Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues - AZEdNews
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Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues

Wildfire Session 6 17

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Update June 17, 2021: The Arizona Legislature approved the wildfire bill and recessed for the regular session.

House Legislators voted to pass House Bill 2001 the wildfire mitigation bill with a vote of 56 ayes, 2 nays and 2 absent, recessed, then began the regular session to discuss the budget.

As he explained his vote on HB 2001, Rep. Reginald Bolding said it was important to ensure that funding for city and town firefighters and district fire fighting agencies continues and is not cut in the budget and that funding for climate change issues are included in the budget.

Rep. Jennifer Longdon said Free Arts has distributed 3,000 Bravery Box art supply boxes to children in Arizona to help them deal with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and that they plan to distribute another 4,000 in the future. House Speaker Rep. Rusty Bowers asked if it was possible for the House of Representatives could take part in that effort and Rep. Longdon said she would find out.

Rep. Kelli Butler said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act today.

Then Rep. Andres Cano‘s proclamation honoring Father Kino and the preservation and restoration of the Missions, the Kino Mission Route and cultural resources as well as promote tourism of the sites and area in Tucson was read.

Then Rep. Ben Toma made motion that the House be recessed until the sound of the gavel and Legislators took a break.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Senate discussed and voted on HB 2001.

Sen. Lisa Otondo reminded legislators that there is much more to do to fully fund and encourage best forestry practices as she explained her vote.

“Let’s get this through. Let’s get this money where it needs to go,” Sen. Otondo said as she voted for the bill. “In my humble opinion, this is not enough. It is just meeting the current need.”

Sen. T. J. Shope said this bill is about what’s going to happen next.

“We have rain coming and we have communities that need these funds to deal with the flooding and what comes next after these fires,” Sen. Shope said.

“Is this enough. Absolutely not,” Sen. Shope said. “We need to have a serious conversation about this.”

This is a starting point, Sen. Shope said as he voted yes.

Sen. Rebecca Rios said that it’s unfortunate that it takes a crisis to get us to act, “we need to get started on leglislation to address them long term.”

“We need to be willing to provide the resources now and in the future,” Sen. Rios said as she voted aye.

Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai said “When I was a little girl about her age, I lived in Flagstaff when Mount Elden burned and I remember releasing our horses as our neighbors fled our homes.”

“We need to be careful about what fire can do. Most wildfires are set by people,” Sen. Peshlakai said.

“It really is concerning to all of us to see the impacts of climate change,” Sen. Peshlakai said as the voted yes on the bill.

The Senate approved HB 2001 with a vote of 24 ayes and two nays.

Update June 16, 2021: Arizona Legislators held brief floor sessions today starting at 10 a.m. then adjourned to continue to work on the budget and take part in a special session on the wildfire bills House Bill 2001 and Senate Bill 1001.

Budget meetings and House and Senate floor sessions on the budget bills will resume Thursday morning.

House Bill 2001, sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin, would appropriate $99,541,800 to the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, which prevents and suppresses wildfires on state lands and private property outside cities and towns, for wildfire emergency response and mitigation efforts and establishes certain requirements for spending the funds.

The Department of Forestry and Fire Management’s State Forester enters agreements with state subdivisions and federal agencies for wildfire prevention, suppression and to assist in emergencies in Arizona and other states and can spend $3 million each year for wildfire prevention, suppression and support for other unplanned risk activities.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues David-Tenney
State Forrester David Tenney speaks at the Wildfire Special Session of the Arizona Legislature on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

The bill was created in response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s call for a special session on wildfires after his June 9 declarations of emergency for wildfires for the Mescal Fire in Gila County and the Telegraph Fire in Gila and Pinal Counties, which have now merged and burnt 148,299 acres.

