Arizona Republican legislators made sure that water investments received sizable contributions in the recently negotiated budget deal for the state.
In a press release issued last week, Representative Gail Griffin, the Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Energy & Water highlighted a realized commitment to strengthen “Arizona’s water resources by directing over $360 million of state general fund dollars to be allocated to projects and programs that help to promote the conservation, development, and enhancement of water in Arizona.”
Griffin lauded Republicans’ efforts to include this funding for the state’s water security and future, saying, “Never before in our state’s history has water been as important to our state’s economic prosperity and individual liberty as it is today. As Republicans, we will continue to find solutions to Arizona’s most pressing issues, from water security to housing availability. We will continue to make investments in Arizona’s long-term water future.”
The release listed several areas where funds were invested: Water infrastructure projects, Reconstruction of a levee, Design and construction of a recharge basin, Installation of new irrigation systems and xeriscaping, Water project assistance for cities, towns, and irrigation districts in rural counties, Wastewater system improvements, Construction of groundwater delivery infrastructure, Brackish groundwater recovery pilot program, Statewide water resources planning, Water supply and demand assessments, Assured and adequate water supply administration, Stream adjudication support, Rural water studies, Water protection fund for projects that address conservation and watershed improvement, Conservation and drought program, Brackish groundwater study, Water conservation projects, On-farm irrigation efficiency projects, Water quality fee fund, PFAS mitigation, Safe drinking water program, Direct potable reuse of treated wastewater, Water infrastructure and commerce grants, Long-term water augmentation, Rehabilitation and drilling of new water wells.
Earlier this session, Representative Griffin was named as a co-chair of the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Water Security, which was formed by Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen to “convene and solicit information from water users, stakeholders, and the public regarding state solutions to address water security in Arizona.”
When announcing the formation of this committee, Speaker Toma said, “The availability of water for the success of all industries in our state is critical to our economy. Strengthening our existing water resources while we secure our future water supply is a top priority as we work to achieve common-sense solutions for our state. His counterpart in the Senate, Petersen, also stated, “From the 1980s Groundwater Management Act to last year’s historic investment in WIFA, the Legislature has led and will continue to lead the water policy solutions that require legislative action to implement.”
Water policy will most certainly be an issue of contention in a divided government in the years ahead. Republicans in the state legislature and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs have already proven that they have varying opinions about how to lead the Grand Canyon State forward in this critical area. Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes has also weighed in with her perspectives on Arizona’s water security, attempting to make sure that her office has a seat at the table for future actions.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS) and some Dem lawmakers were up in arms last week. And anytime that happens, you know you’re probably doing something right.
Last Wednesday, the Republican-led legislature passed the $17.8 billion budget, and it was a big win for students, parents, school choice, and Arizona’s taxpayers. Despite the fact that Governor Katie Hobbs made it clear that she planned to dismantle school choice for all with a full repeal of the beloved Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), Hobbs signed the budget without any cap or restrictions on the historic program. This should be cause for celebration—unless, of course, you’re SOS or certain Democrat lawmakers.
Predictably, SOS got right to work on spreading lies about the popular ESA program, claiming it would drain K-12 public schools of funding, hurt Arizona’s economy, and even bankrupt the state. That last lie is particularly absurd, but then again SOS has a history of such desperation when its back is against the wall. (Can you imagine being this bent out of shape that children from all walks of life can get an education that best fits their needs?)
The reality is that the ESA program has absolutely exploded during this fiscal year…
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.
Some Arizona special interest groups and legislative Democrats were furious with the state’s budget compromise this week, and Governor Katie Hobbs may be feeling their wrath for months to come.
As details of the finalized budget negotiations were unveiled, outrage ensued over the protection of Arizona’s historic ESA program, which Hobbs and most other Democrats have vowed to dismantle or cap while in office. Senate President Warren Petersen, House Speaker Ben Toma, and other legislative Republicans had accomplished their primary mission to defend and sustain the ESA program for existing and new families, despite the Grand Canyon State’s divided government.
Before the votes in both chambers, the two Democrat leaders for the House and Senate issued a statement, calling on negotiations to continue, in large part, due to the uncapped and very-much-so protected ESA program.
A coalition (consisting of the Arizona High School Democrats, Arizona State University Young Democrats, Keep Arizona Blue Student Coalition, Maricopa County Young Demcorats, Northern Arizona University Young Democrats, University of Arizona Young Democrats, and the Young Democrats of Arizona) wrote a letter to the state’s chief executive, urging her “to go back to the drawing board and reject any budget that does not include a cap on ESA vouchers.” The student-led letter asserted that “continuing this reckless expansion would have a detrimental effect on public education in our state.”
Save Our Schools Arizona Director Beth Lewis wrote an op-ed for a local publication, stating, “For Hobbs and legislative Democrats, this budget is a must-win game that will decide the future of public education in our state. Will they rise to the challenge and play full court press, or will they fail to deliver on their campaign promises to public education? We’ll know soon.”
The organization also reminded Hobbs of her recent call (on March 22) to roll back the ESA program in the latest budget, tweeting, “We couldn’t agree more, Governor Hobbs! AZ’s budget **must** roll back ESA vouchers, or the state cannot fulfill its constitutional responsibility to fund our public schools.”
