Arizona Republicans have been twisting arms for weeks to find 31 of their members in the House and 16 in the Senate to pass their budget that includes $12.5 billion in tax giveaways and a flat tax. (You didn’t expect the Republicans to actually “Invest in Ed,” did you?)
While the Republican budget is languishing, let’s talk alternatives. Governor Doug Ducey and the Republicans like to brag about how great the Arizona economy is, how much money the state has, and their plans to give money back to the “taxpayers”.
There are several major problems with the Republican narrative:
- The “taxpayers” who benefit the most from the Republican budget are Arizona’s wealthiest. (You’ll remember Prop 208 required wealthy Arizonans to pay a fee to fund public education. Ever since that passed, Ducey and his cronies in the Legislature have proposed multiple methods to eliminate the impact of Prop 208 on the ~30,000 people who would otherwise have to pay it. )
- The gap between rich and poor in Arizona has been widening, and their budget — particularly the $12.5 billion in tax breaks — would make that worse.
- The state is currently flush with funds thanks to federal relief during the pandemic and online retail purchases by people who remained employed during the pandemic.
- It’s NOT time to give our tax dollars to the rich and ignore the needs of the people of Arizona. The Democratic budget restores or increases funding for education, healthcare, housing, food and security; these priorities are left out of the Republican budget to make way for Welfare for the Wealthy.
Each year Legislative Democrats assemble their budget to show the people of Arizona that there are alternatives. Below are budget recommendations from Arizona’s Democratic Legislators. The full document can be found here. The JLBC overview of the Republican budget is here.
Democratic Budget Recommendations
A budget is a statement of values. The State of Arizona has the ideas and resources to make a difference for Arizona’s families and small businesses as we recover from the pandemic. Democratic Legislators propose a variety of ongoing and one-time new investments and restoration of key programs to serve all Arizonans recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic – not just for a wealthy few or their corporate allies.
Key Goals of the Democrats’ Budget:
- Strong Schools, Prepared Workforce: We recommend investing $3 billion into our K-12 and higher education systems, including teacher pay raises and funding the New Economy Initiative.
- COVID-19 Recovery: We would provide almost $1 billion in funds across environmental, health and human services programs.
- Infrastructure and Resources: We would fund $495 million in critical infrastructure initiatives to prepare for continued growth.
- Unemployment Insurance Reform: We intend to hold UI tax rates below 2020 levels to support Arizona businesses and provide a $500M deposit into the UI Trust Fund. For workers, we are increasing UI benefits to support part-time work while seeking full-time work, and to provide a stable bridge to their next job.
- Support Small Businesses: Small businesses and the people they employ are the backbone of the Arizona economy and fabric of our communities. We propose investing in grants and loans to small businesses to support a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specific funding recommendations and project lists are available on the Arizona House Democrats website here. Some of the high points include the following.
Education: Putting Education First
Critical Investments: Bring teacher pay closer to the national average and restore K-12 and higher education funding. Legislative Democrats support efforts to add:
- $428.2M ongoing teacher salary raises
- $7,000 yearly salary increase for each of Arizona’s 49,382 district teachers and 11,786 charter teachers
- From 47th in the country to 25th in teacher pay, on par with Colorado
- $389M to recoup Average Daily Membership (ADM) formula losses
- $342M to reinstate the School Facilities Board (SFB) formula funding
- $100M to Arizona’s public universities for the New Economy Initiative
- $50M for Arizona University Promise Scholarships
- $33M for the Arizona Financial Aid Trust
- $24.4M ongoing funding to restore Maricopa and Pima community college district state aid
- $10M ongoing funding for Community College Promise Scholarships
After failing to live up to years of promises, the state continues to lag the national average in teacher compensation. We have fought for years to increase teacher pay above and beyond the bare minimum and to rebuild from recession-era budget cuts a decade ago. Our plan invests $428,176,000 million (ongoing) from the budget surplus to provide all district and charter teachers a $7,000 yearly salary increase.
College Affordability – Community Colleges
The Arizona Community College system was established in 1962 and is currently composed of 10 college districts, and two provisional districts. From FY 2009 to FY 2019, state aid for the community college districts has decreased by 64.2%, from $135.7 million to $50.2 million. Our Plan allocates:
- $24.4 million in ongoing funding to Pima and Maricopa Community Colleges
- $6,492,500 for operating state aid and $1,771,700 for STEM programs for the Pima Community College District
- $7,409,500 for operating state aid and $8,723,000 for STEM programs for the Maricopa Community College District
- $10 million for Community College Promise Scholarship which will provide scholarships for low-income students.
