Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gov. Ducey Releases Proposed Fiscal Year State Budget

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 11:57 AM

click to enlarge Gov. Ducey Releases Proposed Fiscal Year State Budget
Governor Doug Ducey

Last Friday the office of Governor Doug Ducey released their proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. It includes a sharp increase in spending due to an expected $1.1 billion surplus in revenues this year.

“Over the last four years, Arizona has gone from a $1 billion deficit to a $1 billion surplus, but we aren’t going on a spending spree," Gov. Ducey said in a press release. "We are going to live within our means and prepare for the future, and this budget does that.”

The governor wants to put $542 million, about half of the surplus, into the state's Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the "rainy day fund." This would make the largest amount of money in the fund in state history.

In his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Ducey stressed the importance of water conservation as the state battles a 19-year drought. His budget includes $30 million for protecting the falling water levels in Lake Mead and another $5 million for infrastructure projects to help agriculture companies become more water-efficient.

About $165 million could go towards teacher pay raises in the state's K-12 education system, which promises to fulfill the 20x2020 plan that Gov. Ducey proposed during the tense Red for Ed state-wide teacher walkout last year. This item has been criticized by those in the education field because it doesn't provide any raises for school support staff such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others.

However, $9.3 million is offered to provide funding for 89 new school resource officers. Another $12 million over the next two years would go to hiring approximately 224 new school counselors and social workers.

For higher education, the budget plan includes $21 million for expansion of the Arizona Teachers Academy at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University in hopes of combatting Arizona’s teacher shortage.

$20 million is pledged to Pima Community College's aviation program, and another $5.8 million for Maricopa County Community College District's health care program expansion. This is a notable change from four years ago when the state government cut all funding to Arizona's two largest community college districts. A story on this development will be published next week.

The governor's office cited a need for investment in technical training, in order to boost Arizona's skilled workforce. An additional $10 million would go toward supporting various Career and Technical Education programs across the state.

There could also be $130 million in state funds invested over the next two years to widen and improve Interstate 17 just north of Phoenix, which experiences frequent traffic congestion.

The governor's budget also includes pay raises for the following sectors: $21.5 million for a 10 percent increase in Department of Public Safety Trooper salaries, $35.5 million for a 5-15 percent increase in Department of Correction worker salaries and $9 million for a 9 percent increase in Department of Child Safety caseworker salaries.

The governor has also indicated that he hopes to invest $56 million in federal state aid for an increase in child care subsidies to low-income families. Last legislative session lawmakers chose not to use the no-strings-attached Child Care Development Block Grant funds, citing concerns over how the Department of Economic Security would use it. This drew sharp criticisms from child care professionals and advocates because of the high demand and low affordability of quality child care across the state.

The proposed budget has an ending cash balance of $109 million. Nothing in Gov. Ducey's plan is set in stone until the legislature reviews and edits it later this year, but this gives a picture of where the governor's priorities are. To view all the line items of the proposal, view the full budget here.

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