The Arizona Republic’s politics team discusses teachers’ “boat parade,” a protest for pay raises; the upcoming state budget; and what’s up with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
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The Republic’s political team on April 25, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including the protests surrounding the future of school vouchers and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s donation controversy.
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The Republic’s political team on April 18, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including 2018 candidates, Sen. Jeff Flake’s town hall and how a bill to require child-welfare officials to get warrants fell apart.
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The Republic’s political team on April 11, 2017, talks about “zombie” health care reform in Congress, and the expansion of the school voucher program headed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
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The Republic’s political team on April 4, 2017, talks about the state of the filibuster and the latest on Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s “Show Me the Money” campaign.
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The Republic’s political team on March 28, 2017, talks about funding for teacher raises in the state budget, what comes next after the non-vote on the ‘Obamacare’ repeal bill in Congress and proposed restrictions on citizen initiatives in Arizona.
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The Republic’s political team on March 21, 2017, talks about the possible impact on the president’s blueprint for a budget, and the lack of female representation in Arizona’s legislative leadership.
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The Republic’s political team on March 14, 2017, talks about how much of Arizona’s delegation has been quiet about the “Obamacare” replacement, but even Republicans don’t seem to like it.
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The Republic’s political team on March 8, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including a failed tax-cut bill, a congressman’s tweets and how a former state senator isn’t working at the White House after all.
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The Republic’s political team on March 1, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including the state of Senate Bill 1142 and the rowdy crowds at U.S. Rep. Martha McSally’s Town Hall.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 21, 2017, talks about recent political news, including Trump’s Arizona announcement about Intel, McCain and Obamacare, and House Bill 2404 targeting voter initiatives.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 6, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including how much debt is too much for the state and which lawmaker wants to be shot.
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The Gaggle: Teachers protesting, a budget afoot and what’s up with Stanton?
The Gaggle: Voucher vote, Arizona university funding
The Gaggle: DCS warrants and Flake gets scorched
The Gaggle: Health care in Congress and school voucher expansion
The Gaggle: Is the filibuster busted and will Michele Reagan show us the money?
The Gaggle: Teacher raises, ACA repeal and ballot initiatives
The Gaggle: Federal budget and few women in the Legislature
The Gaggle: Obamacare replacement, George W. in town and TANF benefits
The Gaggle: Tax that did not get cut, tweets from Gosar and a non-job
The Gaggle: SB 1142 is dead and town halls get rowdy
The Gaggle: Bigfooted, McCain and HB 2404
The Gaggle: How much debt is too much?
The fate of a $1 billion bonding plan for Arizona’s public universities — a central demand of Gov. Doug Ducey — remained uncertain ahead of key Thursday votes at the Legislature.
Days of behind-the-scenes deal-making had gathered more Republican support, including after a small income-tax cut was added to the proposed budget that lawmakers are expected to also vote on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in full public view, the Legislature’s budget committees held marathon hearings Wednesday on the 10-bill state-budget package, a $9.8 billion spending plan covering everything from schools to health care to tax cuts.
The bills passed with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed.
Republicans appeared to broadly support the proposed budget, which is separate from, but negotiated in tandem with, the university bonding plan.
Democrats in the House and Senate committees opposed the bonding plan, saying they wanted 4 percent raises for K-12 teachers next year instead of the 2 percent the GOP is offering over two years. Other Democrats said their support would be conditional on the budget providing more money for public schools.
A legal threat?
Wednesday’s votes came as Eileen Klein, the president of the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the state universities, said denying universities the money could trigger legal action over the schools’ capital and maintenance needs.
Rather than “going the route of litigation, we’d rather work in partnership” with state leaders, she told lawmakers.
It was the first suggestion that the plan’s failure could prompt legal action.
Asked about her remarks, she told The Arizona Republic: “We have a growing liability — the state has a growing liability — close to $700 million now in formula-funding that’s due the universities to maintain the buildings. And, at some point, the regents and the university community is really going to have to evaluate whether we’re going to have to seek recourse because the Constitution requires the Legislature to provide for a university system and people are seriously questioning whether the Legislature is keeping up with their end of the bargain.”
Klein said Senate Bill 1532, the university-funding measure, would be a “major step forward” toward addressing such concerns.
Budget impact unclear
It was unclear how the bonding measure’s fate will affect the state budget, specifically whether the governor would sign the budget should the universities not receive the additional funds.
