The Daily Agenda: Please be a real budget deal
We just want to enjoy the summer ... You're never gonna fill all the vacancies like that ... And save the saguaros.
Arizona lawmakers introduced a budget package Monday that Gov. Katie Hobbs pledged to sign, should it make it to her desk. The end of the legislative session may be near.
We’re still combing through the nearly $18 billion proposalthat lawmakers cobbled together in what we’ve called “DIY budgeting.” Lawmakers were told that if they voted for the budget, they would receive a $20 million to $30 million pot of money to spend as they see fit, including by pooling it together with other lawmakers.
Some key elements include:
“Freedom caucus” members pooled their funds to create a one-time tax rebate for parents with dependents. Dependents under 17 years old will net tax filers $250, while dependents 17 and older will net $100 with a maximum of three dependents.
Legislative Democrats pooled their funds to offer an additional $300 million in one-time funding for the Department of Education to increase the state aid formula. The budget also includes more than $180 million new funding for school building renewal grants.
Lawmakers would also spend nearly a half-billion of that one-time money on transportation infrastructure projects in legislative districts all around the state, including the largest single investment, nearly $90 million, to expand Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande.
The budget includes an additional $150 million for the Housing Trust Fund, as well as an additional $40 million for homeless services and shelters.
The Department of Corrections would see an additional $85 million for air conditioners and fire suppression equipment, as well as more than $50 million to improve prison health care in light of a court ruling that Arizona’s care is unconstitutionally poor.
Here are the latest “budget docs” and Joint Legislative Budget Committee analysis floating around the Capitol for you to peruse. And if you don’t know what the heck you’re looking at, check out our archive from last year explaining what a budget doc is and how to make sense of it.
While the proposed budget contains enough pork projects and tax rebates to potentially bring together a bipartisan coalition to support it, Capitol observers are still cautious in their optimism that a budget can actually make it to the Governor’s Office this week.
The biggest potential problem may be that the proposal doesn’t accomplish the Democratic dream of defunding school vouchers, as Hobbs declared she would in her executive budget proposal.
As we noted at the time, the Republican majority in the Legislature isn’t willing to negotiate on vouchers. Democrats know that, but in the face of hostile opposition from school groups, they’re making a lot of noise about demanding any budget defund the voucher expansion. Attorney General Kris Mayes is joining the opposition, demanding Hobbs and lawmakers “go back to work and produce a budget that’s in the best interest of all Arizonans.”
The next few days will be crucial. The bills are scheduled for hearings in the Senate Appropriations Committee at 9 a.m. today and the House committee at 1 p.m. If the deal sticks, lawmakers can end the legislative session this week, well ahead of Memorial Day.
If it doesn’t stick, we’ll likely be dragging past that unofficial deadline to the real deadline: If lawmakers don’t come to some kind of budget agreement amongst themselves and the governor by June 30, state government will shut down.
Gov. Katie Hobbs assembled the press corps and a crew of cops and elected officials today to announce how she’s preparing Arizona to face the end of Title 42 health restrictions on migrants Thursday, making her among the many Arizona Democrats who are criticizing the Biden administration’s decision to end the restrictions.
But the governor failed to prepare for some pretty basic questions about what new actions the state is taking and how much it will all cost.
“We don’t know the numbers because we don’t know the numbers. We don’t know what the need is actually going to be,” she told reporters.
Hobbs outlined a five-point plan to deal with the end of the program from what she calls the “unprepared” federal government.
That plan includes:
Increased law enforcement: Hobbs pledged that the Department of Public Safety stands ready to assist local law enforcement, but neither Hobbs nor her new DPS Director Jeffrey Glover could say how many more troopers would be assigned to the mission. They did, however, promise that the added troops at the border won’t impact patrols elsewhere.
Partnerships: Hobbs said the state is developing and strengthening ties with non-governmental organizations, federal officials and local officials.
Transportation: Hobbs plans to continue and expand the Ducey-style busing program to send migrants that arrive in Arizona elsewhere, but will use more modes of transportation to send more people to more places, rather than just to Washington.
Emergency shelter: She pledged to increase shelter beds for an expected wave of migrants. She said there’s a sizable pot of federal money for states to draw on for shelter beds, and she’s hoping the feds will reimburse Arizona for its needs.
Executive action: Hobbs also said she’s considering new executive action on the border. But, again, the plan was scant on details, other than it could include calling additional National Guard troops to the border, though she couldn’t say how many, what their roles would be or when that could happen, saying the guardsmen are “a tool we’ll use if we need to… But we haven’t committed anything yet.”
Now do it again: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors filled and created another vacancy in the Legislature yesterday when it replaced former Democratic Sen. Raquel Terán with Democratic Rep. Flavio Bravo, creating an open seat in the House that they’ll now have to fill.
