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Gov. Ducey, Republicans Praise Passage of Budget Bill; Democrats Express Disappointment

05 May 2016   Lynne LaMaster

Governor Doug Ducey today praised the passage of the FY 2017 budget. 

After 16 hours of discussion and effort, the Arizona Legislature passed the FY 2017 budget at 1:40 AM. While many compromises were made across party lines, one area of dissent was not resolved. 

Although Democrats pushed for KidsCare to be included in the budget, saying that it doesn’t cost the state anything, and that Arizona is the only state in the country that does not utilize the federal program, it failed to sway Senate President Andy Biggs. Biggs, who didn’t even allow a measure supporting KidsCare to go to a vote in the Senate, pointed out that no government program is free, ever.

Governor Ducey issued a press release praising the passage of the budget:  

May 4, 2016

Governor Doug Ducey Praises Passage Of Structurally-Balanced Budget That Prioritizes K-12 Education

Budget Adds $181 Million To K-12 Education, Above And Beyond Education Settlement Agreement 

PHOENIX - Governor Doug Ducey today praised the passage of Arizona’s fiscal year 2017 budget – a fiscally-responsible spending plan that makes critical investments in K-12 education, child and public safety, while bringing the state to a positive structural balance for the first time since 2007.

“This budget would have been unattainable just 15 short months ago, when the state was in a billion dollar hole and government was living beyond its means. Because of the decisions elected leaders made to set priorities, we are now in a position to make strategic investments in K-12 education, higher education, child safety and public safety,” said Governor Ducey. “I want to thank all the legislators, especially Speaker David Gowan and President Andy Biggs, for their partnership and hard work in passing a responsible budget package that is balanced and values-based."

Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2017 Balanced Budget:

  • Balances the budget and eliminates the structural deficit to achieve the state’s first structural balance since 2007.
  • Invests $181 million – above the education settlement agreement from Prop 123 – in the K-12 system to ensure every Arizona student has access to a quality education.
  • Provides additional funding to Arizona’s world-class universities.
  • Includes $26.6 million to expand the border strike force and crack down on illegal drug trafficking and cartels in Southern Arizona
  • Makes a $116 million two-year investment in child safety, while focusing on safely reducing the growth rate of children in state care.
  • Provides $10 million for a new veterans home in Flagstaff.
  • Invests an additional $86.5 million in Arizona’s transportation system, which will be used to leverage additional federal dollars for infrastructure projects.
  • Provides $8 million dollars in tax relief for small businesses. 

According to the Governor’s website, they are continuing to set money aside in the rainy day fund, even while balancing the budget. Here are some numbers:

  • Total Revenue: $9.71B
  • Total Spending: $9.58B
  • Ending Cash Balance: $127M
  • Rainy Day Balance: $460M
  • Ongoing Revenue: $9.43B
  • Ongoing Spending: $9.37B
  • Structural Balance: $61M

58% of the new FY 2017 spending consists of one-time expenditures. The ongoing spending growth is 1.2%, which is less than the 2.9% population plus inflation growth projected for FY 2017. 

It includes an $8M tax cut for small businesses, and $10M for a new veteran’s home in Flagstaff. $387,500 is allotted to implement new wildland-firefighting procedures and improve safety. 

In addition to spending taxpayer money, there are also some savings built in, such as: 

Expect the State to sell off under-utilized buildings in the future. "$4.2M for state building renovations that will allow the state to sell off under-utilized buildings,” reads the summary. 

Consolidation and elimination of various departments such as the Department of Weights & Measures (briefly led by Andy Tobin).

Arizona House Democrats issued a statements of their own: 

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Jennifer D. Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), and Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), released this statement in response to the budget that the Legislature passed on May 4, 2016: 

“We are disappointed in this budget because we do not believe it fulfills our obligation to our community, especially to the children in our district. We wanted to restore $116 million for classroom resources, so our schools could get updated text books and technology, but Republicans refused to consider that as an option.

“We also pushed to reinstate KidsCare, a program that would provide federally funded insurance for about 30,000 low-income kids statewide, including 1,176 children in Legislative District 7.

Unfortunately, partisan politics was more important than providing healthcare for thousands of kids, so this effort also failed. As did our attempts to revive child care subsidies for working families and to extend the cap on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from 12 months back to 24 months.

“Many of our Democratic colleagues stood in solidarity with us as we fought to get an additional $1.5 million, for a total of $3 million, to improve Hopi 60 Highway. This route connects the Navajo and Hopi nations, and nearly 14 miles of it is unpaved. It becomes dangerous to travel during inclement weather which affects emergency services, economic development and academic transportation. The money would be used to make the road safer, but even that was blocked by partisan politics. 

“Although the budget process was frustrating, we were not discouraged. It is an honor to stand together with our colleagues and to be the voice of our communities at the Legislature. We will continue to do so for the rest of the session.”

Arizona Senate Democrats also issued a statement:

Budget is a shameful failure of leadership

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs released the following statement on this year’s budget:

"One word sums up this year's budget: Shameful. 

“It's shameful that the Republican majority refused to restore KidsCare and provide health coverage to 30,000 Arizona children. It's shameful that the Republican legislators who supported it caved to pressure and either voted against it or went into hiding. And it's shameful that Republican leaders at the Capitol are so devoted to ideology that they are willing to deny Arizona children their health just to prove a point.

“This budget does some good in areas for which legislative Democrats have long advocated. But even then, we could do so much better for the people of Arizona. 

“HURF funds that for years have been swept by Republicans will finally be given to our counties where they are desperately needed to repair and maintain neglected roads. Accelerating the State Route 189 expansion will end the economic bottleneck that has seen us lose vital trade to Texas and its efficient ports. And for the first time in many years our public schools will not see a cut in their funding, though even that did not happen without a fight and does not restore the $116 million that was cut last year.

“This budget also adds $32 million in funding to our universities, after having slashed them by $99 million last year, but earmarks $5 million of that specifically for Koch brothers-backed "freedom schools" that actively advocate for the complete elimination of public education.

“What this budget leaves on the cutting room floor is hundreds of millions in surplus revenue - a fraction of which could be used for a down payment on a true ‘next step’ toward adequately funding our K-12 schools, restoring the spiteful 12 month reduction of temporary assistance for needy families made in last year's budget back to 24 months, and prison reforms that prevent recidivism.

“But what we wouldn't even need one dime for, and what is most shameful of all, are the 30,000 Arizona children of families who earn too much to qualify for AHCCCS but not enough for private insurance. It was literally the least we could do in this budget, but the Republican ideologues who control this state chose to leave those children and their families to suffer.

“It's a shameful failure of leadership.”