Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled a $10.1 billion spending plan funded by projected to be paid for by selling more lottery tickets and hiring back many of the auditors who ensure that people are paying the state what they owe — auditors the governor previously laid off. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Governor’s office can’t add: JLBC comes up with a $90 million shortfall. The state is required by law to have a balanced budget and Ducey’s plan fails the test. To make that worse, Republican legislators are still talking about cutting taxes. Selling lottery tickets to ordinary people instead of taxing the wealthy is a poor way to run a state, but that’s the Republican way. Failure of basic math and economic projection is what drove Kansas to fiscal crisis under its former Republican governor. Ducey seems to be steering Arizona in the same direction.
The Governor’s office says that 80% of the new spending in his budget will go to K-12 education, which sounds like good news for education supporters. However, a coalition of education groups (AZ Schools Now) pointed out that “… this closes only a small portion of the funding gap that has persisted since the recession. Under the governor’s proposal, public school operational funding would remain $950 million below 2008 levels.
Arizona’s public schools took a massive hit during the Great Recession. Our Legislature slashed $1.5 billion in funding, the biggest reduction in K-12 monies in the nation. The 2016 voter-approved settlement over inflationary funding, known as Proposition 123, only restored 18% of the cuts that had been implemented since 2008. There has been little effort to restore funding beyond the dollars allocated in the inflationary settlement. Though lawmakers appropriated some additional dollars for fiscal year 2018, Arizona schools are still receiving less than a decade ago, resulting in overcrowded classrooms, an inability to fund new textbooks or technology, broken down school buses and leaky roofs, and a loss of critical support staff such as nurses and guidance counselors.
Thousands of Arizona classrooms are without full-time, certified teachers according to data released by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association and ASU’s Morrison Institute. Teacher pay was cited as the primary reason teachers leave the profession. Arizona’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the nation, and, when adjusted for inflation, their wages have actually declined between 10% and 11%. The one-percent teacher pay bonus implemented for fiscal year 2018 does not change Arizona’s teacher pay rankings or cover inflationary costs.
Rural schools and those with a majority of students in lower socioeconomic levels are losing more teachers of all types.
Adjusting for inflation and population growth, Ducey’s budget still is lower on a per capita basis than pre-recession levels. That’s no way to run a modern state.
Ducey’s budget is on a road show around the state and lands in Flagstaff on Monday. Show up and let his staff know what you think!
Monday, January 22
Public Budget Briefing in Flagstaff | 1:00 p.m.
Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Boardroom
101 Historic Route 66
Flagstaff, AZ 86001