After a marathon session of back room deals and arm twisting among Tea-Publican legislators — to the exclusion of the Democratic minority who represent over 40% of Arizonans — Arizona’s Tea-Publican controlled legislature approved a budget in the wee hours of Friday morning when only a handful of reporters were left watching their dirty deed. This is how one-party autocracy works in Arizona.
“A budget is a moral document.” Ducey’s budget is immoral.
The Arizona Republic reports, Arizona lawmakers pass $9.8 billion budget:
Arizona lawmakers passed a $9.8 billion budget early Friday that provides 2 percent pay hikes for public-school teachers, a modest income-tax cut for residents and $1 billion in extra bonding authority for the state’s public universities.
The final spending plan for fiscal 2018 featured key elements Republican Gov. Doug Ducey outlined in January, as lawmakers began their work. But it also underwent significant changes at the hands of Republicans in the House and Senate. No Democrats voted for the budget.
“Arizona has passed a budget that prioritizes education, boosts teacher pay, and invests in our universities — all without raising taxes on hardworking Arizonans,” Ducey said in a statement minutes after the budget won final approval at 3:55 a.m. “For the first time in a decade, we are making significant and lasting investments to grow our state.”
Ducey won’t receive the budget bills until Monday, when the Senate is scheduled to send the final documents to his office. He is expected to sign them.
The teacher pay raises are phased in over two years instead of the five years Ducey wanted. The state’s revenue loss from the income-tax cut grew from less than $3 million to more than $10 million. And lawmakers changed the timing and revenue source for the university bonding plan, which had bottled up the budget for weeks.
The Republic‘s Linda Valdez correctly noted the other day, Arizona has a revenue problem. When will we admit that? “The tax cutting experiment began in the 1990s with Republican former Gov. Fife Symington and continued under Democratic and Republican governors. The toll on state revenue is $4 billion.” (This is a must read opinion).
In the end, Ducey hailed the overall plan as “an education budget” (sic) that will help cut turnover among K-12 teachers and invests in the universities in a way that will benefit the state into the future.
I’m sorry, but members of the media can no longer allow this evil man to get away with labeling himself the “education governor” and calling his budget the “education budget.” This is cruelly, demonstrably false. Arizona will still rank dead last in education after everything Governor Ducey has done since he has been governor. See the Morrison Institute of Public Policy’s full report on Arizona teacher recruitment, retention and pay, Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms, now available on the Morrison Institute for Public Policy website: MorrisonInstitute.asu.edu.
Ducey’s misinformation propaganda, or “dezinformatsiya,” as the Russians call it, is meant to confuse audiences, blurring the lines between truth, falsehood and reality — sometimes known as “fake news.” The media should not be a complicit partner in Ducey’s misinformation propaganda campaign.
Heading into a climactic week for the Legislature, Democrats had hoped to serve as Ducey’s needed partners on the bonding measure.
Instead, the governor cut deals with Republicans that made the budget more palatable to conservatives, who didn’t want Democrats shaping the state’s spending plans.
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Democrats found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between two of their long-standing priorities: K-12 and universities. Most of the Democrats voted against the university bonding package, but not, they said, because they don’t support higher education. Rather, this was the year to make a push for improved teacher pay.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, vented the anger and disappointment that had built over recent days as it became clear Ducey had bypassed Democrats.
“I can tell you from my caucus, we fought for universities when there was a proposed $115 million cut,” Quezada said. “We fought for the universities when that was negotiated down to a much more manageable $99 million cut. We were the ones standing up fighting for the universities.”
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There is more than $200 million in new spending in the budget, with most of it concentrated in K-12 education.
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Arizona School Boards Association spokeswoman Heidi Vega said the legislative language involving the 2 percent pay raises is written so that they are more like bonuses, not permanent increases.
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For the first time in a decade, the state will help pay to construct new schools. That will cost $63 million in the next year for six schools in Chandler, Vail and Queen Creek.
By way of comparison, the lawsuit filed on Monday by Arizona school disticts to recover the soft capital funds that the legislature has reneged on since the settlement agreement in Roosevelt Elem. School Dist. No. 66 v. Bishop (No. CV-93-0168) in 1994 is potentially a $4.5 billion liability hole blown in the state budget, plus the attorneys fees and costs that will be awarded to Tim Hogan and his clients.
