Arizona Gov. Ducey called on to keep promise, address school spending cap
PHOENIX — A bipartisan group of state lawmakers says Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has failed to keep his promise to call a special session so they can vote to lift a spending cap that prevents schools from accessing money already allocated to them.
They point out K-12 public schools throughout Arizona risk having to cut $1.4 billion from their budgets if the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) is not lifted in the next few months.
“Gov. Ducey, all we’re asking you to do is to do your job and keep your promise,” State Sen. Sean Bowie (D-Tempe) said at a press conference Thursday.
He explained that the governor’s office promised him Ducey would call a special session if Democrats voted for the state budget back in June. The state budget was approved with bipartisan support.
“This budget required Democratic votes to pass, and our caucus would’ve never supported it without this promise from the governor,” Bowie said.
A Ducey spokesman told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the governor is working with lawmakers to address this issue.
“The governor made significant investments in K-12 education, and he would like schools to have access to those funds,” the spokesman stated.
State Rep. Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) said at Thursday’s press conference she has done as the governor has asked, which is to provide a list of state lawmakers who’ve committed to support lifting the AEL.
“That list was given to the governor’s office in October,” Udall said. “These votes have been confirmed and reconfirmed before and after the election. We have the votes. All we need is for Gov. Ducey to follow through on the promise he made.”
However, at least one leader in the state Legislature believes the votes are not there.
A spokeswoman for Senate President Karen Fann said in a statement that Fann supports a special session to address the AEL.
“However, our members would need to know what the exact language in a bill on the issue would look like before taking a vote count to know whether or not it would pass,” the statement said.
“We have some members who would like education accountability attached to the bill, while others would like some election integrity legislation included if the governor does call a special session.”
Udall disagrees, saying she believes there are enough votes.
Lawmakers have until the end of March to waive the cap. Otherwise, schools will have to cut their budgets by about 18%.
Michael Wright, superintendent of Blue Ridge Unified School District in Pinetop-Lakeside, spoke at Thursday’s press conference about the impact this would have on schools in his district. He said it could lead to layoffs, programs getting cut and even school closures.
“I’ve heard it said this: You can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to show up,” Wright said. “Governor, we need you to show up and help us.”