HB 2001‘s Wildfire Emergency Response would:

  1. Appropriates $75,000,000 from the state General Fund (GF) to DFFM in FY 2021 for wildfire
    emergency response efforts and exempts this appropriation from lapsing.
  2. Permits the appropriation to be used for:
    a) Fire suppression and pre-positioning fire suppression equipment and staff;
    b) Capital and equipment associated with fire suppression efforts;
    c) Mitigation projects to address postfire flooding and other damage that may occur as a
    result of fires or fire suppression activities;
    d) State or local government agencies’ emergency liabilities for emergency shelter,
    wraparound services and support activities;
    e) Financial assistance to landowners for emergency repairs to infrastructure damaged by
    fires or fire suppression activities; and
    f) Reimbursement to a state agency or political subdivision for eligible claims from a state or federal emergency.

3. Requires the appropriation to supplement, and not supplant, any federal monies.

4. Directs DFFM to seek federal reimbursement for expenditures made from the appropriation
and that any reimbursements be credited to the appropriation.

5. Caps at $10,000,000 the amount that can be spent for state capital purposes for prepositioning and fire suppression.

6. Instructs DFFM to distribute financial assistance for landowners only as the payor of last resort
after all other sources of payment have been exhausted.

7. Establishes monthly reporting requirements for DFFM to the Legislature.

HB 2001‘s Wildfire Mitigation would:

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Wildfire-special-session
The Wildfire Special Session on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television
  1. Appropriates the following from the GF to DFFM in FY 2021 for wildfire mitigation:
    a) $16,999,300 and 122 FTEs for inmate firefighting crew supervisors and operating costs;
    b) $3,910,000 for vehicle purchases;
    c) $1,382,500 for vehicle operating costs; and
    d) $2,250,000 for contracted hazardous vegetation removal.
  2. Exempts the appropriation from lapsing through June 30, 2022.

State Forester David Tenney spoke to a joint session of the Arizona House and Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committees regarding the ongoing efforts to deal with wildfires in Arizona.

“We’re in the midst of the worst drought in 20 years,” Tenney said. “So far this year we’ve had 896 fires and we’ve burned an area that approaches the size of Phoenix at this point.”

The Telegraph Fire is among nine wildfires burning today, Tenney said.

This bill provides the flexibility to provide services to deal with the aftermath of wildfires, Tenney said.

“It’s better to do all that we can to prevent a wildfire in the first place,” Tenney said.

The second part of this bill will increase our ability to reduce fire fuels around communities, and increase firefighting power by using inmates to help fight fires and gain career skills they can use upon release, Tenney said.

“I urge you all to support the wildfire mitigation plan as presented,” Tenney said.

Sen. Lisa Otondo asked Tenney if the department had enough full-time employees to fight these fires.

Tenney said he believes it does.

“There will be 72 10 person crews coming out of the prison system,” Tenney said. “The forresters will work with our fire managers to determine which areas need treatments soonest.”

Update June 15, 2021: Arizona Legislators held brief floor sessions today starting at 10 a.m. then adjourned until Wednesday morning to continue to work on the budget and take action on the wildfire bill.

Immediately after adjourning floor sessions on the budget, Legislators opened the wildfires special session then they adjourned until Wednesday to discuss and vote on a bill that appropriates $100 million for wildfire assessment, mitigation, suppression, preparedness, response and recovery activities across the state.

The special session is being held in response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s proclamation yesterday and the wildfires burning across the state.

Arizona Legislative leaders met with Gov. Ducey to discuss the specifics of the bill to help the state in battling current and future wildfires.

Update June 14, 2021: Arizona Legislators held brief floor sessions today starting at 1 p.m. then adjourned until Tuesday morning to continue to work on the budget.

The budget proposal from Republican leadership with Gov. Doug Ducey’s approval includes a 2.5% flat tax and other tax cuts that advocates say would severely impact schools’ and cities’ budgets.

The Arizona Senate met briefly and then adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Flanked by Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai and Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, Rep. Jennifer Jermaine read a proclamation in the Arizona House of Representatives asking that a survey be done to see if there are Native American students’ bodies buried under Arizona’s former Indian Schools as has been found recently in other states and in Canada.

