Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Budgets Are Subject To Change

Posted By and on Tue, Jan 18, 2022 at 9:46 AM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: Budgets Are Subject To Change
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Arizona has fat stacks of cash on hand.

We're salty about desalination ... Welcome back to Arizona 2020 ... Is six mentions a lot or a little?

Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled a $14.3 billion budget proposal on Friday that spreads money across so many priorities that it’s bound to start a lot of little fights at the Capitol. 

But for his last hurrah, the budget is pretty blah.

Rather than a single focus or grand vision, it’s packed with a smattering of smaller appropriations for pet projects and tax cuts, and big windfalls for the decidedly necessary but boring, likely bipartisan topic of infrastructure.

The budget was crafted on two major premises that may or may not end up being true: The courts will stop the implementation of Prop. 208, the Invest in Education Act, and Ducey’s historic tax cut package from last year will stand despite the threat of a referendum. (Another possible wrench in budgeting: The feds are threatening to revoke $163 million of their anti-COVID-19 money back after Ducey used it to help move kids into schools with COVID-19-friendly policies.)  

But the state is so flush with cash that it’s getting hard to spend it all. In fact, there’s so much money that the largest single new discretionary expense in Ducey’s budget proposal is simply squirreling away another $425 million in the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the state’s emergency savings to $1.4 billion.

But the Ducey administration billed the budget as education, border and water-centric, so let’s focus on those three areas today. 

On the education front, the biggest investment isn’t the $100 million “civics summer camp” program that Ducey touted as the crown jewel of his State of the State speech last week (which, by the way, will be paid for with federal pandemic money), but rather the $300 million in state spending on the much less sexy but more necessary areas of school upgrades and new buildings. His budget also offers another round of bonuses for schools that are already succeeding, and smaller bonuses for schools that need improvement.

The universities and community colleges would also see an additional $100 million infusion under the governor’s spending proposal, mostly for workforce development to prepare students for in-demand jobs (and the obligatory investment in state universities’ “Freedom Schools,” which produce students prepared for the in-demand profession of Ayn Rand fanfiction writer).

And the big promises that Ducey made about $1 billion for water and finally building that elusive desalination plant in Mexico is nowhere to be found in the details of his actual budget. Instead, the governor plans to spend a third of a billion this year on a host of drought contingency proposals (but not a desalination plant), with his predecessor on the hook for the final two payments of that $1 billion (and presumably some sort of a plan for that plant). 

Ducey’s commitment to solving the border crisis — or doing “what the Biden Administration is unwilling to do” — would be a lot more convincing if he were spending more than $50 million. Instead, he apparently hopes to solve the problem by putting some chain link fences and No Trespassing signs up near ranching lands in Cochise County. Why didn’t the feds think of that?!

We’ll end with our favorite brag from Ducey’s budget proposal:

Statewide candidates filed their first campaign finance reports of the election cycle on Saturday, offering a window into their staying power — or lack thereof, in gubernatorial candidate Kim Yee’s case. 

Yee, who was the first Republican candidate to announce she was running for governor, became the first candidate to drop out after showing a paltry $500,000 raised since joining the race — $2 million less than Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers brought in for a legislative race. She decided to try to keep her job as state treasurer instead, much to the chagrin of current GOP treasurer frontrunner, state Rep. Jeff Weninger, who said he isn’t stepping aside to let Yee keep the job. 

Of the top three Republican gubernatorial contenders — Kari Lake, Matt Salmon and Karrin Taylor Robson — Robson walloped the competition with a $3.7 million haul, though if you don’t take into account the cool $1.9 million she added from her own pocket, she barely beat out Lake. 

FWIW, Republican gubernatorial wannabe Steve Gaynor actually posted the most income for his campaign, though it’s almost all from his own checkbook. His actual fundraising from donors was about as successful as a bake sale at a small high school. Still, his campaign got great ink from the Republic before the reports were filed last week despite refusing to say where all that money came from. 

Oh, and there’s another self-funding dark horse candidate in the race. As fun as it would be to go from ice cream salesman to biscotti queen as governor, it seems unlikely.

The goal for Republicans was to show that they have the fundraising chops (or at least the personal bank account) necessary to keep up with Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Katie Hobbs, who posted nearly $3 million without digging into her own bank account. (The other Democratic governor candidates, Marco Lopez and Aaron Lieberman, didn’t raise half that.)

And on that front, the reports were bad news for Lake, who, despite having the energy of the base and the endorsement from the former president, is blowing through her campaign funds like we blew through those stimulus checks.

In other statewide races, Beau Lane raised more cash than Mark Finchem in the GOP primary for Secretary of State’s Office, and the Democrats aren’t even close to keeping up. And Rodney Glassman clobbered the competition in the GOP primary for the Attorney General’s Office, and, once again, Democrats fell far behind. 

