Public To Have Opportunity To Attend Legislative Budget Roadshow

Public To Have Opportunity To Attend Legislative Budget Roadshow

By Terri Jo Neff |

Three of the people most involved in negotiating Arizona’s landmark Fiscal Year 2022 budget will take part in a Budget Roadshow next week across the state.   

Sen. David Gowan (R-LD14), Rep. Regina Cobb (R-LD5), and Matt Gress of the Governor’s Office are headlining the free events in Casa Grande, Sierra Vista, and Tucson to help citizens better understand the budget process, budget history, and look ahead to the next session which starts in January 2022.

They will also discuss notable -and some not so notable- budget accomplishments from the recent legislative session and take part in a Q&A session.

The Thursday, Oct. 28 event at Casa Grande City Hall begins at 10 a.m. with a meet and greet, followed by the presentation at 10:30.  It will be followed that afternoon at the Cochise College – Sierra Vista Campus at 3:30 p.m.

Then on Friday, Oct. 29, the trio will take their presentation to the Pima Community College – Downtown Campus Auto Center at 10:30 a.m. followed by a meet and greet at 11:30.

The three participants are well-suited for the event, as Gowan is the Senate Appropriations Chairman, Cobb is the House Appropriations Chairwoman, and Gress heads up Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

The meet and greets are being hosted by several Chambers of Commerce, including Benson / San Pedro, Greater Casa Grande, Green Valley / Sahuarita, Greater Vail Area, Marana, Oro Valley, and Sierra Vista Area.

More information about the Budget Roadshow, including how to request a presentation in a specific community, is available by calling Cobb’s office at (602) 926-3126 or Gowan’s office at (602) 926-5154.

AZ Board Of Regents Chair Lauds Higher Ed Budget Bill

AZ Board Of Regents Chair Lauds Higher Ed Budget Bill

By Terri Jo Neff |

Chairman Larry E. Penley of the Arizona Board of Regents has high praise for the investment made by Gov. Doug Ducey and the State Legislature in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget passed last week which recognizes the role the state’s three public universities play in Arizona’s economic wellness.

“This spending plan invests in Arizona’s competitiveness by supporting public university instruction, research and development, especially in the key growth sectors of health care, the sciences, biomedicine and engineering,” Penley recently said. “State funding also will assist ongoing efforts by Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona to meet the needs of a growing number of Arizona students.”

The 12 members of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) serve as the governing board for Arizona’s three public universities – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona. The board is tasked with providing policy guidance for nearly every aspect of the university system, including capital development plans, strategic plans, and legal affairs.

The regents also set policy related to financial and human resource programs; academic and student affairs; public outreach; and the all-important student tuition, fees, and financial aid programs.

The main Higher Education budget bill, SB1825, involved more than just funding appropriations. Among other things, it requires the UA cooperative extension office to establish an Agricultural Workforce Development Program to provide incentives to food-producing agricultural organizations to hire apprentices.

“As Arizona emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, focus shifts toward ensuring our state is ready for the challenges of a New Economy increasingly built on the innovation, adaptability and skills of our workforce,” Penley said.

Another SB1825 provision allows the three state universities to offer pro bono assistance to claimants in the general stream adjudication of water rights if the claimants are small landowners and not represented by counsel.

The legislation also calls for ABOR to administer and implement a Promise Program to provide financial assistance to students in a baccalaureate degree who qualify for in-state student status, graduated from an Arizona high school with a qualifying grade point average, and meet eligibility criteria for the Federal Pell Grant.

“With the state’s initial investment in the board’s Arizona Promise Program scholarship, qualifying low-income Arizona students will have their tuition and fees paid in full to attend the Arizona public university of their choice,” Penley said. “The value of a university degree has never been higher, and this program represents our promise that cost won’t be a barrier to any deserving Arizona student.”

ABOR will take on yet another new responsibility thanks to the budget bill.  On Jan. 1, 2022, the statutory duties of the Commission for Postsecondary Education and the e Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program will be transferred to ABOR.

State law designates the governor and the superintendent of public instruction -currently Kathy Hoffman- as ex-officio ABOR members along with two student regents who serve two-year terms. The other regents serve eight-year terms after being appointed by a governor and confirmed by a majority of the 30-member state senate.

