Arizona’s Legislature finishes work on budget

This morning, members of the Arizona Legislature voted on a budget deal hammered out by leadership in the House, and Senate.

Legislators complained about the all night activity. Rep. Bruce Wheeler said, “It is 12:18 and you want to pass a budget. We are not doing the people’s job while the public is asleep. It is short of a joke.”

However, the joke appeared to be on Wheeler when Rep. Steve Montenegro pointed out that just two years ago, the rules were suspended in order to ram through Medicaid expansion. Montenegro called the complaints hypocritical.

Ducey’s budget is designed to close a $678 million FY16 shortfall by making the most dramatic cuts in spending in education, with a total cut in spending of 2 percent.

Things got equally testy on the Senate side when Sen. Steve Farley complained about the lateness of the hour. Barbs went back and forth between legislative-lifer Sen. Farley and Senate president Andy Biggs.

Biggs said that he found it “ironic that someone, who just two years ago passed a bill” without allowing any discussion “would have a problem with tonight’s proceedings.” Biggs stated that the bills had all been vetted prior to last night’s discussions.

Rep. Galbadon read from a letter from a Secrist Middle School student, who had clearly been frightened by adults about cuts to education. Galbadon’s creepy reading of the letter demonstrated the extent to which educators have mobilized students – through fear – to push their political agenda.

There is a serious question being asked by educators, lawmakers, parents, and taxpayers as to whether some school district superintendents have violated state law by using school resources to spread a disinformation campaign using school children as pawns to affect legislation. [ARS 15-511]

Rep. Kelly Townsend told fellow legislators, “We took an oath to uphold the constitution. Our constitution requires a balanced budget – it says shall – not try to – not maybe – it says shall. As hard as this is to do, we must pass a balanced budget.”

Montenegro, who praised the fact that the lawmakers were not going to raise taxes said that it would be unconscionable to balance the budget on the backs of Arizona’s families.

Rep. Chris Ackerly, a teachers union advocate and former leader of the Arizona’s largest teachers union, said he was proud of the process employed, but voted against every provision of the budget. He said, “finally the last priority is education and while I appreciate the effort that was made to avoid cutting K-12 education, unfortunately the cuts to the JTED programs was a step too far. So, at the end of the day, I concluded that we did not arrive at the best solution.”

Rep. Mark Finchem said in a statement after the vote, “There is a truism that we will always have more priorities than resources. That scenario for private business, families and or government will never change. While this budget is not anywhere near perfect, it is the best that we can do with the resources we have to work with. We do not have the resources that other states have because of the inequity in the state’s land ownership and control. I fully expect that we will see an improvement in our economy. Bringing structural balance to our budget was an extremely high priority that Governor Ducey was elected on.”

From Annual Report Of the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

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