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Arizona House Democrats reject ‘inadequate’ budget, school plan

Teachers wave the hands instead of applauding as state senators debate a budget negotiated by majority Republicans and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey Thursday, May 3, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. The budget gives teachers big raises but falls short of their demands for better school funding. The teachers, in the sixth day of walk outs, have agreed to return to the classroom once the budget has been approved by the legislature.(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — While Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey celebrated signing a budget bill Thursday that will include funding for schools and raises for teachers, House Democrats said the measure was “inadequate” and “unsustainable.”

Democratic lawmakers voted unanimously against the school bill, approved by the Republican Senate after hours of late-night debate, and by the House shortly afterward.

Ducey signed the $10.4 billion budget plan around 6:30 a.m. It will provide about $300 million in raises for teachers, who had walked off the job a week ago, crowding the the state Capitol for several days in protest.

The funding promised 10 percent salary hikes for educators starting next year, half of the 20 percent the governor said they would have by 2020.

But the education package fell short of teachers’ demands for move overall school funding.

The budget will provide a partial restoration of the nearly $400 million made in cuts before the recession.

“Without a new, dedicated and sustainable revenue source, this proposal for a pay increase for educators will not be sustainable through 2021,” Minority Leader Rebecca Rios said in the Democrats’s response to the budget.

Rep. Randy Friese of Tucson agreed.

“Republicans and Gov. Ducey wrote a check this morning that we very likely can’t cover beyond one year,” Friese said in the statement.

“Our schools are going to need additional revenue that the legislature can’t take away. Our own economic experts predict only a $2 million cushion by 2021, which means if the predictions are off even by a little bit — if there’s any economic slowdown no matter how small — our budget would be thrown wildly out of balance and the pay raises for educators would be jeopardized.”

Ducey tweeted after the bill had passed, “This is a big win for Arizona students, teachers and for public education.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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