Democrats in the State House and Senate released their budget proposal for the 2020/21 fiscal year.

It calls for spending approximately 12.5 billion dollars while Governor Ducey proposed just below 12.3 billion in appropriations. The Senate Republicans called for about 12.2 billion and the House suggested funding almost 12.3 billion in expenditures.

While the difference in overall numbers seems small among the varying proposals, the budget priorities are not.

The Democratic proposals (please click FY 21 Budget Arizona Legislative Democrats – FINAL to access) prioritize investing in Arizona’s people more than the Republican plans (please click FY 2021 Majority Budget Proposals Comparison to access), especially the Republican House and Senate ideas.

The Democratic budget calls for higher spending on vital areas such as:

  • K-12 Education
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Kids Care
  • Foster Care Kinship Stipend Increases
  • Veterans Benefit Counseling
  • The Environment
  • Affordable Housing and aid to the Poor and Homeless
  • Infrastructure

The Republican proposals, especially the House and Senate versions, give more priority to, wait for it, tax cuts.

With the inexplicable exception of no funding for special education increases and homeless-housing assistance, Governor Ducey’s budget seems to be somewhere in the middle between Democrat and Republican priorities.

It is also interesting to note that, given the recent Republican critiques of the Arizona Education Department supervision of the Empowerment Scholarship Program (ESA-Vouchers), it is the Democratic budget, per reporting by Yellow Sheet, that fully funds administrative oversight.

Issuing a press release with the budget on February 10, 2020, the Democrats stated:

“House and Senate Democrats today released a joint budget that raises pay for educators, fully restores funding for school classroom supplies, makes higher education more affordable, fixes crumbling roads, bridges, and airports and better protects and uplifts the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

“The $12.5 billion plan will:

  • Continue to provide large, substantial investments in Arizona’s P-20 education system for students and schools.
  • Provide impactful funding for homelessness, social services, and vulnerable adults
  • Enhance environmental programs that protect our long-term water future and confront climate change.
  • Expand access to healthcare in a meaningful and targeted way for children and families.
  • Invest in infrastructure projects statewide that create jobs while improving Arizona’s roadways, bridges, and airports, ensuring Arizona stays competitive with its neighbors and an attractive place to visit and do business.
  • Make these investments, and more, all without raising taxes.”

 House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez and Senate Democratic Leader David Bradley also offered their individual perspectives.

State Representative Fernandez wrote:

“This budget moves our state forward while staying structurally balanced for the future. As a statement of our values, this budget balances even better. As Democrats we are committed to the transformative power of education and investing in people and infrastructure in ways that lift people up, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and build a strong economy from the ground up. I sincerely hope the Governor and Republican leaders will sit down with us and work together. There is much common ground between us. But Arizona can’t reach its full potential as a land of opportunity until all sides are at the table to create that future.” 

State Senator Bradley commented that:

“We crafted this budget for two reasons. Of course, we deserve to be at the budget-negotiating table for once in over a decade. We hope that can happen this year, but we know that the political will for producing a truly bipartisan budget likely isn’t there.

 “The greater purpose of this budget, however, is to show how we would govern if the people of Arizona choose to entrust us with the majority. Our budget shows that it’s possible to find realistic, pragmatic solutions to funding state government and the essential services it provides, like education, social services, and infrastructure. Our solutions begin to repair the hollowing out of state government we’ve seen over the last decade and provide the critical resources that Arizonans need to meet their full potential.”

David Lujan, a former Democratic Arizona State Legislator and head of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress offered that:

“It (The Democratic measure) is a good budget proposal.  It shows that meaningful new investments can be made using the current projected revenues and without raising taxes.  It provides a sharp contrast to the other budget proposals we have seen all of which continue the 3-decades-long addiction of annual tax cuts and perpetuating underfunded public schools and important resources needed for affordable housing and childcare.”

Sharon Girard, a Democratic Candidate for one of the State House seats in Legislative District (LD) Eight wrote:

“Arizona Democrats once again put the people and the future of our great state front and center in this year’s budget proposal.  Our schools, teachers, and children need us to act now and act with purpose.  We must make healthcare affordable for everyone in need.  Our priorities, as Democrats,  are to make the lives better for every man, woman, and child in Arizona.   With Democrats in charge, we will spend wisely and make pragmatic decisions that will benefit our growing state and its people.  We will no longer tolerate budgets that do not address our starving educational and healthcare systems.  There is no higher purpose than helping everyone succeed and thrive.”

Kathleen Honne, a Democratic Candidate for a State House Seat in LD 22, commented:

”Arizona House and Senate Democrats proposed a joint budget of $12.5 billion for the state (from 2020–2023). Without raising taxes, and remaining balanced fiscally, the legislative Democrats showed we can address many Arizona needs that have been ignored for over a decade by politicians down at the Capitol. As a professional educator, the key difference I see between Republican and Democratic budget proposals is a well-funded P-20 public education system, which our State Constitution requires. Democrats value public education (including our state universities) and the current elected Republicans don’t, and this is clearly demonstrated by what they prioritize in the state budget.”

Linda Patterson, a Democratic Senate Candidate for LD 11 relayed on a Facebook Post:

“AZ Dems in the state legislature released a budget proposal that supports education, infrastructure, and vulnerable adults. Thanks for your leadership that reflects the needs of the people of Arizona and ld11. Linda Patterson 4 State Senate 2020. Character Matters.”

 

A budget that puts people first and builds for tomorrow should be the benchmark of any budget put forth by public servants.

It is also telling how they propose to take care of the most vulnerable like the children, the elderly, the disabled, and the impoverished.

The Arizona Democratic budget measure puts Arizona’s people first, has a vision towards the future, and protects the vulnerable more substantially than Governor Ducey’s and the Republican legislators.

Hopefully, their ideas will get serious consideration in the budget negotiations to come.

Otherwise, voters in November will know which public servants really work for them.