Why 1 Republican broke ranks to approve Medicaid

Pierce: Saying yes 'what we were elected to do'
The Arizona Republic
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Steve Pierce

It was heartening to see The Arizona Republic editorial board endorse the Arizona Senate’s action to support Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid proposal as “courageous.”

While it’s 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 (as passed twice by Arizona voters) without decimating our state’s fiscal health. Any senator willing to look at the facts and the options 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 knowing that 63,000 of the poorest Arizonans will lose health coverage on Jan. 1 with no alternative? Is it courageous to drain our “rainy day fund” and incur nearly a billion dollars of new state responsibility to pay for it, or to oppose “Obamacare,” while moving this population into the federal exchanges created by Obamacare? 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?

Many opponents claim these dollars will be borrowed so we shouldn’t accept them. If so, purists better stop taking Social Security checks, Medicaid or Medicare payments, or the federal dollars for education, the Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the highways.

Apparently my colleagues don’t realize that while we deal with $8 billion to $9 billion of the budget, Arizona’s real budget is more like $25 billion, of which more than one-third is federal dollars.

I vehemently opposed the federal Affordable Care Act. 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.”

By realizing what is in the best interest of the state, what options we have under the law, and respecting the will of the voters, the choice was clear.

Political courage is standing by your convictions and values and having the ability to look past partisan vitriol that sounds great in a speech but doesn’t solve problems. My good friend and political mentor, former Gov. Fife Symington, recently wrote, “A governor must see these facts as they are, not as she wishes they were.”

I am proud of my vote to do what’s best for Arizona, and of my colleagues for working with our governor in a bipartisan manner.

It wasn’t courageous; it was our job! We were elected to do a job, not keep it. My grade comes at election time.

Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, served as state Senate president in 2011-12.