Governor Ducey has released his proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
It has met with mixed reactions among Democratic and Progressive circles.
While commending the Governor for investment hikes in areas like education (with more monies for teacher salaries, counselors, and building repair,) infrastructure, and childcare, Progressive advocates point out that the increases are, in some cases, nothing more than legally mandated inflation adjustments and largely insufficient to meet the needs of Arizona’s citizens including the state’s children and most vulnerable.
Schools, even with the boost in the Governor’s budget, are still not funded at 2008 levels. It is 2020.
Progressives also condemn the annual Republican obsession with financing additional tax cuts while social justice need areas are still shortchanged.
House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, along with Senate Democratic Leader David Bradley, released joint statements on the Governor’s budget proposal.
Representative Fernandez stated:
“At first glance, there is a lot to like in the Governor’s budget, as there was last year, including a number of ideas that Democrats have introduced or pushed for years,” said Leader Fernandez. “Investment in our schools is moving in the right direction, but we expect more to make our teacher salaries competitive and pull our overall funding out of the national basement. Funding for opioid treatment is an idea we brought to the table. But, again, the devil is in the details. It’s important that Democrats are at the table to sort through those details and avoid poison pills that make the plan more difficult to support. This is not a time for another tax cut that no one is asking for, and it’s not time to sock away another $25 million in the Rainy Day fund when it has $1 billion now. For our homeless and our vulnerable adults, it’s raining right now.”
Senator Bradley relayed:
“From 20,000 feet it looks a lot like a budget we could support, however, the devil is in the details and we look forward to seeing those details. Governor Ducey’s budget includes many items for which Democrats have been advocating for years, like full restoration of District and Charter Additional Assistance and increased funding for the School Facilities Board, school counselors and childcare for working families,” said Senator Bradley. “However, the executive budget does leave some areas of critical need ignored, especially after we’ve seen state government hollowed out over the last decade. The homeless crisis must be addressed and our most effective means of doing that is through the state’s Housing Trust Fund. We must also ensure our vulnerable adults receive adequate care by increasing our human service provider rate. So long as there are no more massive tax cuts or other such budgetary poison pills for Democrats, we are ready to work with the governor and the majority in finding solutions to the many needs of our state.”
The statement concluded with a more detailed line by line summary which read:
“K-12. Fully funding District and Charter Additional Assistance (money for books, computers, instructional materials) with $136 million — mirrors Democratic proposals from last year. Arizona still ranked in 48th in per-pupil funding and teacher retention and recruitment crisis continues unabated.”
“The Rocket Program. Cautiously supportive. Democrats have long advocated for investment and training to boost the performance of struggling schools.”
“Infrastructure. Some worthwhile projects outlined, including expanded broadband investment in rural Arizona. However, with a $1 billion fund balance, there is the capacity to do more.”
“Tax cuts. Decades of tax cuts have helped keep Arizona near the bottom in investment in public education and have led to our roads deteriorating from fund sweeps. We shouldn’t include tax cuts that nobody has asked for, just to say we’ve cut taxes.”
“Combatting homelessness. No new investment in the Housing Trust Fund to help pull struggling Arizonans out of homelessness.”
“Vulnerable Adults. Small provider-rate increase for caregivers for developmentally disabled and vulnerable Arizonans are inadequate.”
“Climate. The budget doesn’t address climate change at all, including no additional surface or groundwater hydrologists when aquifers are being depleted by drought and corporate farms.”
“Higher Education. More higher education funding and the New Economy initiatives are encouraging – but Democrats would like to see more effort to make college affordable and reduce student loan debt.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released a statement which said:
“Throughout my travels around the state, I’ve heard and seen firsthand the passionate support that Arizonans have for continued and increased investment in our public education system. In reviewing Governor Ducey’s proposed budget, I’m hopeful that we will continue to find bipartisan support for the issues facing our public schools.”
“There are several items in the budget that will build upon the work of our Department and provide schools with critical resources. By providing the funds necessary to fulfill each school’s first choice in the School Safety Program, Arizona will take a necessary step towards ensuring that school safety is not treated as a competition. Additionally, the increased funds for the investigative unit – paired with fully-funding the top choices of the School Safety Program waitlist – will go a long way in ensuring our students are safe, healthy, and ready to learn at school.”