In addition to Penley, the current regents are Fred DuVal, Kathryn Hackett King, Lyndel Manson, Cecilia Mata, Bill Ridenour, Ron Shoopman, and Karrin Taylor Robson. ASU student Nikhil Dave is serving as a student regent until 2022; the second student regent seat is currently vacant, according to the ABOR website.

Next up for the ABOR is a Sept. 9 meeting of the Finance, Capital and Resources Committee as well as the Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee.

The Biden Administration Spenders

The Biden Administration Spenders

By Dr. Tom Patterson |

The Biden/Harris administration is ignoring established budget tradition in their determination to spend yet more money.

Since the Reagan era, each federal budget has included a list of achievable spending cuts. The final Obama/Biden budget boasted of their averaging 140 cuts, saving $22 billion, yearly.  Then-VP Biden  headed up these cost cutting efforts as he did the spending reductions in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Obama praised Biden‘s leadership in the Campaign to Cut Waste, calling him “the right man to lead it because nobody messes with Sheriff Joe.”

So Biden was justified in campaigning on his record of cost-cutting, which he did (although overall spending never fell during his tenure). But, as we have seen on almost every front, the rhetoric of candidate Biden meant nothing.

His initial budget was the first in 40 years to not include a section on savings. Instead, he withdrew President Trump’s final 73 rescissions, which would have saved taxpayers $24.4 billion, including several, such as the Commission on Fine Arts and the Presidio Trust, that had been included in earlier Obama/Biden reductions.  His address to Congress in April in lieu of the SOTU contained no mention of waste reduction, nor has any other communication so far.

The contrast is striking. In 2011, President Obama proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction over 12 years. We now know he fell far short of the mark, yet 10 years later, President Biden proposed a $14.5 trillion increase in deficits over 10 years.  Success seems quite probable this time.

What’s going on here? Biden’s inference that there is no waste available in federal spending is laughable. State and local governments are awash in newfound largess. Unemployed beneficiaries have received so much compensation that millions have understandably quit their jobs.

Americans in no financial stress, nursing home residents and dead people by the millions have received COVID stimulus checks. Meanwhile, the Department of Education, an inconsequential agency that has overseen the decline of American education at all levels despite a massive funding surge, was given a $67 billion boost.

The tsunami of spending is relentless. Our national debt has now reached $28 trillion, including a 30 percent increase from spending on the Covid shutdowns alone. Federal spending this fiscal year is about $8 trillion, fully half of which will be put on the tab.

Biden’s next budget is $6 trillion, plus $6 trillion or so of additional spending on anticipated campaign promises. If  Biden’s budget plan is adopted, the projected national debt would be $44,800,000,000 by 2031. Moreover, the current value of obligations to finance legal entitlement programs is $132 trillion more.

We are clearly on an unsustainable course. Easy money and goosing the economy with government spending can only take us so far. Eventually, our luck will run out when interest rates return to normal, creditors run out of confidence, inflation and lack of productivity gains take their toll or all of the above.

Technology may help some to delay the deterioration of our standard of living. But our descendants will be far worse off and America will be permanently damaged from our foolish selfishness.

Yet there is a preternatural calmness in Washington circles over the consequences of pushing massive debt out to future generations. When the ruling Left discusses their multi-trillion dollar spending proposals, they typically don’t bother to address the revenue problem. The fact that they are politically popular (and Biden’s “free” spending proposals are) is rationale enough in Dem World.

The spenders act as if spending itself is a social good. Deeply in debt, they spend for unnecessary frills like taxpayer-supplied benefits for illegal immigrants and middle class social programs.

They profess to believe that money will always be available so long as government can figuratively print more, but that is patently ludicrous. More likely, they just don’t care.

These are people who fervently believe in the power of Big Government to make life better, the overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The more money that is spent on anything, the larger their constituent base grows. As in the border crisis, the chance to maintain power drives policy.

Literally nothing else matters.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.

Ducey Signs Budget Bills On Last Day Of Fiscal Year

Ducey Signs Budget Bills On Last Day Of Fiscal Year

By Terri Jo Neff |

On Wednesday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed what he called “a fiscally conservative, forward-looking budget” for Fiscal Year 2022, cutting taxes for all taxpayers for every Arizona taxpayer no matter what their income.

“While we’re giving money back to taxpayers, this budget makes responsible, targeted and substantial investments in the things that matter,” Ducey said. “Under this budget plan, Arizona is paying off more than $1 billion in debt, we’re helping to protect families with the most sweeping child care package in the nation, and we’re making record investments in K-12 and higher education, infrastructure, public health and public safety.”