Rep. Jermaine also encouraged members to view the Heard Museum exhibit on the Indian boarding schools and the damage they did to Native American students and their families.

Rep. Gail Griffin read a proclamation on Flag Day and the anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Army.

House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Jennifer Longdon then talked to members about Arts for All and the arts experiences they provide for children with and without disabilities and the display the group has at the Capitol. The 501(c)3 based in Tucson also provides activities for disabled adults as well.

After that, House Majority Leader Rep. Ben Toma asked for the House to stand adjourned until 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, June 15.

In addition to working on the budget this week, Legislators will also most likely discuss the 22 bills that Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed in late May, that the Senate re-introduced last week and take part in a special session this week to focus on the wildfires across Arizona that Gov. Ducey’s requested last week.

Today, House Minority Leader Rep. Reginald Bolding announced he will run for Arizona Secretary of State.

Update June 10, 2021: The Arizona Senate met briefly this morning to re-introduce the 22 bills that Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed in late May, and adjourned shortly after noon today and will reconvene at 1 p.m. Monday.

Earlier today, House Legislators heard several bills, including a bill sponsored by Rep. Kelli Butler and Rep. Athena Salman that would help provide a Medicaid buy-in option for Arizonans.

Rep. Raquel Teran said elected leaders should denounce far-right groups harassing and intimidating school governing boards and board members of color.

Gov. Ducey said today he will call for a special legislative session to begin this coming week to deal with wildfires and the associated issues that happen afterwards.

Update June 7, 2021: The Arizona House of Representatives recessed until Thursday, June 10 – when the Senate is scheduled to convene – after passing one budget bill today and voting down two other budget bills.

The Arizona House of Representatives convened shortly after 9 a.m to discuss amendments to budget bills that members received just moments before the session began with no economic analysis or fiscal discussion of the impacts on the general fund of the 2.5% flat tax and maximum tax limit of 4.5% on the state’s highest earners.

Education advocates, cities and towns, Democratic Legislators and some Republican Legislators do not support the 2.5% flat tax and tax cuts in Republican Legislative leader’s proposed budget and are concerned that they are based on a snapshot of the economy and not long-term forecasts and will severely impact funding for schools and local governments.

While Legislators have met since the recess to try to come to agreement on the budget bills, many legislators are still hesitant and many amendments are expected to bring about a consensus.

Rep. Mitzi Epstein asked if limiting the maximum tax rate to 4.5 % was done to circumvent the Invest in Education Prop. 208 fund and if that will lead to big cut to the general fund.

“Will this allow some taxpayers to fulfill their Prop. 208 Invest in Ed fund and pay less into the general fund,” Rep. Epstein asked.

“There is some effect to the General fund, but the net effect to Prop. 208 is non existent,” said Rep. Ben Toma.

“Changes to tax law effect equity,” Rep. Epstein said.

“When we give the big earner a big tax break as found in this amendment we make equity in Arizona worse and we make mobility to move ahead of the average taxpayer worse,” Epstein said.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley asked when the public was informed of these amendments via request to speak.

“I’m not sure when they were told. The cap which is the main issues has been publicly known and debated in committee for some time now,” Rep. Toma said. “I believe they were posted this morning in line with the Speakers deadline.”

“I have a lot of constituents following this budget and they don’t have access to these amendments through the media or us,” Rep. Powers Hannley. “Maybe people on the R side knew what was going on but not the voters or their representatives elected to represent them.”

“I did not receive these amendments until 8:30 and sorting through them is problematic,” Rep. Randall Friese said.

“I oppose this amendment,” Rep. David Cook. ” I have not seen this amendment. This is Monday morning. I cannot support this or any other amendment without time to review this amendment for members of my district.”

Rep. Reginald Bolding asked what the current highest rate for taxpayers.

“The highest rate in 4.5% and if we didn’t do this the highest earners would pay an additional 3.5%,” Rep. Toma said.

