GOP Legislator Tells All: $18 Billion Budget Will ‘Bankrupt’ State, Leadership ‘Bought’ Dems with $6 Billion

GOP Legislator Tells All: $18 Billion Budget Will ‘Bankrupt’ State, Leadership ‘Bought’ Dems with $6 Billion

By Corinne Murdock |

With one week to go before the end of the fiscal year, the Arizona legislature managed to reconcile enough differences to pass a finalized version of the budget. However, Republican legislators opposed to the historic $18 billion budget have reported that the controlling party made the budget more palatable for members across the aisle rather than those of their own party. 

Although Democratic legislators initially expressed great frustration about the budget, it appears that they may have feigned their opposition — the overwhelming majority of Democrats voted for the budget. 

State Representative Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) was one of the legislators that voted against the budget. In a Thursday interview with “Conservative Circus,” Parker talked openly about the backdoor proceedings that went on over the last week, claiming that GOP leadership and Governor Doug Ducey gave Democrats what they wanted at the cost of Arizonans’ best interests.

All throughout Thursday’s voting, Parker offered updates on floor proceedings. She noted the shared levity between the Republicans and Democrats as the total expenditures added up with each bill passed.

Parker also noted that the budget received near-unanimous support from Democrats — unique, since Democrats normally have opposed past Republican-majority budgets. 

Contrary to assurances from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Regina Cobb (R-Kingman) that the budget would enable the state to “weather the storm” of a future recession, Parker said that the budget provisions would bankrupt the state in a recession.

“Spending is colossal, there are no massive tax cuts, and it’s exceeding our actual fiscal revenues. We’re looking at, probably, future bankruptcy as a recession comes forward,” said Parker. 

Parker said that several others brought these concerns to Republican leadership prior to floor votes, but that they were ignored. The representative reported that the leaders were more interested in pleasing Democrats than with working out a conservative budget.

“Leadership essentially just said, ‘It’s easier to just go buy Democrats,’” recounted Parker. “They bought them to the tune of six billion more dollars.”

Although school choice advocates touted the universal expansion of the state’s Empowerment Account Scholarship (ESA) Program, Parker reported that Governor Doug Ducey subverted those efforts. Parker said that she and other unnamed legislators received a 2 am call warning that the ESA expansion came with a “poison pill” from the Ninth Floor. 

“Ducey has made an agreement with the Democrats that if they don’t refer the ESA bill to the ballot or challenge it in court within the 90 day period, they’re going to extend the aggregate expenditure limit forever, indefinitely,” said Parker.

Parker warned that this secret deal would lead to education expenditures that would break past the 50 percent limit and possibly take over the entire budget.

One of the contentious aspects of the budget was the expansion of homeless shelters throughout Arizona suburbs. State Representative Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), another one of the lone Republicans who opposed the budget alongside Parker, lamented that the budget policies would turn the state into another California. 

Another was the tax credits to entice the film industry to come to the state. The last similar tax credit program bled the state of millions of dollars leading up to the 2008 recession. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Rural Communities Stand To Gain From Water Project Funding Options

Rural Communities Stand To Gain From Water Project Funding Options

By Terri Jo Neff |

Tucked here and there among the $12.8 billion budget package signed into law last week by Gov. Doug Ducey are numerous water-related funding opportunities for rural counties across Arizona.

Among the budget items in SB1823, the general appropriations bill, are allocations of $3 million for water project assistance grants to cities and towns that provide water in Navajo and Apache counties. Another $2 million of water project assistance grants are available to irrigation districts in Cochise and Graham counties.

Those funds are in addition to $160 million moved from the state’s general fund on June 30 to the Drought Mitigation Revolving Fund. Of that, up to $10 million may be used for grants which facilitate the forbearance of water deliveries by June 30, 2025, while another $10 million may be used for Arizona State Land Department grants related to water use.

Ducey also signed into law changes to Arizona’s tax code which allow water utilities regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to deduct contributions toward construction from their Arizona gross annual income. This can be particularly beneficial for companies which serve smaller communities where it can be difficult to spread out the cost of construction projects.

In addition, the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin (R-LD14) to provide $40 million for the Water Supply Development Fund for assistance to water providers for improvements to water infrastructure and projects located in rural communities.

The ACC is encouraging owners and operators of small water utility companies which are regulated by the Commission to take advantage of the funding, which can go as high as $1 million per project, to improve their water systems and benefit customers. There is also an option of a $100,000 grant which does not require repayment.

Eligible water utility companies must serve at least 15 customers or at least 25 people for at least 60 days of the year, be located outside of an active management area, and be within a county with a population of less than 1.5 million people. The funding can be used for myriad purposes, including acquiring water or water rights; purchasing or refinancing debt related to water supply development projects; conveying, storing, or recovering water; reclaiming or reusing water; capturing or controlling stormwater; and replenishing groundwater.

Utilities can apply for the WSD Fund loans or grants to the Arizona Water Finance Authority.

“I encourage every regulated water utility that qualifies for these funds to take advantage of them as expediently as possible for the benefit of their customers,” ACC chair Lea Marquez Peterson said last week.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-LD25) acknowledged the importance of the water funding allocations in a post-budget signing statement, calling the funding for infrastructure projects a “key to securing Arizona’s future, and one of our highest priorities.”