A nine and a half billion dollar budget package clears a first hurdle Wednesday evening in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The plan means more money for the troubled Department of Child Safety. 32-million dollars more for Universities, and 111 million for K-12 Education if Prop 123

passes. Glendale Republican Debbie Lesko is pleased: “It ensures that our budget is structurally balanced, and that the government lives within its’ means, after years of spending more than what we had coming in. “

But Tucson Democrat Steve Farley says dire needs are being neglected, such as Kids Care health insurance. He says there’s no excuse for it because “we have a fair amount of money sitting around, but we’re choosing to keep it for a rainy day, instead of spending it on present needs”, adding, “I don’t think we should say ‘don’t do it’ because we can’t. We’re not doing it because we’re not choosing to right now.”

The budget also includes money for building renewal and highway construction projects such as widening Interstate 10. The full Senate next weighs in on the proposal.

–Barbara Villa