“The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the max income tax paid by a taxpayer in Arizona is 4.5%, because they are the ones that make the jobs and provide for the income of Arizona,” Rep. Toma said.

“We were sent down here to represent everyone,” Rep. Bolding said. “What we see in this amendment is it is not for working people it is for top earners in the state to have a special carve out because they create the jobs.”

“This carve out is not what Arizonans want. This workaround to Prop. 208 is not what Arizonans want. What was designed was a way for more resources to go to education,” Rep. Bolding.

“This is a significant change of policy in Arizona and deserves a debate on the floor,” Rep. Bolding said. “For this, I strongly oppose the Cobb amendment and the underlying House Bill 2899.”

Rep. Kelli Butler asked what amount would be paid out of the general fund.

Rep. Toma said “If the budget is successful, we’ll be at a 2.5% rate for the entire state. There will be some impact on the state, but not as much as the impact on the state today if these bills do not pass.”

“Where has there been a broader economic analysis of the impact of this that we can review,” Rep. Butler asked.

“Tax cuts yield economic benefits and what ends up happening is more revenue for the state for us to do more programs that we are doing now,” Rep. Toma said. “The analysis of this package has said their would be a $20 billion benefit over the years.”

“We received this amendment on our desk just moments ago and there is no fiscal note or summary or discussion about what this will mean for our state going forward,” Rep. Butler said. “This is not vetted. We don’t know what this will do to Arizona’s general fund and what this will do to our ability to invest in education and things like that that matter.”

“Is this amendment on House Bill 2899 a big tax policy change for this state in your opinion,” said Rep. David Cook.

“This is one component of a bid tax change in this budget,” Rep. Toma said.

“What is the projected number of job growth that will make this tax package work in the next 8 to 10 years,” Rep. Cook asked. “It’s north of 500,000 jobs that I’ve heard would make this work in the media.”

“These are the concerns I have for this state and the people of this state,” Rep. Cook said. “I hope that any member would be concerned that this is major tax policy in a amendment given to me this morning. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“Lots of things bother me. Cutting taxes does not bother me in the least,” Rep. Toma said.

Rep. Andres Cano said the states who have no taxes have sales taxes that are 56% higher than those we have in Arizona right now.

“We don’t receive these amendments with enough time to do due diligence,” said Rep. Cano, noting he opposes House Bill 2899.

“This cut makes us competitive but not super low compared to our surrounding states,” said Rep. Jeff Weninger.

“We are trying to compete with neighboring states that have extremely low tax rates,” said Rep. Leo Biasiucci. “We have a surplus and it should go back to the taxpayers.”

“We know trickle-down economics does not work,” said Rep. Diego Rodriguez

“What we know is that when you grow an economy from the bottom up that’s what works,” Rep. Rodriguez said.

Cities and towns have already but what can be cut, Rep. Rodriguez said.

“This amendment is irresponsible and rushed. I encourage members to reject it,” Rep. Rodriguez said.

After a voice vote, division was called and the Cobb amendment failed with a vote of 30 ayes and 30 nays.

After a voice vote on House Bill 2899, division was called and the bill failed with a vote of 30 ayes and 30 nays and then a role call vote was called and the bill failed with a vote of 30 ayes and 30 nays.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Vote-on-2899

Updated June 4, 2021: House Speaker Rusty Bowers is calling Legislators in the House of Representatives back to Phoenix to vote on budget bills with a floor session starting at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

Education advocates, cities and towns, Democratic Legislators and some Republican Legislators do not support the 2.5% flat tax and tax cuts in Republican Legislative leader’s proposed budget and are concerned that they are based on a snapshot of the economy and not long-term forecasts.

Committee of the Whole agendas have also been posted as well.

The Arizona Senate tried to do that a week ago and that led to the decision to recess until June. Arizona Legislators must approve a state budget by July 1 or there is no money to keep programs and offices operating.