At the center of the new budget are 2 percent pay raises over the next two years for public-school teachers. That will pencil out to a $1,000 over two years raise for many teachers, something House Speaker J.D. Mesnard called a significant step. The raises will cost $34 million extra in 2018.
Mesnard echoed Ducey in calling the coming year’s spending plan an “education budget,” noting increased spending for K-12 as well as universities.
Again with Ducey’s misinformation propaganda campaign of “fake news.”
The state will offer $38 million in results-based funding for schools that reach certain achievement targets. Analysts expect two-thirds of the money to go to schools where fewer than 60 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches (in other words, to wealthy school districts).
There is also $8 million that districts can use for all-day kindergarten or to set up an early-literacy program.
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Democrats took a darker view. House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, said the budget harms Arizona’s most-vulnerable citizens, citing insufficient for the services to the developmentally disabled and the refusal to restore to two years a cash-aid program for poor families.
The disability community maintains the extra money won’t cover their extra labor costs, but those needs were essentially deferred to next year’s legislative session. Lawmakers balk on more funding for disabled, agree to $10M tax cut. Immoral.
The state will forgo more than $100 million in revenues, mostly due to the continued phase-in of corporate tax cuts passed in 2011. But the budget includes a tax cut, something Ducey has promised to propose every year.
Republican lawmakers did him one better, enlarging the governor’s original $2.8 million proposal to $10 million by raising the personal income tax exemption by $100 over the next two years. It’s estimated to save $4 per family. After that, the state will adjust the exemption with inflation annually.
They just keep digging that structural revenue deficit hole deeper.
Howard Fischer adds to the State budget:
Potentially more significant, those deals also bought Mesnard the votes he needed to approve the proposal by Gov. Doug Ducey to allow state universities to borrow up to $1 billion for 25 years.
One of those is a change in laws about when cities can have their elections.
Well, it wouldn’t be our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature without doing something unconstitutional. This provision will die in court, as it has in the recent past. Horse trade could lead to legal action in city ballot measure: “[I]f a 2014 Court of Appeals ruling is any indication, the legislation may be doomed from the start. That year the three-judge panel voided a 2012 law requiring cities to have their elections only in even-numbered years. The judges said that is trumped by state constitutional provisions which allow charter cities to set their own local policies, including election dates.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, criticized Republican leaders for making what he said are often-expensive deals to line up votes in their own caucus for the university bonding package.
Farley pointed out the budget deal decreases by $100 the amount that Arizona residents have to declare in computing their state income taxes. That provision, which will save the richest taxpayers just $4.54 a year, reduces state revenues by $10 million.
But Farley said that for just $1.4 million the legislature could have fully restored a state welfare program [TANF], one of the Democrats’ priorities.
Republicans also added $1 million each for the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to expand funding for Ducey’s so-called “economic freedom schools” which were set up with seed money from foundations run by the Koch brothers. The schools already are getting $5 million in ongoing cash, first approved last year.
That money would be better spent taking care of the disabled that our Tea-Publican legislators and Governor Ducey ignored in this budget. But Ducey has to pay back the “Kochtopus” for their dark money that got him elected. Immoral.
“The governor would rather give more money to Koch brothers’ schools than to teacher raises,” complained Farley who supports a 4 percent hike versus the 2 percent, two-year increase in the budget.
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There also was grumbling by some Republicans about the fact the budget deal allows the state to once again divert $30 million from gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees to instead fund the Department of Public Safety.
Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, pointed out state law limits such transfers to $10 million. But rather than address — and debate — that law, legislative leaders simply inserted a provision in the budget saying that law can be ignored for yet another year.
“We have the ability to stop that withdrawal,” Campbell complained, saying the road needs of the state are too great to allow this practice to continue.
I’m certain that there are many more elements in this budget that will outrage voters once they become known and are publicized, e.g., defunding Planned Parenthood.
The legislature will be back on Monday for the rocket docket of bills that the GOP leadership wants to pass before sine die. Time for our zombie hunters to be watching for strike-everyting amendments raising the dead in the middle of the night. This terrible legislative session will only get worse.
UPDATE: If you want to keep up with the strike everything bills, the legislature has a great resource for that — just click here.