After months of debate and negotiations between Governor Katie Hobbs (D) and state legislative leaders, the Arizona State House and Senate have passed a $17.8 billion state budget with bipartisan support, delivering some wins and losses for both sides of the political aisle.
“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,” said House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria). “We needed a budget that the Governor would sign that accomplishes our goal of putting Arizona families first. This budget accomplishes both.”
🚨BREAKING NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE🚨
‘Arizona’s Budget’ Approved by House of Representatives
Puts Families First, Gives Back, Spends Smart, and Addresses Real Issues
House Republican Leaders hailed the budget’s passage as a huge win for Arizona families and the state:
— Arizona House Republicans (@AZHouseGOP) May 10, 2023
The budget comes in the form of 16 bills, ranging from how to implement the budget to where the money will go, such as general appropriations, K-12 education, health care, and the environment. These bills were sponsored by State Senator John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills), with mirror bills in the House by Representative David Livingston (R-Peoria).
After passing both houses, the final hurdle for the bills is receiving signatures from Hobbs. However, it will be an easy hurdle as the governor’s office spokesperson told The Arizona Sun Times that she would be signing the bills.
“I’m glad the House passed the bipartisan budget and I look forward to signing it into law,” Hobbs said in a statement to reporters.
While the budget is bipartisan, Republicans did get some wins. For example, Arizona taxpayers will receive a $250 rebate for every claimed dependent under 17 at the end of 2021, which dependents exactly 17 getting a $100 refund.
“Right off the top, we’re giving back 10% of one-time spending to help Arizona families with a tax rebate of $250 for every child under 17. This is a budget that invests in our economy, improves the infrastructure we all rely on, and solves problems faced by our most vulnerable,” said House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu).
Another win for Republicans was not putting a cap on the Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) expansion. Since the legislative session began, Hobbs has stated she wanted to roll back the expansion; however, Republicans said this was an issue they would not budge on.
The House Minority Caucus released a statement Tuesday complaining that the budget did not limit ESAs, but House Democrats ultimately voted to pass the budget anyway.
However, the ESA discussion is not over, as Toma and House Minority Leader Andrés Cano (D-Tucson) agreed to form an Ad Hoc Committee on ESA Oversight. This bipartisan group will take in information on the ESA program to ensure it operates as it should and make any necessary changes. Hobbs and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) will be involved in the committee.
Speaker Toma & Leader Cano Agree to Create Ad Hoc Committee to Examine ESA Administration. pic.twitter.com/MsrOetKPZ4
— Arizona House Democrats (@AZHouseDems) May 10, 2023
Despite not getting everything they wanted, the Democrats still celebrated some appropriations from the budget. These include $341.9 million for school facilities, $88.6 million in new ongoing K-12 funding, a $150 million Housing Trust Fund deposit, and $1 million for the Missing and Murders Indigenous People Task Force.
The House will soon vote on the '24 budget. We are proud of the Democratic wins in this bipartisan budget negotiated by @MitziEpstein & I, including:
🏫 $341.9M for school facilities
🍎 $300M one-time K-12 infusion
🍏 $88.6M new ongoing K-12 funding
📚 $85M for AZ universities
— Andrés Cano (@AndresCanoAZ) May 10, 2023
Additionally, the House also passed House Concurrent Rule (HCR) 2050, sponsored by State Representative Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), which will allow Arizona schools to exceed the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) in 2024. The AEL limits how much a school district can spend during a year, even if the legislature appropriates over that limit. The Senate also passed a mirror rule sponsored by State Senator Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu).
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Katie Hobbs. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY 2.0.