Updated June 2, 2021: While there is some spending on public education that education advocates like in the Republican Legislative leaders budget proposal, they’re concerned that the 2.5% flat tax and tax cuts are based on a snapshot of the economy and not long-term forecasts.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Leigh-Jensen
Leigh Jensen

“We like the investments in special education, including $50 million in increased Group B weights for certain diagnoses, $5 million in the Extraordinary Special Education Needs Fund, and $1 million ongoing funding for gifted education,” said Leigh Jensen, governmental relations associate for Arizona School Boards Association.

“We also like the proposed $17 million to distribute to political subdivisions including school districts that owe property tax refunds as a result of a change in the valuation of the Transwestern Pipeline, which is kind of a niche issue, but really important for some of our rural members,” Jensen said.

“Our main concern is the whole structure of the budget, which we believe is structured based on the very unique situation of having lots of federal dollars for COVID relief and this is artificially inflating the strength of Arizona’s economy right now,” Jensen said.

“We would prefer to see a budget proposal that uses our current surplus to pay down the K-12 rollover and invest in building renewal for our aging school facilities,” Jensen said.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues 300-Cropped-Education-Advocate-holds-poster-during-2021-budget-session-courtesy-Save-Our-Schools-AZ
An education advocate with suggestions at the Capitol during Arizona Legislators’ budget discussions. Photo courtesy Save Our Schools Arizona.

Education advocates say the 2.5% flat tax and proposed tax cuts in Arizona Republican legislative leadersbudget proposal that had Gov. Doug Ducey’s approval are ways to avoid the voter-approved Prop. 208 Invest in Ed Initiative that would provide more funding for Arizona’s public schools, students and teachers.

“The flat tax proposal is a risky move that banks on revenue from sports betting and recreational marijuana being sufficient to offset the significant losses, but both of these revenue streams are brand new in Arizona,” Jensen said.

“It has the potential to undo the progress we’ve made in the last few years to restore education funding to pre-recession levels, all while leaving us flat-footed if and when another recession comes,” Jensen said.

Under Prop. 208, taxable income over $250,000 for single filers would be subject to an additional 3.5% surcharge, making income above that amount taxed at a total state rate of 8%, Jensen said.

“This proposal creates a flat tax of 2.5%, but since the Legislature can’t change that voter approved 3.5% surcharge, they instead are proposing a maximum marginal tax rate of 4.5%,” Jensen said. “So in essence, there would be two tax rates 2.5% and 4.5%.”

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues 300-15-or-less-from-GOP-tax-proposal1
Map courtesy Grand Canyon Institute

“Under current law with Prop. 208, the highest earners in Arizona would have an effective tax rate of 8%, so this significantly reduces the amount of revenue that would be collected by Prop. 208,” Jensen said.

The Grand Canyon Institute released an analysis of the budget proposal last week that showed that Arizonans who live in rural and remote areas and Tucson will bear the brunt of the flat tax proposal, while Arizonans in larger population centers like Maricopa County and affluent communities will benefit.

“This tax cut — which largely benefits high-income earners — will cost $1.5 billion annually once fully implemented. It eliminates higher marginal tax rates and replaces them with one rate that is about the same as what lower income earners currently pay,” The Grand Canyon Institute said in their analysis.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues 300-1000-or-more-from-GOP-tax-proposal
Map courtesy Grand Canyon Institute

“An estimated 350,000 Arizona households with incomes above $150,000 will be the largest beneficiaries. Whereas 1.5 million households (four times as many) would see little or modest changes in their state income tax,” according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis.  

The Grand Canyon Institute has contrasted the proposed tax cut with an alternative use of the state’s projected ongoing surplus — invest $800 million annually to close academic achievement gaps for 600,000 K-12 students at risk of poor education outcomes.

Arizona was identified as one of the states that would most benefit in GDP growth from improvements in the base education level of its workforce,  according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis.  

