Now that the Republican legislature has passed its budget and Ducey has signed it into law, let’s take a look at some of the worst of it. If you’re interested in what alternative priorities the Democrats proposed, we’re sponsoring an event on June 13 with Democratic House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and other Democratic legislators where you can hear those priorities and ask questions about the process.
The budget sharply limited Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ election-services budget. Whether this is in reaction to a Democrat being elected or an attempt to make voting even more difficult, it was a rotten move for state election security.
The changes will result in the state “not having a critical $1.375 million to ensure that our elections are secure and carried out fairly and accurately,” according to an email from the Secretary’s office.
That includes $750,000 in Help America Vote Act funds, which counties put toward election-security measures. For Republicans who constantly fret about “election fraud,” this is the height of hypocrisy. For counties, it probably means more county-level expenditures to make up the difference.
But this move didn’t reduce expenditures by much because the budget gives an additional $530,000 to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich for a “voter fraud unit” to investigate election integrity issues. Screw prevention, we’ll catch the Russians later this seems to say. Except that new voter fraud unit is likely to waste a lot of money chasing after non-existent voter fraud. Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, told The Republic as much. But hey, they’ve got to spend the money somehow, so they’ll hire four people to investigate non-existent voter fraud.
About $20 million will go to a school safety grant program, which will allow schools to apply for grants to fund either school counselors or on-campus law enforcement officers.
Arizona has the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the nation, at 905:1, according to the American School Counselor Association.
Education Funding in General
The next step in Ducey’s 2020 promise for teacher salaries was funded, leaving out other school employees like bus drivers and cafeteria workers. At a time when our state had a $1 billion surplus, our lawmakers had an opportunity to restore school funding. Instead, they chose to further cut state revenue by enacting nearly $400 million tax cuts. Bottom line: Arizona school funding hasn’t caught up with the pre-2008 recession levels — it’s $700 million behind.
Furthermore, instead of providing equity and opportunity for all students, the Legislature chose to raise the stakes of standardized testing and increase the opportunity gap by putting $70 million into results-based funding.
Revenge Against Flagstaff Voters
All three Republican legislators who represent Flagstaff (LD-6) voted for the budget, which includes a provision that punishes the city for the overwhelming votes of its citizens to pay state employees a livable wage. “Targeting these funds puts the entire city’s budget at risk,” Flagstaff officials said in a statement.
We Can Do Better
Both houses of the Arizona legislature are controlled by very narrow Republican majorities. We can flip LD-6 and contribute to a change in priorities following the 2020 Election.