The lobbying from Save Our Schools and others turned to desperation and politicized grief as both the House and the Senate passed the budget bills over Tuesday-Wednesday, ensuring that Arizona’s ESA program will continue to benefit tens of thousands of families attempting to control their children’s educational pursuits and objectives. After the state senate approved of the K-12 Education budget bill, Save Our Schools AZ tweeted, “Under cover of night, the Senate votes 25-5 to pass the K12 portion of the budget with zero progress towards a cap on unfettered ESA vouchers.”
And after the Arizona House gave a green light to the same K-12 budget bill, Save Our Schools AZ responded, “BREAKING: AZ House passes the K-12 budget 43-16, betraying AZ public schools by failing to cap the universal ESA vouchers that threaten to bankrupt AZ. Thank you to the 16 #PublicSchoolProud lawmakers who took a principled stand by voting NO. Fighting for what’s right matters.”
After the dust settled on the votes, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts opined, “Hobbs, in her State of the State speech, called for a repeal of the universal voucher program but the more likely prospect was a spending cap, to ensure it doesn’t suck the lifeblood out of the public schools that the vast majority of Arizona children attend. Instead, she negotiated a budget that protects the Republicans’ signature universal voucher program. Instead of standing tough and insisting on a budget that could draw legitimate bipartisan support, she teamed up with Republicans and steamrolled her own stunned allies.”
On Wednesday, the Arizona House Majority Communications sent out a press release, announcing the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee to Examine ESA Administration – due to “discussions between the House Speaker and the Minority Leader.” The purpose of the new committee is “to provide clarity and ensure that the governance and administration of ESAs is appropriately designed to manage a growing and complex program.”
Democrat Senator Catherine Miranda seemed to see it as an opportunity to quell her fellow Democrats’ complaints and applauded the news of the new committee, saying, “It was our last piece of hope to get SOMETHING to at least have ESA CAP talks. This will allow that path.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Governor Hobbs has proposed a budget that is a radical’s dream. It increases funding for a laundry list of pet programs of the radical left, while at the same time cutting programs that are supported by the vast majority of Arizonans. The Hobbs budget expands funding for illegal immigrants and increases taxpayer funding of abortions. At the same time, Hobbs would kill the expansion of our popular parental school choice program and defund the Border Strike Force.
House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci describes the Hobbs budget: “Attacking school choice, peddling state-funded abortions, and incentivizing illegal immigration in Arizona are all non-starters and, frankly, something you’d expect to see proposed by a politician in California, not Arizona.”
In response to Hobbs’ radical budget, Republicans passed a responsible, “baseline budget” which would continue state spending at last year’s budget levels, with adjustments to education and health care programs to account for inflation. When asked if Hobbs would reject the baseline budget Rep. Biasiucci responded, “If she does that, it’s party politics. This is everything we need to make sure that schools don’t shut down, make sure government stays open, make sure all our essential services stay open while we figure out what we need to do with the rest of the money.” Unfortunately, Hobbs vetoed the legislature’s reasonable budget. She is playing a game of chicken, threatening a government shutdown.
If Republicans stay united, the taxpayers will be protected from the free-spending Democrats. Given the one-vote margin in each house, we can’t afford to lose a single Republican vote. To protect us from Hobbs’ costly budget, it is essential that Republicans stick together.
I have heard disturbing reports that some Republicans are quietly signaling they are willing to cut a deal with the Democrats behind the backs of their leadership. That would severely weaken the bargaining position of Republicans as they negotiate for smaller government. More important, it would betray their constituents who voted for them based on their promises to limit the growth of state government.
Why on earth would Republicans be willing to cave to the Hobbs budget? There are a couple of possibilities. They could trade their votes for a pet project. Or they could be self-promoters with a messianic complex seeking acclaim from the liberal press as “rising above the partisan bickering.”
Believe it or not, it could happen here in Arizona. Around the country and in Congress, turncoat Republicans have made side deals to expand government spending. And though it seems odd, these quislings frequently represent “safe” Republican districts. Senator Romney comes to mind, and he is not alone.
In California, back when Jerry Brown was governor, a Republican representing the most Republican district in the state voted for the bloated budget after she had promised to oppose it. When asked why she flipped, she blithely replied that she got a new library for UC Irvine. Another Republican sold out for even less—Willie Brown promised him an office with a wet bar in it. Judas at least got thirty pieces of silver. As sure as night follows day, the press heaped praise on both of them for their “courage” in avoiding a budget impasse. But in truth, they voted against the interests of their constituents.
To avoid such a betrayal from happening here in Arizona, conservatives must press their representatives for a firm commitment that they won’t cut a side deal on the budget. We must lock in those commitments now and shut down any side deals before negotiations start in earnest.
My State Senator is Ken Bennett, and my representatives are Quang Nguyen and Selena Bliss. LD 1 is the most Republican district in the state. Conservatives shouldn’t have to worry about them keeping faith with their promises to the voters, but as President Reagan told us, “Trust but verify.”
Therefore, I am asking all three for a firm commitment that they will only vote for a budget that is supported by the rest of their Republican colleagues. The great conservative Senator Everett Dirksen famously said, “When I fell the heat, I see the light.” And I hope conservatives in all Republican districts will turn up the heat, so Republicans stay united to protect the wallets of the taxpayers.
Otherwise, it will be every legislator for themselves, and they’ll cut the hog fat. And we the taxpayers will be the hog.
Pat Nolan is the Director Emeritus of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union, and lives in Prescott.