“We have an opportunity to make a significant change in the lives of the families and communities of this state.”
Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs released her budget priorities for Arizona moving forward, with education front and center.
The budget came in at just under $18 billion, slightly above former Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed 2023 budget of $14.25 billion.
Education Remains Top Issue in Arizona
One of the headliners of the budget is Hobbs calling for a repeal of Arizona’s universal school voucher program, which she said will save taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next decade, or $150 million each year.
The universal voucher program siphons money from taxpayer-funded public schools and allows students to bring some of that money to charter or private schools.
Ending the program would affect 26,000 out of the roughly 970,000 students in the state, or about 2.6% of kids enrolled in K-12 school.
Major Investments in Affordability
Hobbs’ proposed budget also includes around $1.3 billion in new spending, including:
- $90 million to help low-income families with children with their taxes, remove sales tax on products like feminine hygiene products and diapers, and create a new child tax credit in Arizona
- $330 million to improve school facilities
- $150 million deposit in the Housing Trust Fund to help Arizonans secure stable, long-term housing
“We have an opportunity to make a significant change in the lives of the families and communities of this state,” Hobbs said in a statement. “Our fiscal year budget takes action on the issues that matter most to Arizonans: lowering costs, investing in education, securing our water future, and tackling the affordable housing crisis.”
The Reality of Divided Government
The governor is unlikely to get everything, or even most of what she wants, due to the Republican-controlled state Legislature. The release of her budget will kick off months of negotiation with Republican leadership.
Arizona hasn’t had a divided government since Democrat Janet Napolitano was governor from 2003 to 2008.
Republican lawmakers quickly panned many of Hobbs’ proposals. She will likely need to get two Republicans in both the state Senate and state House of Representatives on board to get anything passed.
State Sen. TJ Shope, one of the Republicans in the state Legislature who did not deny the 2020 election results, said he won’t support taxpayer-funded scholarship programs for undocumented Arizonans, eliminating Ducey’s Border Strike Force, or the repeal of the universal school voucher program. All three items are in Hobbs’ proposed budget.
House Leader Rep. Ben Toma called the budget “dead on arrival” on Twitter.
Senate President Warren Petersen also denounced the budget on social media.
It’s not immediately clear what compromise could eventually be reached between Republicans in the Legislature and Hobbs, but the state will likely see a lot of posturing from Democrats and Republicans on social media and in the media, as well as many meetings behind closed doors before any 2024 budget is finalized.
See Hobbs’ full budget proposal HERE.