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Arizona Democrats release $12.5 billion state budget proposal

(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — Arizona Democrats on Monday released their $12.5 billion state budget proposal, which they said was crafted with the citizens of Arizona in mind.

“This budget, the people’s budget, invests in people and infrastructure in ways that lifts people up, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and builds a strong economy from the ground up,” House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez said during a press conference.

Education is a big focus of the Democrats’ proposal.

It calls for $203.3 million to fully restore additional assistance for K-12 public schools, which are flexible dollars schools can use to meet their needs. The funds were cut amid the Great Recession.

Gov. Doug Ducey included that same amount for additional assistance funding in his latest budget proposal.

Democrats also are requesting more than $200 million to cover pay raises for school support staff, including librarians and bus drivers, and education programs. They also want nearly $126 million for school repairs and $147 million to make universities and community colleges more affordable.

There’s also a request for $154.3 million to maintain and fix highways, roads and bridges.

“The bottom line is infrastructure investment makes our communities safer and more economically competitive while creating jobs in the short term,” said Randy Friese, House assistant minority leader.

Democrats also included in their state budget $124.7 million for health care and social services programs, $78.8 million for housing programs and $28.5 million for environmental programs.

They’re also calling for funding for programs that benefit children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

“This is not a nanny state budget,” said Senate Minority Leader David Bradley. “It is one that lifts people up when necessary and gets out of their way to let them grow as they see fit.”

Bradley said their budget would not raise taxes to cover the additional funding they’re requesting. Instead, it would roll back some credits and programs he said “do not fairly distribute the resources of our state.”

This comes after Ducey pledged during his State of the State address last month to oppose any tax increases.

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