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said he would likely proceed with votes on the budget even if the bond bill fails. He added that any suggestion of legal action by the universities is “probably not the way to inspire votes.”
Heading into what is expected to be a decisive day on the budget on Thursday, Mesnard said the outcome was unknown.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I could say if it fails, by all appearances, and the most likely outcome, is that there’s no bonding for universities. … I have a hard time seeing us start all over” on the budget.
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Ducey, said the governor was confident the bonding bill could pass and would not speculate on what would happen if it did not.
Klein and other education officials crisscrossed the Capitol touting the value of the bonding plan, saying it would more than pay for itself by luring additional grants and business opportunities to the state.
Even so, Republicans appeared several votes shy of a majority in the 60-member House. As of early Wednesday, Senate Republicans were two votes short of passage, according to Senate President Steve Yarbrough.
Odd political dynamic
The day created an odd political dynamic with the usual Republican-Democratic split on issues reversed.
Republicans rallied to support a version of the bonding issue they initially opposed, while Democrats could help defeat additional university funding by holding out for additional resources for K-12 education.
Rep. Anthony Kern, a Republican from Glendale, was one of the holdouts. He said he remained a no vote in part because he thinks the Legislature will be “giving away” the people’s power if it gives away state money. He also said “a lot” of university funding is “mismanaged on things, that in my philosophical world, I do not agree with.”
“We can turn on our TV and see what the universities around our country, not just Arizona, are producing — look at (University of California) Berkeley. That’s an example of what our universities are producing,” Kern said.
Publicly, Democrats remained opposed to the plan because Republicans had not made concessions to gain their support. But the GOP leaders may be counting on some Democrats — especially those in districts that include the universities — to support the bonding plan.
Democratic Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson said his party had tried to negotiate with Ducey and Republican leadership, citing the 4 percent teacher raises and full restoration of a cash-aid program for the poor.
Instead of negotiating, Farley said, Ducey is “fighting it because we’re Democrats and he doesn’t want to negotiate with Democrats.”
Crow: Won’t affect tuition
The proposed bonding plan would provide the schools with money over 25 years to help pay bonds to finance construction of research facilities at the state’s universities. The plan would specifically bar using the bonds for sports facilities.
The state would provide $27 million in the first year and that could grow to $43 million by 2043.
Arizona State University would stand to receive $11.9 million in the beginning. University of Arizona would get $10.6 million and Northern Arizona University would receive $4.5 million.
The schools would have to provide matching funds to help pay off their debts.
ASU President Michael Crow told lawmakers that money would not come from higher tuition, saying philanthropy or the school’s business partnerships could help provide the needed cash.
Crow argued that the bonding plan would allow ASU to continue raising its national profile as a research institution and said a similar building plan 15 years ago was a windfall to the state.
“We believe the return to the state’s economy is at least 15 to 1,” Crow told the Senate.
Other issues arise
The public seemed largely indifferent to the budget process.
Few people testified on the budget spending plans on the one day lawmakers gave them to offer input. That was a break from years past, when budget cuts brought scores of protesters to the Legislature.
In other action, the budget committees:
- Approved a bill that would remove gang-enforcement dollars from Maricopa County, a move Democrats saw as a partisan swipe at new Sheriff Paul Penzone, a Democrat.
But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the $1.6 million is intended to help fight illegal immigration, something he said Penzone has signaled he has no interest in doing.
Most of the money, however, would go to testing rape kits, not immigration enforcement. The bill directs money not spent on rape kits to Pima County, which just elected a Republican sheriff after years of a Democratic administration.
- Approved a plan that would build on Ducey’s plan to index the personal exemption on the individual income tax to inflation. GOP Reps. Tony Rivero of Phoenix and Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale won approval for their plan to increase the exemption, currently $2,100, by $50 for this tax year and to $2,200 for tax year 2018.
With GOP support for the higher limits, the two holdouts on the university-bonding proposal said they would support the entire budget package.
- Approved $33 million in increased funding for non-profit groups that provide services to developmentally disabled individuals. The vote came as advocates for the groups argued they needed as much as $17 million more to cover the higher costs of coping with the state’s minimum-wage law, which will require firms to supply paid sick leave as of July 1 and raise the minimum pay to $10.50 in January.
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