Earlier this morning, the Arizona State Senate, in a bipartisan vote, passed the FY2024 state budget.

After the passage, Governor Katie Hobbs and her team issued a release, praising the budget package, stating:

“Today we showed Arizonans we can reach across the aisle, compromise and make government work. I am glad Democrats and Republicans in the Arizona Senate came together to pass budget bills that make historic investments in affordable housing, build roads, bridges, and public transit, invest in our Tribal communities, and expand access to health insurance for children. I look forward to the Arizona House passing this budget and to continuing to partner with legislators of both parties to build an Arizona that works for all of our communities.”

The Governor’s press release also highlighted the Democratic priorities achieved in the budget including:

  • $150 million investment in the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Over $650m in funds investing in roads, bridges, broadband infrastructure, and public transit throughout the state.
  • An increase in KidsCare eligibility to expand access to health insurance for approximately 9,500 children in FY24, and over 12,000 in FY25.
  • A $300 million one-time infusion in K-12 spending, along with $341.9m for school facilities
    $88.6m new, ongoing K-12 funding.
  • $126.1m in Tribal Investments.
  • $60m in the Homeless Shelter and Services Fund (New Fund.)
  • New ESA Reporting Metrics.
  • FY24 Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) override for schools.

Despite Bipartisan Support, Democrats, including those who supported the budget are still peeved at the result. 

Many Democrats, while still being very annoyed at the budget provisions that continued the unchecked growth in ESA Voucher Scholarships and the lack of funding growth for the Attorney General and Secretary of State offices, wound up supporting the measure because:

  • There were many provisions like the ones the Governor highlighted that they supported.
  • A threat was written in the legislation that Democrats who voted against the budget would have their pet projects stripped away.

In comments to both AZ Central and AZ Mirror, Senate Democratic Mitzi Epstein expressed both praise for the budget items that reflected Democratic priorities and the rush job and threats the Republicans employed at passing the fiscal measure.

To AZ Central, Senator Epstein said there were a lot of “great things” in the budget like the investments in the Housing Trust Fund and the nearly seven percent increase in the K-12 budget.

She also said “pretty much” to the question of whether she felt forced to vote for the budget due to the provisions threatening to strip away funding from legislators who voted nay (which is something Democrats in Washington should have employed with passing the American Rescue Plan. The costs would have been less with all the Republican pet projects that would have been stripped away because they voted no.)

To AZ Mirror, she was quoted as saying of the rushed process to Republican Senate President Warren Petersen:

“It is so important in a democracy that everybody has the time they need to figure out how they are voting.”

Apparently, many in the Senate gallery laughed when Petersen responded that legislators had up to a day to review the budget items.

The Senator also took issue with a comment from one of the Governor’s spokespersons that “Arizonans want elected officials to be practical leaders, not bickering politicians” by saying she felt “dejected” and “It will take a great deal of work to repair the wounds that were struck tonight.”

Democrats also failed in several attempts to secure amendments that would have capped ESA growth at 69,000 students and fingerprint checking for employees at ESA schools.

Wait for the Democrats to condemn the supposedly fiscally prudent Republicans when the state coffers come close to or go in the red when the bill for their stealth tax cut for the rich (the ESA voucher program) comes due.

Wait for Democrats to pounce on the supposed law and order Republicans when the first child molester, who did not go through the fingerprint checking process, is arrested at an ESA school.

Republicans blasted Democrats for crying foul, claiming despite their protestations, they were given opportunities to negotiate with Republicans but chose not to submit their demands until late in the process.

The Arizona House will consider the budget later today.

Stay tuned. More to follow.