Ducey received high marks for the budget from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, particularly the transition of Arizona’s income tax system from a tiered rate to a 2.5 percent flat rate over a three-year period starting Jan. 1, 2022. There are also provisions in the budget for nearly $1 billion in debt payments, as well as another $1 billion to reduce Arizona’s pension liabilities.

Public safety was also a major part of the budget, with $1.5 billion allocated for things like border security and other critical safety investments such as body cameras, increased recruitment funding, and cybersecurity.

K-12 funding was another priority for Ducey, with more than $6 billion allocated, including $47.2 million to develop early literacy programs for children across the state, $30 million for school transportation, and $50 million in student disability aid. One K-12 education bill, HB2898, signed by Ducey makes it easier for families to utilize Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to help fund lower-income students who wish to attend private schools.

“Arizona’s budget puts students first,” Ducey said after signing HB2898. “Under this plan, we will continue to ensure K-12 students, teachers and schools have resources necessary to help Arizona kids excel in and out of the classroom.”

Ducey has several other bills on his desk which were transmitted this week by the Legislature. Many are do-overs of 22 bills which Ducey vetoed at the end of May in an effort to prod lawmakers to get to work on the budget package.

Although passage of the budget bills took longer than anyone expected in the Republican-controlled Legislature, Ducey’s comments Wednesday stayed focused on the final product, including more options for parents in need of childcare.

House Republicans Call Out Democrats’ Lack Of Support For K-12 Funding

House Republicans Call Out Democrats’ Lack Of Support For K-12 Funding

By Terri Jo Neff |

When the State House voted Friday to pass HB2898, the K-12 Education budget bill, it marked the end of a grueling process that resulted in passage of a $12.8 billion budget package for Fiscal Year 2022.

A key provision of HB2898 is the establishment of new academic standards for K-12 students in the area of civics. There was also funding for a number of special programs for students and a variety of new rules for school board and school districts.

But much of the debate about the bill centered on whether more money should have been allocated.

Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D-LD28) acknowledged HB2898 includes “a lot of money,” but he argued it was not enough. Lieberman noted 2,000 classrooms across the state do not have assigned, permanent teachers, something he said could be remedied by spending one-fourth of the state’s $2 billion surplus.

“It’s clear now more than ever we need every dollar,” Lieberman said in voting against the bill.

However, Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) questioned why more focus is not on the decisions of school boards who spend the billions of dollars provided each year through federal funding and from the legislature.

“Why are we not asking the school boards why they’re not giving the money that the legislature sends to the school boards to the teachers?” he asked on the floor. “Why are we not holding the school boards responsible for the money that we send them to give to the teachers? When are the teachers going to hold the school boards responsible?”

Rep. Walt Blackman (R-LD6) expressed similar frustration, noting that many of the chamber’s 24 Democrats who were present Friday complained the funding in HB2898 was too low. So they simply voted against the bill.

Blackman acknowledged K-12 funding in the bill “may not be enough” but said those representatives who vote green -yes- are demonstrating they “support education by action.” Which is why he was disturbed to see so many red -no- votes.

Democrats may give myriad reasons for what is wrong in HB2898 or what could be done differently, he said, “but if we are really dedicated to teaching our children K-12, and that is a non-partisan issue, then why do we have red votes?”

“This can’t be an issue where we are upset and we take our marbles and we go home because we don’t have enough marbles to play,” Blackman said, adding that all of the votes should be green because “nothing is perfect.”

The House K-12 Education bill will now be transmitted to the Senate, which last week passed its own education bill.  There is now one significant difference between the bills which will need to be reconciled.

That difference involves a major expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) which is currently available to about 250,000 students. The Senate’s budget bill added two eligibility criteria which would make ESAs an option to 700,000 students, including children from Title 1 schools where at least 40 percent of the families are considered low-income.

However, three Republicans in the House voted against an amendment which would have included the ESA expansion in HB2898. The amendment died without those votes and the three Republicans also voted against a later attempt to insert the failed amendment into the main bill just prior to final voting.

Sen. Paul Boyer (R-LD20) is a teacher and a major supporter of ESA legislation. He took to Twitter after the House vote to express his disappointment with the ESA decision.

“Meanwhile, minority students are 6 to 12 months behind their white counterparts. This defeat of ESAs for Title I students makes sure those same students never leave the school that’s failing them,” Boyer tweeted.