Konopnicki critical of Legislature's budget work
By Diane Saunders
Rep. Bill Konopnicki
In a presentation that often criticized the Arizona Legislature for its handling of the state budget crisis, District 5 Rep. Bill Konopnicki also said he is opposed to privatizing the state's prisons.
Konopnicki, a Republican from Safford, presented a legislative update Friday to members of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce. The update covered several topics, including the sale of state assets, privatizing the state's prisons, a proposed temporary 1-cent sales tax, public education and a fuel research project.
He said while he is a fiscal conservative he believes the "hard-right Republicans" have carried conservatism too far and "have shafted every citizen of Arizona."
The main reason Arizona has a nearly $4 billion budget deficit is because of declining tax revenues. The lack of money could cause 12 state agencies — including the Department of Agriculture and the Registrar of Contractors — to run out of money by the end of September.
While revenues declined, the number of people requiring services from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System — the state's Medicaid program — grew by 60 percent.
The proposed sale of state assets, including the Capitol building in Phoenix and the state prisons, is aimed at raising cash for the state. The state would then rent the facilities for $57 million a year "when we don't even have 50 cents."
The sale of state assets was a component of the June 30 budget, of which Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed many line items. Konopnicki said he did not vote for the budget because it "was horrible for rural Arizona."
The representative also believes there is room for private prisons in Arizona because the state's prison population is growing by about 2,000 inmates a year. Privatization should be a way to add prisons, not take over the state prisons, Konopnicki said.
Arizona leaders should look forward when dealing with the state budget, he said. For example, the Legislature withdrew funding for the Science Foundation of Arizona. This was significant because the foundation was partnering with Arizona State University, British Petroleum and the U.S. Air Force on a research project that would convert algae to biofuel.
The state stands to receive $500 million a year in royalties from the project. Konopnicki said a court action was required to return the funding to the foundation.
Despite the financial problems, Konopnicki said, "It's not all gloom and doom" because conservatism — not the hard right — is "alive and well" in Arizona.
Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.
I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
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