By Daniel Stefanski |
Arizonans who were under the impression that a Democrat governor in office would tip the scale in favor of more progressive policies are readjusting their expectations after the new state budget was signed into law.
On Friday, Governor Katie Hobbs signed the budget sent to her earlier in the week by the Republican-led Arizona Legislature. The $17.8 billion budget was approved in both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support, though several Democrats refused to back the compromise.
Many observers thought that with Arizona’s divided government and with the political animosity between state Republicans and Democrats, this budget wouldn’t become a reality until June or later. Veteran communicator Barrett Marson tweeted, “A lot of people said it couldn’t be done. A lot of pundits (me included) said there’d be no budget deal until June/July. We were wrong. Governor Hobbs, President Petersen and Speaker Toma came together to craft a budget with broad bipartisan support. There’s a lot to like. Let’s celebrate.”
Though both sides received concessions in the budget, it appears that Republicans were the significant winners in the deal thanks to the shrewd negotiations employed by Petersen, Toma, and members of their staff. Both chiefs of staff, Josh Kredit (Senate) and Michael Hunter (House), have dealt with the state budget for a number of years and gave their bosses an extreme advantage when coming to terms with Arizona’s chief executive.
Petersen took a victory lap after the governor’s signature ended the budget saga for this fiscal year, stating, “We’re able to do this for our citizens, while also reducing government spending by $300 million. In fact, this is the first budget since 2017 where we have not added any new ongoing spending above formula increases. Additionally, Senate Republicans prevented the Governor and Democrat Legislators from advancing their extremist agenda. State-funded abortions and tuition-free college education for undocumented immigrants will not happen in Arizona. We are not getting rid of state-funded border security resources to keep our communities safe, especially as the Biden Administration foolishly lifts Title 42. We’re also not capping, cutting or eliminating the historic universal school choice program that now has more than 50,000 participants. Needless to say, your Republican Majority at the Legislature will continue to fight to protect Arizona from turning into California at the hands of the radical left.”
After the House cleared the budget on Wednesday, Speaker Toma also championed this major achievement for his chamber and caucus: “From day one, our Majority has been focused on getting the job done for our constituents: putting Arizona families first, protecting the vulnerable, and growing opportunity and freedom. We’re conservatives. We believe you should keep more of your money and the government should spend less. That’s why we believe this is Arizona’s Budget — a budget that reflects our needs, gives back, spends smart, and addresses real issues. We needed a budget that the Governor would sign that accomplishes our goal of putting Arizona families first. This budget accomplishes both.”
Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, also praised Republican leaders for protecting the future of family values in the budget. She wrote, “I credit Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma for standing strong against any pro-abortion funding or other measures. The popular universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program did not get a cap or any restrictions, which is great news for all Arizona families who want to choose the best educational environment for their children.”
The Senate Republicans shared additional highlights from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget:
- Education: $680 million in new education investments, including a $300 million infusion into K-12, an $88 million ongoing increase to per pupil funding, and $183 million for school capital funding
- Public Safety: $256 million, including operational investments for the Departments of Corrections, Public Safety, and Emergency and Military Affairs, as well as $36 million in local sheriff and police department support
- Transportation: $610 million in state and local transportation projects, including $89 million to expand lanes on the I-10, $76 million to expand lanes on the I-17, as well as $54 million in pavement rehabilitation for roads affected by winter weather
- Tax Cuts: $260 million for the Arizona Families Tax Rebate, which will provide up to $750 to taxpayers with children and adult dependents
- Health and Welfare: $342 million, including $150 million for the Housing Trust Fund to develop more affordable housing, $60 million for emergency homeless services and temporary shelters, as well as $14 million specifically allocated for veteran housing and employment services
- Natural Resources: $174 million in natural resource investments, including $143 million in reallocated funding for targeted water-related projects
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.