paying attention to all the recent budget activity and actual proposals being discussed?  Exciting times for those of us that collectively make up Arizona’s social services safety net.  While obviously concerned about the rammifications of the budget cuts, so far I’m genuinely optimistic that they’ll do the right thing and balance it with plans for revenue enhancement and long-term strategy.  All the many people who have playfully and not-so-playfully labeled me a realist or pragmatist or buzzkill should find that last sentence funny…

So stay tuned to this and don’t be afraid to raise your voice if you’re feeling so inclined.

Also, I’m going to take this opportunity to whine and complain about the heat.  It’s waaaaaaay to early in the year for this kind of heat, and I’m more sweaty than I like.  But alas, I can’t rant about my plight too much, afterall, try to imagine how bad it is for those who are homeless or have had their electricity turned off because they decided to feed their kids instead…