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Gov. Doug Ducey signs $9.8 billion Arizona state budget package

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed a $9.8 billion state budget that provides a $500 pay raise to public school teachers, adds cash bonuses for high-performing K-12 schools and authorizes the state’s three public universities to borrow up to $1 billion for repairs and new construction.

The 11-bill package that makes up the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 also accounts for an $11 million income tax cut that will net individual taxpayers less than $5 but helps Ducey fulfill a promise to cut taxes every year.

Other provisions in the budget package include requiring the state to oversee federal family planning money and barring Planned Parenthood Arizona from receiving the $2 million it received this year.

Planned Parenthood provides contraceptives, cancer screenings and other non-abortion services to about 20,000 patients a year at five clinics with the money.

The biggest item is the budget is $4.2 billion for K-12 schools, followed by $1.8 billion for Medicaid, $1.05 billion for state prisons, $700 million for the state’s three public universities and $585 million for social services.

Ducey touted his new investment in K-12 public education, saying he was pumping $34 million into teacher raises this year and a like amount next year, $37 million for top performing schools and $8 million for expanded all-day kindergarten, plus money for new schools and other education needs.

In all, the budget provides an additional $163 million in school spending above increases required by law to adjust for inflation.

The budget Ducey hammered out with Republicans who control the Legislature also restores $30 million for local highways that he hadn’t included in his January budget proposal and adds spending for prison recidivism programs.

“I’m proud to say these investments will make an immediate and lasting difference for students and teachers in Arizona, in our rural communities, and for those looking for a second chance,” Ducey said in a statement.

“With this budget, we are targeting dedicated resources toward teacher raises, early literacy education, and programs that work. And we are doing it all without raising taxes on hardworking Arizonans.”

The education community and Democrats dispute that the extra money for schools is enough. They note that Arizona teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, and the 1 percent paid raise included in the budget is a pittance.

The Legislature’s own analysis shows per-student state funding is currently $4,529, compared with $4,949 in 2008. Adjusted for inflation, the current figure equals $3,911 per student in 2008 dollars, or 20 percent lower.

Democrats were pushing for a 4 percent increase and a full restoration of welfare cuts the governor embraced in 2015, but Ducey declined to budge.

Instead, Ducey worked to get conservative Republicans on board by agreeing to a larger income tax cut, an extra $2 million for conservative-backed “freedom school” programs at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona and a university lobbying ban. He also agreed to a requirement that cities place tax-raising measures only on even-year general election ballots.

Democrats said Republicans failed to consider their proposals.

“Republicans instead focused on protecting special interests with a budget that leaves students, teachers and struggling families behind, and ensures that the rich will continue to get richer,” the party said in a statement.

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