1. Increases in Child Care Assistance.
  2. Supporting a ballot initiative to remove the expenditure cap on public education funding.
  3. Expand access to affordable higher education.
  4. Fully fund public schools.
  5. Giving comprehensive dental care to all adults through Medicaid.
  6. Expand KidsCare and eliminate the three-month waiting period to enroll.
  7. Increasing funding for KinCare.
  8. Expanding access to SNAP and free and reduced priced school meals.
  9. Increasing public housing opportunities and funding the Housing Trust Fund.
  10. Help Tribal Nations invest in infrastructure and workplace development.
  11. Reducing fines on juvenile justice offenders and improving/creating programs to reintegrate them into society.

The reader will not find many of these programs in either Governor Doug Ducey’s proposed budget from last week or in Republican legislative submittals.

They are however among the forward thinking legislative priorities supported by the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, The Children’s Action Alliance, and most Democrats inside and outside the state legislature.

In the introduction to the release of its proposals for 2022, the Arizona Center for Economic Progress and Children’s Action Alliance wrote:

“Our vision to build a future that works for all Arizonans (Children in CAA release) starts with our legislative priorities. This year, one of the most critical issues is the school spending limits mandated by the state constitution. Public schools face $1.1 billion in budget cuts THIS SCHOOL YEAR if the Legislature does not pass a resolution to override the state constitution’s K-12 spending limitations by March 1 and send a referral to the November 22 ballot to permanently address the limit.”

In an interview with the Blog for Arizona, former Democratic Leader and head of the Children’s Action Alliance David Lujan discussed the hopes for this legislative session and the priorities of both the Arizona Center and CAA.

Hopes for the 2022 Legislative Session.

Talking about the coming Legislative Session, Lujan stated that “we are at a critical point in our state. We have been through two difficult years in our state where many Arizonans are struggling to put food on the table, afford housing. We have an opportunity this legislative session with significant revenue surplus to reinvest it in our communities and invest it in towards those Arizonans that are struggling. What we are really focusing on this year, both with Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress is that this legislature address what is concerning most Arizonans and to make the investments where they are needed and not giving more tax cuts because that is not what Arizona needs going forward.”

The top three priorities for The Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

In what were the top three priorities for the CAA and Arizona Center this legislative session, Lujan conveyed:

For the Children’s Action Alliance:

  • Overriding the school spending limit for this year. Lujan said “We see that as a huge issue. It’s so significant..,the cuts the school districts are facing on top of everything else they’ve had to deal with and are already underfunded would just be devastating if the legislature doesn’t act…”
  • Increase supports for kinship (family members) providers of foster/orphaned children. Lujan commented: “Arizona, for many years, has not provided the same level of compensation to family members who are caring or a child who would otherwise go into the foster care system. So we are really hoping to see increased stipends for KinshipCare providers but also removing some of the licensure requirements for family members…That is probably the only good thing I heard in Governor Ducey’s (State of the State) speech…where he indicated that is something he will support…”
  • Expanding eligibility for KidsCare (Arizona’s health insurance program for low income children. Lujan expressed a desire to “reduce the waiting period to get into KidsCare and to also just being able to expand eligibility, especially as we’re coming through a pandemic. Arizona has the second lowest rate of insured children in the country and so it makes no sense particularly when we have a budget revenue surplus like we do.” 

For the Arizona Center for Economic Progress

  • Overriding the school spending limit. Lujan relayed “that is a shared priority” between both organizations.”
  • Affordable Housing: Lujan stated “we would love to see new investments in the housing trust fund. That fund was almost completely depleted in the Great Recession and has never been restored. That’s a fund that provides pretty significant resources for affordable housing and low- income renters so we would like to see significant new investments in the Housing Trust Fund.”
  • Combatting Food insecurity: Lujan said it was necessary to “find supports that would help people put food on the table for food assistance and increase the eligibility for SNAP (formerly Food Stamps,) particularly for children…to get that food assistance.”

On a question on Republicans mulling whether to repeal their own flat tax legislation and substitute a new one in order to thwart the voters seeking to overrule them with Proposition 307, Lujan commented:

“Definitely concerned. It would not be surprising. It is something we’ve come to expect from some of these lawmakers but it would be extremely disappointing because you literally have hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who signed the petitions to put this referendum (Proposition 307) on the ballot as well as volunteering their time to go out and collect signatures. I think it’s a huge slap in the face to voters…The reason we did this is these tax cuts are devastating to Arizona’s future and go completely against what Arizonans are looking for. They want to see more investments in their schools, in affordable housing, and their communities. This would give huge tax cuts to the rich and it would make it virtually impossible to adequately fund what I think most Arizonans want to prioritize in the future.”

Mr. Lujan is right. All of the members of the Arizona Legislature should prioritize an agenda of investing in communities and lifting people up.

Tax Cuts for the wealthy will not accomplish that goal.

Giving poor children health care,  combatting food insecurity, fully funding public schools, making college affordable, and investing in the Housing Trust fund will.