For more details, check out this handy chart breaking down the candidate hauls from KJZZ’s Dillon Rosenblatt

Who is all of this for, exactly?: U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema continued her Make Liberals Mad Again tour with a stint on the Senate floor last week to defend the filibuster, which stands in the way of two voting rights bills pushed by Democrats. She said she supports the two bills, but opposes anything that would help them pass the 60-vote threshold rule. As you can predict, another cycle of memes, some actually funny, ignited. Some noted that Sinema, who doesn’t publicly claim a religion and was sworn in on a Constitution rather than the Bible, wore a cross necklace during the speech. The Arizona Democratic Party called her out (not for the cross thing), and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego seems to be gearing up for a 2024 primary. Sinema apparently talked to Bill Clinton recently, who’s trying to whip votes. Martin Luther King III came to town and called Sinema out. And the college kids started their hunger strike — again — until voting rights legislation passes. 

If you ask 10 people in the Walmart parking lot what the filibuster is, and more than three of them actually know, we’ll give you $10: With how often Sinema is in the news, you’ll be forgiven if you sometimes forget about Arizona’s other senator, Mark Kelly. He’s been in office for about a year and focused on some science-y stuff, but still won’t say how he feels about the filibuster, the Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports. 

Everyone organically showed up at the same place, same time: Questions about the group of fake Arizona electors who claimed back in December that Donald Trump had won the state (he hadn’t), are coming back up as the January 6 committee continues its investigation into the insurrection, Republic reporter and viral-question-asker Richard Ruelas writes. Other states sent in similar fake slates of electors voting for Trump, raising questions of how the effort was coordinated, but Arizona’s fake electors won’t say how they got involved. In Michigan, the state’s attorney general wants a criminal investigation into the fake electors, saying signing these documents could be considered forgery. 

In other Election 2020 news: Another Arizonan was charged for the Jan. 6 insurrection. Edward Vallejo, along with 10 other Oath Keepers, was charged with seditious conspiracy for the planning of the event. He’s in custody but plans to plead not guilty. And an adult man known as “Baked Alaska,” who was at the insurrection and still has to face federal charges for that, got 30 days in jail for a separate incident in Scottsdale where he got into a bar fight. Also, Senate President Karen Fann called on the Cyber Ninjas to turn over public records, apparently hoping that the request will compel them when the $50,000 daily fines from the courts have not. 

Oh, and there’s a 2022 election coming soon: Candidates for the Legislature and Congress won’t be able to use E-Qual to get petition signatures online because it’s still not working with new districts and won’t be in time to meet deadlines, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports. Arizona Republican Rep. David Cook hopes those pesky signatures won’t be a problem for incumbents in the future anyway; he’s running a bill to allow incumbents to pay $250 to get on the ballot instead of collecting signatures from voters like everyone else. 

Pandemic still bad, state still doing nothing: More than 25,000 Arizonans have died from COVID-19 now, another cause for the term “grim milestone.” And while health care workers continue their calls for more help from Gov. Doug Ducey to stem the pandemic’s tide, Ducey keeps telling people to get vaccinated instead of coming up with any kind of plan. Meanwhile, some health care workers locally aren’t getting their full paychecks because of a ransomware attack. And Hank correctly predicted Ducey’s in-person State of the State address would be a superspreader: Hank got the ’vid after attending in person, as did Democratic Reps. Marcelino Quiñonez, Kelli Butler and Daniel Hernandez, and probably others who didn’t tweet about it.

Help Hank pay for some Gatorade as he hydrates his way out of COVID-19. That’s the American health care system! It’s $8 per month or 22% off an annual subscription right now.

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Some city news: Not content to pay off only the money it owes on the Gila River Arena, the City of Glendale could spend $50 million more to try to bring in non-hockey events once the hockey team leaves. Chandler chews over chicken changes. The Valley needs more housing, so some vacant medical offices in Mesa could become apartments.

Tell that to Mark Finchem: The Pima County Attorney’s Office looked into 151 cases where voters cast multiple ballots but found that none of them were counted and so the office didn’t pursue criminal charges, Arizona Public Media’s Andrew Oxford reports.  

Guess we’ll find out in a month or so: After Ducey gave the federal government “six mentions” in his state of the state address, Politico again speculates that he just might decide to jump into the U.S. Senate race. 

Click on this link to see the most cursed stock photo: Republican Rep. Michelle Udall, who’s also running for superintendent of public instruction, is running a bill that would require internet devices to have filters for children that block out “harmful content” like porn, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports. 

We’re number 1 at something!: Unfortunately, it’s robocalls

Three bills from Arizona Rep. John Fillmore stand among a dozen that the Human Rights Campaign and Arizona Rep. and LGBTQ Caucus Chairman César Chávez are holding a press conference today to denounce as anti-LGBTQ. 

House Bill 2292 will require birth certificates issued in Arizona to only allow people to choose male or female as their genders. 

HB2293 makes it so public schools can’t require employees to use pronouns other than the ones listed on a student’s birth certificate, and that school employees can’t be penalized if they refuse to use a student’s pronouns. 

And HB2294 will require any documents issued by the state or any of its departments to only allow male or female in the gender category. 

Fillmore has attempted these three bills in the past, though none have made it into law. During testimony on a similar bill last year, he compared gender nonconforming people to identifying as a chicken

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