Fund her or she’ll sue: Attorney General Kris Mayes fired off a letter to lawmakers and the governor warning that if they fund last year’s universal expansion of school vouchers, it will create a “catastrophic drain on state resources” and mean that her office and other law enforcement agencies won’t receive any new ongoing funding, 12News’ Brahm Resnik reports. In the same letter, she threatened to sue the governor and Legislature, saying she understands the budget proposal would sweep her authority to direct funds received from consent judgements, Howie Fischer reports.
“Any budget that does not adjust the General Fund during a time of inflation is a budget cut,” Mayes wrote.
Better call Tiffany & Bosco: Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers is lawyering up in her bid to make a restraining order stick against Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez after the reporter rang the senator’s doorbells while investigating whether she lives in a mobile home in her district or one of the two homes she owns not in her district, the Capitol Times’ Wayne Schutsky reports. The two are due in court Wednesday, and Rogers has retained William Fischbach and Mitchell Antalis from Tiffany & Bosco, though it’s not clear if Rogers or the state Senate is paying their fees.
No roads for you: A proposed half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Pinal County failed at the ballot in November, and another road tax in the county is set to expire in 2026 if it’s not extended, leaving local officials struggling to figure out how to maintain the sub-par roads in that part of the state, the Republic’s Sasha Hupka writes. And Maricopa County’s countywide sales tax to pay for transportation infrastructure is set to expire in 2025, making this legislative session critical for lawmakers to put it on the ballot, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports.
There’s no countywide local news tax, but you should support local news anyway.
On budgets and blight: The City of Phoenix is considering forcing owners of vacant properties to register with the city in an attempt to cut down on blight and crime in abandoned buildings, KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports. The requirement would apply to commercial properties and large apartment buildings. Meanwhile, the City of Phoenix’s proposed budget would create winners and losers, and the Republic’s Taylor Seely explains which projects and departments are on which list.
So green: Urban desert farmers are getting educated on Native American growing techniques and learning to utilize Arizona’s most precious resource with little waste, the New York Times writes in a glossy profile of Arizona’s city farmers. After a wet winter, officials don’t think we’ll be so lucky next year and are preparing for another dry season in 2024, Courthouse News Service’s Joe Duhownik writes. And that one wet winter isn’t going to save Arizona from steep water cuts, the Republic’s Joanna Allhands reports. Finally, a giant, thirsty, invasive reed called Arundo is choking up the state’s rivers, despite efforts to remove it, Cronkite News’ Breanna Steele writes.
We have the quirkiest senators: U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center last week, two years after his twin brother received the honor, KJZZ reports. And U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema won’t join the Republican Party, she confirmed yet again, Politico reports based on her “Face the Nation” appearance this weekend. Sinema said she didn’t want to dump “one broken party” just to join another.
It’ll be fine: Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, who recently announced she won’t seek re-election next year in her competitive district, told KJZZ’s “The Show” that she’s not worried about Democrats holding the seat that she flipped in her Chandler-based Legislative District 13. She said the culture at the Capitol was one of the reasons she called it quits.
It wasn’t fine: After the Tucson Unified School District was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this year, it promised teachers and families that no private information was stolen — but that wasn’t true, Bloomberg’s Jack Gillum reported last month. The hackers have posted sensitive data from 16,000 former and current teachers, including Social Security numbers, for sale on the dark web.
Republican lawmakers are on the verge of sending Gov. Katie Hobbs a bill attempting to help pregnant women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, though advocates say it will hurt the women and families more than it will help.
House Bill 2530 would allow doctors to refer a pregnant person who tests positive for alcohol use to substance abuse services, though the bill would bar those findings from being used against them by the Department of Child Services.
But in an op-ed to the Republic, health policy expert Helena Whitney argued the bill is shortsighted, misguided and won’t help with the underlying problems that lead women to substance abuse.
HB2530 still needs a final vote from the House before it can move to the governor’s desk.
The Desert Botanical Gardens is launching its second annual “Saguaro Census” in Phoenix this week, asking volunteers to download an app to document and detail the saguaros in their neighborhoods.
The first saguaro census found that, of 8,000 cacti documented, about 1,000 had health issues, potentially relating to climate change, although no previous census had been conducted so researchers aren’t sure if that number has increased, Axios Phoenix’s Jessica Boehm writes.
Boehm also notes that scientists will then use “a plant version of 23 and Me” to compare the cacti to their more rural relatives in an attempt to determine which genetic makeups survive best in the Valley and plant more of those in the future.
It’s worth noting that the $17.9 billion proposal is almost $1 billion more than the executive budget that Hobbs first proposed in January and more than $2 billion higher than the “skinny budget” Republican lawmakers sent her in February.
You have the best coverage of the budget information (with links etc.) . I turned on abc15 this morning and the news was all national, sports, or title 42. You pretty much always have the right local focus. Thanks!
Thank you for the coverage on the budget and the link to your archive on how to make sense of it, much appreciated! This will be a great tool for my students, I think you two are professors at heart.