In voting for Medicaid, senators were just doing their job

The Arizona Capitol Times
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Guest Opinion

It was heartening to see The Arizona Republiceditorial board endorse the Arizona Senate’s action to support Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid proposal as “courageous.” While it is always nice to get accolades in politics, I must admit it was not an act of courage, but simply what we were elected to do.

The proposal as written will restore the law of this state (as passed twice by Arizona voters) without decimating our state’s fiscal health – period. Any senator that was willing to look at the facts and go through the options that Governor Brewer faced prior to coming out with this plan, would easily come to this conclusion.

It bothers me that some of the opponents in the Senate were seen as courageous for their opposition. How can it be called courageous to know that 63,000 of our poorest Arizonans will get kicked off their health coverage come January 1st and not have an alternative plan? How is it courageous to say we will drain our rainy day fund and impose close to a billion dollars of new state responsibility to pay for it over the next three years? How is it courageous to say they oppose Obamacare, yet are willing to move this population into the federal exchanges created by Obamacare, and say they are not impacting the federal debt? How is it courageous to say they want to uphold Arizona laws and the will of the voters, but ignore the fact that Arizona voters twice have voted to cover these childless adults?

Another of the reasons used to not take these dollars for Medicaid expansion is that those dollars will be borrowed. Maybe so! I heartily agree! If we want to be purists and not take money from the feds for this reason, then we better stop taking Social Security checks, Medicaid or Medicare payments, or all the dollars coming from the feds for education, DES, ADEQ, ADOT and the highways. All of these programs and agencies receive federal funding. Why is it ok to accept those monies? Apparently my colleagues don’t realize the Legislature deals with $8-9 billion dollars of the budget. In truth, the Arizona’s real budget is more like $25 billion, of which more than one third is federal dollars.
So let’s be honest here!

There are many things I vehemently opposed about the federal Affordable Care Act, and I know Governor Brewer did everything she could to fight its implementation, including joining the lawsuit against it. However, as the head of the conservative Arizona Tax Research Association, Kevin McCarthy, said, “…opposition to the governor’s proposal ignores the current legal framework for Medicaid coverage and the relatively few realistic options that are available to Arizona.” So realizing what is in the best interest of the state, and realizing what options we have available to us under the law, and also realizing our citizens made it clear through two ballot propositions as to what they want, the choice was clear.

Political courage, in my estimation, is standing by your convictions and values you hold dear. However, it is also the ability to look past partisan vitriol and hyperbole that sounds great in a stump speech but doesn’t hold water in reality. My good friend and political mentor, Fife Symington (former Arizona Governor) wrote about this issue recently saying, “A governor must see these facts as they are, not as she wishes they were. And she must act to protect her state against the range of bad outcomes which might be coming.” This is why I am proud of what my colleagues and I did, by working with our governor, and in a bi-partisan manner, do what is in Arizona’s best interest.

It wasn’t courageous – it was our job! We were elected to do a job not keep it, or pass it off for the voters to decide. My grade comes at election time.

- State Sen. Steve Pierce is a Republican who represents Prescott.