With the state budget still very much in flux, it looks like there might be enough money to bring the education budget back to zero—no increases, no cuts. The earlier net $21 million cut to education seems to have been negotiated away, though nothing is written in stone until it's written into law. Also unwritten is whether roads and the Health Insurance Trust Fund will have to take a hit to add the money the Republican leadership wanted to steal from the education budget—which, it can't be said too often, is still $350 million lower than demanded by the law voted in by taxpayers in 2000.
Our universities are getting some money added to the budget, though that's certainly not a case of Republicans getting generous with education. What's being added is nowhere near the $100 million taken away from the universities last year, and $5 million of the money is earmarked for the "economic freedom schools" set up by the Koch Brothers.
Meanwhile, according to Howard Fischer's coverage this morning, it looks like there's enough money lying around
to increase the budget for a few items. For instance, we have $26 million to create a new Border Security Strike Force. And there's another $17 million for the folks who run our private prisons to put in a thousand more beds.
This looks like a good thing: $1.6 million to set up a community correction center in Maricopa County, like the one in Pima County, to deal with parole violators rather than sending them back to prison. Logic says that should mean we don't need all those new prison beds unless people think we need to add more mass to our current mass incarceration system, but we already signed the contract with the private prison corporation, so that's a moot point.
There's money to make I-10 three lanes wide each way near Picacho, which may be a good idea, though it doesn't do anything to fix our deteriorating roads.
And of course there's plenty of money to dole out millions in tax cuts for businesses.
It looks like KidCare won't get the expansion on the federal dime that would give health insurance to 30,000 children. It would pass easily if it were put to a vote, but the leadership won't allow it to be put to a vote.
Everything in the proposed budget is subject to change without notice. Watch this space.