By Maria Polletta, Andrew Oxford, Lily Altavena and Rachel Leingang for The Arizona Republic
Buoyed by even healthier than expected state revenue projections, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled a $12.3B spending plan for the next fiscal year that places two of his longtime priorities — public safety and education — front and center.
The plan boosts spending by more than $600M above the current year. But it also sets aside $25M for Arizona’s rainy day fund, the state savings account that hit $1B last year.
On the spending side, about half of new investments would go to K-12 schools. Ducey would boost funding for the state’s school safety grant program, fund the final phase of his 20×2020 teacher raise plan and set aside cash for school building repairs, among other initiatives.
For public safety, the governor is focusing heavily on state prisons, proposing to shut down facilities in Florence and repair pervasive problems with cell door locks elsewhere. Correctional officers, who continue to leave state prisons for higher-paying posts, would see pay raises, as will Department of Child Safety caseworkers.
Ducey also wants to improve the state’s infrastructure, proposing a $78M makeover for a portion of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.
State lawmakers must agree on a budget before the legislative session can adjourn. It’s unclear how long that will take, particularly as legislators seeking reelection in November look to secure victories they can tout on the campaign trail.
Senate Republicans released their own budget framework Friday, which included about $100M less in general fund spending than the governor’s proposal.
The Senate GOP plan called for cutting taxes, including a $50M one-time tax cut and $75M in ongoing tax breaks.
Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s chief of staff, said Ducey officials had “been working very closely with (Republican lawmakers) for several months.”
Here’s a closer look at Ducey’s proposal for the 2020-2021 budget year.
K-12 Education Spending
Ducey’s budget would provide $38M in additional funding for the state’s school safety grant program, which would cover more than 400 new school counselors, social workers and on-campus police officers.
Ducey’s proposal would also put $108M toward aging school buildings. The School Facilities Board gives out grants to pay for building repairs requested by school districts, involving everything from air conditioning to roofing.
Requests tripled from 2013 to 2018, and several school districts are suing the state for inadequate facilities funding. The 2017 suit claims that the state has shorted districts $260M annually for repairs.
Ducey also wants to fulfill his promise two years early to restore district additional assistance funding to pre-recession levels. District additional assistance is flexible funding that schools can use on transportation, textbooks, curriculum and some capital costs.
Infrastructure Spending for Bridges
The marquee infrastructure project in the governor’s budget involves fast-tracking a widening project on Interstate 10 just south of Phoenix, starting with a $78M bridge over the Gila River.
The governor expects $50M in bridge funding to come from the federal government and would add $28M from the state’s general fund.
Read more at The Arizona Republic.