“In addition to school safety, the budget address several key needs: early restoration of Additional Assistance and increased funding for school facilities will help schools meet the needs of their communities, more dollars dedicated to Adult Education will unlock the economic and personal potential of so many individuals in our state, and targeted assistance through programs like Project Rocket will elevate schools that need extra support.”
“Inclusion of the final installment of the 20×2020 raises is excellent news for Arizona’s teachers, but I have long said these raises only represented a first step. Now is the time for our state to start planning for what comes next. We know that our teacher shortage has persisted even with these raises, and it will take a holistic, comprehensive approach to move the needle, keep qualified educators in the classroom, and ensure that Arizona’s education system is regionally competitive.”
“Our goal must continue to be a fair and equitable public education system that provides high-quality education for every student in our state – I will continue to advocate for policies that move Arizona in that direction.”
Siman Qaasim, the President of the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance, stated and tweeted:
“Still unpacking the details, but thrilled to see childcare investments, increased adoption subsidy, “grandma” (kinship) stipend doubled, and fully restored district additional assistance!”
After analyzing the budget, Ms. Qaasim issued the following statement:
“We have been spending the last several days unpacking the Governor’s proposed budget and there is a lot to like and some questions that are yet to be answered. This is only the Governor’s proposal and not necessarily what will be in the final budget once it is negotiated and passed. The Governor’s budget checks off several of our legislative priorities this session:”
- “Doubling the kinship care stipend from $75 per child per month to $150 (the stipend is financial support provided to grandparents and other relatives who step in to take care of children in times of abuse and neglect).”
- “Fully restoring district additional assistance (DAA) two years ahead of schedule (this is money schools use to buy textbooks, curriculum, technology, and new school buses).”
- “Increase safe, quality child care options by adding $23 million in federal investments to the child care subsidy program for low-income working parents.”
- “There are other investments in children such as $38 million in ongoing funds for school counselors, social workers, and school resource officers (SROs). We are also pleased to see incentives to encourage the adoption of children with significant special needs and sibling groups.”
“That said, it is still unclear how the $23 million in federal child care subsidy programs will be utilized and if the new federal money coming to Arizona will be included in a final appropriation. Our position is that these dollars should be invested in increasing the subsidy rates so that they match the real costs that parents face when paying for child care.”
“One thing is clear: we will fight tirelessly to ensure our tax dollars are being spent on our children.”
David Lujan, the Director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, wrote:
“In the Governor’s budget, there are some good things and there are some bad things. It is good to see him wanting to restore some of the money that has been cut from our public schools over the past decade, like accelerating the restoration of the district additional assistance funding for classroom supplies that was cut in 2015 and the next phase of funding for teacher salaries. Let’s have some perspective though. Even with this additional funding, Arizona will still be one of the five lowest states for per-pupil funding in the nation and it will take almost $4 billion in new annual funding to get to that national average. That is how big of a hole we are in for public education funding and why the Invest in Ed ballot initiative is so important. Some of the bad things in the Governor’s budget are that he provides no new funding for the affordable housing trust fund and he continues to propose more tax cuts when so many aspects of state government are operating with less revenue than a decade ago.”
State Senate Republicans have released their proposed budget and the House Republicans will follow this week.
The Senate Republican budget mostly parallels the Governors.
Hopefully, unlike last year, the Republicans will seriously consider the Democratic Economic Blueprint that focuses considerably less on tax cuts and more on investments in education, housing, helping the most vulnerable, and sustainable infrastructure.
The people realize that giving a poor child access to KidsCare, providing more affordable housing, or making sure a school has classrooms with no more leaking roofs is a better use of the state’s money than making sure the wealthiest get another tax cut they do not need.
It is an election year and it would be wise for Republicans, with their fragile legislative majority, to show the voters that they put the people first rather than funding more tax cuts.
Otherwise, they may be in for a rude awakening after November 3, 2020, when the people vote for Democratic candidates that do put them first and a new Invest in Ed initiative that will finally fully fund schools.