By Doug Ducey, AZ 2:21 p.m. MST January 15, 2016
What a difference a year makes.
One year ago, Arizona faced a $1 billion budget shortfall.
Digging out wasn’t going to be easy. But the legislative and executive branches knew that in order to turn around our economy and set the state on a sustainable path forward, we needed to get our fiscal house in order.
Government had to live within its means – just like small businesses and families across our state.
So we got to work. With the partnership of Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan, we passed a balanced budget, and we got it done in record time.
We protected priorities, like K-12 education and child safety, but also made some tough decisions to get our spending in line with resources.
Today, the hard work has paid off. The state has a more than $300 million cash-carry forward, and we have the chance to make some important investments in priorities that can improve our economy and quality of life.
But we aren’t going to lose sight of the importance of being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.
On Friday, I released my budget proposal for the coming year. Arizona is on the rise, and this plan keeps the momentum.
The goal: Make smart investments
This budget is balanced, it’s values-based and it tackles our greatest challenges. It makes critical investments in K-12 education, child safety and public safety – all without raising taxes.
There’s no shortage of groups – most of them well-meaning and advocating for good causes – who want to resume spending in the manner that got us into trouble in the first place. This budget doesn’t do that. More than 80 percent of our initiatives are one-time expenses. We can’t let government make long-term commitments that it may not be able to keep. Government must continue to live within its means.
What I’m most proud of is that we are changing the trendline on education spending in Arizona.
In October, we passed a historic $3.5 billion funding package for schools that includes a $224 million supplemental funding package in the current year alone. Voters get the final say on May 17, but I’m optimistic Arizonans will vote “yes.”
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. But these are real dollars – dollars educators have been asking for to produce results in the classroom.
K-12 focus: College and career prep
On Friday, I announced an additional $106 million for K-12 education – that is on top of the $224 million supplemental for fiscal year 2016, which was part of our $3.5 billion funding package.
Part of our plan is ensuring Arizona students are prepared for college.
All of us should be alarmed to hear that more than half of our high-school graduates can’t get into our own state universities. So under our plan, schools that produce students who successfully complete AP-level, college-prep courses will be rewarded with more dollars.
Schools in low-income areas, where educators and students face added challenges, will receive an even greater boost for helping kids beat the odds.
But not every child plans to go to college – their K-12 experience also needs to prepare them for life. Which is why we’re targeting high-need employment sectors with a new, $30 million investment in career and technical education.
As a result of these combined dollars, Arizona will be among the states investing the most new dollars in public education, all without raising taxes.
We didn’t forget child or public safety
Additionally, this budget:
- Protects taxpayers by continuing to reject calls for a tax increase.
- Includes a $134 million increase in funding for child safety, with $87 million over the next two fiscal years to fully fund children in state care.
- Makes new investments in our universities, which are critical to the economic development of our state.
- Allocates an additional $31.5 million to expand the border strike force and crack down on illegal drug trafficking and cartels in southern Arizona.
- Funds a new Community Corrections Center, offering intensive drug treatmentwith housing and transitional services to reduce recidivism and slow the growth in our prison population.
- Eliminates the structural deficit and brings Arizona to a $173 million positive structural balance by the end of the next fiscal year.
As you can see, we’re taking the lessons of the last several years very seriously.
Whether it’s protecting our foster children and families, our students, our teachers, individuals with disabilities, our cops and firefighters, recovering addicts, people looking for a second shot at a productive life, or our everyday taxpayer – this budget delivers.
Setting the state budget is one of the most important tasks we undertake at the state Capitol – because after all, it’s the people’s money – not the government’s.
How to weigh in on spending plan
We want to make sure Arizona residents have the opportunity to learn about the decisions we are making, and have a chance to participate in the process.
So Friday, we rolled out our budget with a public hearing, which we livestreamed – so even if you couldn’t make it to the Capitol, you could learn the details and watch online.
Next, my budget team will be traveling the state – to hear from you.
For more details and to read the budget, visit azgovernor.gov/budget. I encourage all Arizonans to join the conversation.
No budget is perfect, and I’m well aware this one will surely receive its fair share of praise and criticism. The final product will be shaped by that public debate and the legislative process, as it should be. However, I will ensure that it remains responsible, conservatively manages your tax dollars, and protects our state’s most important priorities.
Here in Arizona, we’ve demonstrated government can work. Positive things can happen if people of goodwill work together.
We can think big, and aim high – and in the process, set an example for the rest of the nation.
Doug Ducey is in his second year as Arizona governor. He delivered his State of the State Address on Monday and unveiled his proposed budget on Friday.