Group petitions to recall Brewer

Megan McGuire, a 2000 ASU alumna, has had health issues her entire life, but in 2007, she was forced to take drastic measures like selling her house, car and stocks to pay for medical expenses.

Once it became too much, she made the tough decision to ask the state for assistance.

“I never thought a self-sufficient, educated, college graduate would ever have to rely on the state for health care assistance,” McGuire said. “Boy was I wrong.”

Realizing how much she owed her life to the state-funded care, McGuire joined other Arizona residents who want to stop Brewer’s Medicaid-cutting proposal and other policies by getting a new governor.

The Committee to Recall Governor Jan Brewer was launched Jan. 28 and has since been working to grow its volunteer base and collect enough signatures across the state to hold a recall election.

In order to do so, the committee needs to collect 432,021 signatures, equal to 25 percent of the number of votes cast for governor in the last election. The signatures are due on May 28, 120 days from the committee’s official filing date with the Secretary of State.

The committee was founded by Chandler resident Mimi Pryor, a marketing professional and business owner who managed campaigns for everything from nonprofits and charities to presidents and the Republican National Committee.

Since moving to Arizona, she hadn’t become politically active until Brewer’s policies hit close to home.

“My sister-in-law, who passed away last year from muscular dystrophy, was on state Medicaid and other forms of state assistance in another state,” Pryor said.  “She could not have had the quality of life and hospice care that she needed toward the end of her life without that assistance.”

Although Pryor disagrees with other areas of Brewer’s agenda, it was cuts to organ transplant funding and to the 280,000 Arizona residents from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System that motivated her to do something.

Last year, cuts to AHCCCS prevented 98 people from getting transplant funding and two patients recently died.

In January, Brewer proposed cutting access for 280,000 people to help the $1.15 billion estimated budget gap in fiscal year 2012.

But in February, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 1519, which would completely eliminate the Medicaid program under AHCCCS.

Arizona’s bill estimated saving approximately $1.94 billion in the state’s general fund over nine months. It proposes dividing $900 million to various categories of health services to needy Arizonans under the Department of Health Services, and putting $900 million to the state’s general fund.

This will cause the state to lose $7 billion in federal funding for Medicaid. The bill’s emergency clause states it would go into effect immediately if signed by the governor.

Most of the volunteers in the committee see these cuts to Medicaid as personally and financially threatening.

“I am single and part of the 280,000 people the governor plans to destroy in one fell swoop by terminating our health care coverage,” McGuire said.

Matt Jette is a new ASU political science professor and ran against Brewer in the Republican primary race last year. Now a registered Democrat, he joined the committee soon after its launch as press secretary. He is also an organ transplant recipient.

Jette was drawn to the race in opposition to Brewer’s proposals back in 2009 to cut health care access, but he said once SB 1070 was signed, the whole campaign and conversation became about immigration.

“Jan Brewer was quoted saying the No. 1 issue is still immigration,” Jette said. “Hard to believe when people are losing homes and jobs and health care.”

The committee isn’t a party issue, Jette said, and it comes down to right and wrong.

“Both parties are missing how to shape the future of Arizona and how to get there,” he said. “This committee is a first step, a real social movement.”

Terence Ball, an ASU political science professor, said the chances of recalling Brewer are slim to none, since the current legislature was duly elected and approved of by the majority of voters. But Ball acknowledged their concerns.

“It seems to me that Republican governors all across the country are using budgets and/or immigration to distract the public’s attention as they implement the Republican party’s ideological agenda,” he said.

He noted union-busting in Wisconsin and Ohio as an example other than targeting Medicaid.

Pryor said she believes college students can take initiative and join the cause, even if they don’t relate to the Medicaid issue.

“I believe that we can provide a vehicle for Arizona’s college and university students who have been affected by Governor Brewer’s cutbacks to our state’s post-secondary institutions and by the tuition hikes that directly affect them,” she said.

Matthew Benson, Brewer’s director of communications, said in an e-mail that the governor’s office “is not commenting regarding the recall effort.”

Brewer will present her final Medicaid plan to the federal government at the end of March.

Reach the reporter at naberra@asu.edu