Protecting the Health and Welfare of Arizona Families
As Arizona recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, our plan enhances programs that invests in people, supports families and businesses, and establishes a foundation for prosperity. Our plan provides an additional $894.8 million in funding across key environmental, health and human services programs.
- $150M for Developmentally Disabled provider rate increases
- $130M for Elderly Physically Disabled provider rate increase
- $9.7M to create a DHS long-term care surveyor team
- $2.9M ongoing funding for Adult Protective Services
- $1.5M ongoing funding for Area Agencies on Aging
- $100k ongoing to hire an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator
- $75 million to DES for provider rate increases for Area Agency on Aging
- $50M for state employee health insurance funding
- $25.2M to expand the AHCCCS Kids Care program
- $13.2M ongoing to increase TANF to national median levels
- $10.8M ongoing for the Healthy Families program
- $10M for DHS to provide grants to community health centers, critical access hospitals, and area health education centers
- $2.2M ongoing funding for AHCCCS to expand and operate the Healthy Communities program
- $200k ongoing to provide dental care for pregnant women on AHCCCS
- $35M ongoing deposits to the Housing Trust Fund
- $16M for affordable housing grants
- $10M ongoing to the State Parks Heritage Fund
- $6.1M ongoing to hire and increase pay for hydrologists
- $5M ongoing for Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund
- $1M ongoing for ADOA to provide electric vehicles reimbursement for political subdivisions
- $200k to hire Water Masters
- $200M ongoing for state employee salary increases (from 5 -10 percent increase for employees who make under $70k)
- $300k for the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) to conduct a study of reinsurance options
Honoring Commitment to the Developmentally Disabled
Caregivers who work with the Developmentally Disabled community do work that requires physical strength and advanced social emotional skills. Budget cuts during the Great Recession caused wages to plummet and talent to leave this profession. The state provided additional funds in FY 2018 to assist providers with costs associated from Prop 206, (a livable minimum wage) but much of that funding was one-time and needs to be renewed. Our Plan provides additional funding to service providers in order to maintain network adequacy for the developmentally disabled.
- Allocates $150 million to the underfunded Department of Economic Security DD Providers for rate/salary increases
- $130 million for provider rate increases for Arizona Long Term Care Services that aids the Elderly and Physically Disabled (EPD)
Protecting Seniors and Vulnerable Adults
The Department of Economic Security operates an Adult Protective Services program which investigates and responds to incidences of elder abuse throughout the state. Additional funding was provided last year to hire additional staff members, but it is unclear if this funding will continue. Our Plan maintains our commitment to the elderly by funding the additional staffing levels at Department of Economic Security (DES) Adult Protective Services (APS).
- Allocates $3 million in funding to retain Adult Protective Services staff.
- $300k for the Auditor General to conduct an external audit on Adult Protective Services (APS)
Investing in Rural Infrastructure, Spurring Innovation
COVID-19 has made broadband connection more critical than ever for work, school, and connecting with friends and family. Construction and infrastructure projects in remote areas of the state should not go unfunded or unnoticed by the state. Democrats support additional broadband and infrastructure initiatives to serve all corners of our state. Our plan provides an additional $495 million across key rural infrastructure programs:
- $30M to expand the I-40 East Broadband Corridor from Flagstaff to New Mexico Border expanding connectivity to rural and Tribal communities.
- $15M for the Hopi Route 60 (H-60) project on the Hopi Nation,for construction costs to pave this road that is central for communities to reach schools and hospitals.
- $50M deposit to restore past cuts to Highway User Revenue Fund which provides highway construction, improvements and other related expenses
Assisting Arizona’s Veterans – Benefits Counselors
The Arizona Department of Veterans Services provides benefit counseling to military veterans to help connect them to services that they earned and are entitled to receive. During the Recession, some of the staff was reduced in order to cope with revenues losses. Benefits counselors staffing levels have not yet recovered to pre-Recession levels. Our Plan is to hire 12 additional veterans benefit counselors at ADVS to ensure that proper staffing levels can meet the needs of Arizona veterans.
- $664k ongoing and $84k in one-time costs to hire 12 full-time additional veterans’ services benefits counselors