Using the projected ongoing surplus to improve academic outcomes for at-risk K-12 students mostly benefits middle- and lower-income communities and rural Arizona and Tucson, according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis.  

In rural counties, only 5% or 6% of households will have their taxes reduced by more than $1,000; whereas, well over half the children are identified as at risk of poor academic achievement outcomes, according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis. 

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Tax-Impact-of-Eliminating-Higher-Marginal-Rates-Proposal-v.-At-Risk-Children-by-County-in-percent-GCI
Chart courtesy Grand Canyon Institute

Consequently, rural areas will receive very little direct economic impact from the proposed tax reductions but investments in their public district and charter schools would provide more clear focused benefits.

A similar pattern is found when looking at select cities and towns, according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis. 

For example, just 10% of households in Glendale will save more than $1,000 on their taxes, while 30% of households will see their taxes decrease by $15 or less.

Yet 60% of Paradise Valley households will save more than $1,000 on their taxes and less than 10% will save $15 or less in taxes.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Tax-Impact-of-Eliminating-Higher-Marginal-Rates-v.-At-Risk-Children-select-cities-towns-in-percent-GCI
Chart courtesy Grand Canyon Institute

The pattern can also be seen in Arizona’s legislative districts. 

Few rural legislative districts  benefit from eliminating the higher tax brackets, according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis. 

While Maricopa County does better, geographic location within the county makes a difference.

LD 23 in the affluent areas of Fountain Hills and North Scottsdale fares well, but the lower- and middle-income area of LD 21 covering Peoria and El Mirage gets far less relative benefit, according to the Grand Canyon Institute analysis. 

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Tax-Impact-of-Eliminating-Higher-Marginal-Rates-Proposal-v.-At-Risk-Children-by-Legislative-District-in-percent-selected-Leg.-Districts_GCI
Chart courtesy Grand Canyon Institute
Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Chuck-Essigs-portrait
Dr. Chuck Essigs

Meanwhile, Arizona Association of School Business Officials has received a number of questions from school district finance officers about the fiscal year 2022 Preliminary Budget Forms, said Dr. Chuck Essigs, AASBO director of governmental relations.

“First, it is extremely important to understand that the forms recently put out by the state ,since the Legislature has NOT ADOPTED a budget, can ONLY include official numbers that already exist. Since NO STATE BUDGET has passed, that is a fact that could not be ignored when the current budget forms came out.” Dr. Essigs said.

“However, when districts are looking at their budgets prior to the state having an approved state budget, districts could consider using some of the items that are currently in the proposed  FY 2022 legislative budget,” Dr. Essigs said.

Some of the items to consider include the proposed increase in the FY 2022 base level from the current $4,305.73 to $4,390.65 without teacher compensation.

This is an increase of $85.92 or 1.97% and includes both funding for inflation and the increase for the 20 by 2020 teacher salary increase with funding being moved from the Classroom Site Fund to the base level, Dr. Essigs said, noting the inflation increase was 1.21%.

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Cropped-600-An-education-advocate-at-2021-budget-session-e1622670018451
An education advocate shares suggestions as legislators discuss the budget. Courtesy Save Our Schools AZ.

The Transportation Support Level is scheduled to increase from $2.24 to $2.27 OR from $2.74 to $2.77 per mile depending on the district’s classification.

“However, remember that for many districts with fewer bus miles this year, the TSL for next year will be going down,” Dr. Essigs said. “Also, the TRCL will not go down, which may lead to a tax rate increase.”

The Special Education Group B weight for Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Mild Intellectual Disability, Specific Learning Disability, Speech/Language Impairment and Other Health Impairment is proposed to increase from the existing 0.003 to 0.093, Dr. Essigs said.

The Group B weight for Multiple Disabilities – Special Class, Autism – Special Class, and Severe Intellectual Disability – Special Class is proposed to increase from 5.833 to 5.988, Dr. Essigs said.

A new Group B weight of .007 is proposed for gifted pupils, Dr. Essigs said.

