Commentary

Arizonans need the transformational change promised by the Build Back Better Act

November 15, 2021 2:19 pm

Photo by Martin Falbisoner | Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In Arizona, and all over the country, the cost of living has been going up and anxiety over our economic future is widespread. Over the past year, the rich have gotten wealthier while working families have struggled to afford health care, childcare and education. The already present effects of the climate crisis add on to this anxiety, something Arizonans feel acutely. 

To address these issues, Arizona voters are counting on the passage of the Build Back Better Act, a historic investment in our futures — but we need complete support from our representatives and senators to ensure its passage. 

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In 2020, Arizona was vital to clinching Democratic control of the U.S. House, Senate and White House. Voters made it clear that they support President Joe Biden’s agenda, which promised action to support working families, address climate change and more. But so far, voters have been disappointed — and understandably so, as there has been little to no movement on this agenda, thanks to the conservative Democrats and Republicans who have made it their job to block it.

Instead, the priority has been around legislation that does not address the urgent struggles of Arizona families. Last week, the House passed an infrastructure bill that will provide funding to improve roads and bridges, replace lead pipes and expand broadband access, among other public works provisions. This package is important, certainly, but it does not even begin to deal with the multitude of crises that we face right now, nor the very real economic and climate anxieties that Arizonans are contending with as costs of living go up and wildfires and droughts become more and more common. 

What Arizona families truly need is legislation that will make their lives easier and their bills lower, allowing them to thrive instead of struggling to survive. The Build Back Better package is a transformative package that does just this by raising taxes on the wealthy. But it is still awaiting votes in both the House and Senate. 

What started off as a $6 trillion investment was first slashed to $3.5 trillion, then cut again to about $1.8 trillion, all because a group of conservative Democrats in the House and Senate were uncomfortable with the price tag and making the rich pay their fair share. As a result, many other items on Biden’s economic agenda were cut. Still, in its current iteration, the Build Back Better Plan remains transformative, containing provisions to make pre-K free, extend the child tax credit for another year, lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand Medicare and invest in clean energy. 

This is the opportunity to make true investments in working families — and voters have waited long enough. 

For Arizona families specifically, the passage of Build Back Better would mean needed relief from many of the rising costs of childcare, health care, and more. An estimated 1.5 million Arizona children would benefit from the expansion of the child tax credit. This credit is one of the most popular provisions in the package, and it’s easy to see why: Voters support putting money in the pockets of families, not lining the already deep coffers of the wealthy. Build Back Better would also invest in universal pre-K — something that only about 23% of Arizona children currently have access to. 

It would also expand health care access by including hearing coverage as part of Medicare and extending health insurance to approximately 158,000 uninsured Arizonans. Finally, the package would make the single largest investment in clean energy in history–something our state desperately needs as we battle prolonged droughts and increasingly dangerous and record-breaking wildfire seasons. 

Build Back Better is a legislative package that should be clearly championed across the board, as it addresses so many of the priorities that the bipartisan infrastructure package neglects. Yet conservative Democrats, such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have been eagerly taking victory laps for passing a glorified highway bill while the truly transformational Build Back Better Plan has been repeatedly delayed and pared down. Repairing roads and bridges is important, but what is truly going to make a tangible difference for Arizona families is the legislative package that will reduce the costs of health care and childcare and will fight climate change. 

It’s time for our Democratic representatives to move swiftly to get the Build Back Better plan passed so we can support working families. 

During a time when economic and climate anxiety is at the forefront of the minds of Arizona families, a roads and bridges bill is simply not going to cut it. We need to pass legislation that makes transformative change in the lives of Arizonans — the Build Back Better Act does just that, and our congressional delegation should be more than proud to support it.

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Abigail Jackson
Abigail Jackson

Abigail Jackson is the federal communications coordinator for Progress Arizona. She is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and a resident of Flagstaff.

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