“These are some factors to include when making an estimated FY 2022 Budget without an official state budget being passed,” Dr. Essigs said.

Updated June 1, 2021: Education advocates including Save Our Schools Arizona, Stand for Children and Arizona Education Association say the 2.5% flat tax and proposed tax cuts in Gov. Doug Ducey’s and Arizona Republican legislative leadersbudget proposal are ways to avoid the voter-approved Prop. 208 Invest in Ed Initiative that would provide more stable funding for Arizona’s public schools, students and teachers, reports KJZZ 91.5 FM

When Republican Legislative leaders released the budget bills on May 18, they planned to pass them quickly. But opposition to the flat tax and proposed tax cuts in the budget, which would permanently cut state revenues by $1.9 billion a year quickly drew opposition from education advocates, cities and towns, Democratic legislators and enough Republican Legislators that the Arizona Legislature has recessed until they can come to an agreement sometime in the next week or so.

The day after Legislators recessed, Gov. Ducey vetoed 22 bills that Legislators had sent to him for his signature and said they need to focus on passing a budget.

In response to Gov. Ducey’s veto and the Arizona Republican Leader’s decision to take a break in working on the budget, Sen. Martín Quezada said Arizonans are living under failed leadership.

“First, while holding the majority in the state House and Senate Republican leadership is unwilling to continue budget negotiations as they see working for Arizona voters as an inconvenience to themselves and their vacation plans. Second, Governor Doug Ducey unilaterally destroys 22 bills, some of which were bipartisan measures to stroke his ego despite his inability to lead his own party. Finally, U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema neglects her responsibility to vote on behalf of Arizonans and dishonors those that list their life during the January 6th insurrection,” said Sen. Quezada in a statement released May 29.

“Due to Governor Ducey’s childish political games, Arizona will see a massive transfer of wealth to the top 1% in our state and the GOP Senate and House leadership is too weak to fight back,” said Sen. Quezada in a statement.

Arizona Interfaith Network, , a statewide coalition of clergy, said the flat tax included in the budget “would be a handout to the wealthy given on the backs of the poor,” in a KJZZ 91.5 FM story.

If the flat tax is approved, Arizona Interfaith Network said they would put forth a ballot measure to let voters to have the final decision.

Save Our Schools AZ thanked Sen. Paul Boyer and Sean Sean Bowie for prioritizing K-12 funding and promoting responsible economic policy in their guest opinion article in Arizona Capitol Times in which they said passing a balanced budget is their more important responsibility.

“That’s why, despite coming from different political parties, we have decided to work together for the sake of the state we both care about. We share the same concerns about the economic and revenue assumptions the budget and tax cut are built upon and believe state leaders have failed to take several significant economic factors into account,” said Sen. Bowie and Sen. Boyer in the Arizona Capitol Times article.

“The Legislature should not base a long-term permanent tax cut based on a temporary snapshot of state revenue collections during a global pandemic,” they said in the Arizona Capitol Times article.

“There is a better way. A budget that is focused on a stronger economy moving forward would prioritize investments in our three state universities, our community colleges, and workforce development. Our K-12 schools need additional support for special education and more counselors and social workers to help our kids after a difficult year. Paying down the billions of dollars in state debt while we have the resources to do so would put our state on much stronger economic footing when the next downturn happens. Responsible tax reform should benefit all Arizona taxpayers, through one-time checks or permanent changes like creating an Earned Income Tax Credit for working Arizona families that would put more dollars in the pockets of Arizonans who need it,” said Sen. Boyer and Sen. Bowie in the Arizona Capitol Times article.

Click here for earlier budget coverage

Legislators approve wildfire bill, budget work continues Teachers-Budget-Watch-5-28-21-courtesy-Rocio-Hernandez-KJZZ-1024x768
Teachers and educators gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, to watch as lawmakers discussed a proposed state budget and plans for a flat tax rate. Photo courtesy Rocio Hernandez/KJZZ