Arizona Democratic leaders pan budget plan for lack of school voucher cap

May 9, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

(Facebook Photo/Arizona State Capitol Building)...

(Facebook Photo/Arizona State Capitol Building)

(Facebook Photo/Arizona State Capitol Building)

PHOENIX — Democratic leaders in the Arizona Legislature aren’t satisfied with the budget bills introduced Monday after months of bipartisan negotiations, especially the lack of action to limit the financial impact of last year’s universal school voucher expansion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein and House Minority Leader Andrés Cano released a statement Tuesday saying spiraling Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) costs limit the state’s ability to fund to fund priorities such as education, housing, homelessness and water supply.

Under the ESA expansion passed by Republican lawmakers and signed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey last year, any Arizona family that opts out of the public school system can receive about $6,500 per student to cover private school tuition and other educational expenses.

The original estimated financial impact over the first three years in total was $223.3 million, but Epstein and Cano said projections are already up $600 million just through June 2024.

“Our caucus is committed to three things: (1) Delivering a budget negotiated in good faith that invests in our state’s long-term success in a realistic timeline; (2) Creating a funding structure that protects the ongoing needs of our most dedicated public servants; and (3) Avoiding bankrupting the state with responsible limits on the Republican voucher expansion,” their statement says.

“We continue to work to ensure these priorities cross the finish line and have made tremendous progress over the past several weeks that is reflected in the current bills. But we have also proposed solutions to create a management trigger or at least get a handle on the dangerous exponential growth of ESA vouchers. Those negotiations should continue, not a rushed process and unfinished plan.”

On Monday, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs told reporters the bills were the product of give and take between negotiators on both sides of the aisle.

“We are going to have to give some things up,” she said. “The Republicans are going to have to give some things up, and I think you’ll see that in the bills.”

Hobbs didn’t get into details about what compromises were made, and it’s not clear whether she would sign the current version of the budget if the GOP-led Legislature passes it.

She vetoed a $15.8 million continuation budget sent to her in February, calling it a “partisan exercise.” But the spending bills introduced Monday were the result of months of bipartisan negotiations.

Lawmakers will have until July 1 to pass a budget that Hobbs will sign or face a government shutdown.

Last year, the Legislature didn’t pass a spending plan until June 23. Ducey signed the $18 billion package on June 28.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Pexels Photo)...

Arizona man sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexual abuse of a minor

An Arizona man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexual abuse of a minor, authorities said Tuesday.

22 hours ago

Sean Bickings (Family Photo via city of Tempe)...

Associated Press

Family of man who drowned last year in Tempe Town Lake files wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake a year ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Wednesday, noting that its police department doesn't have a policy requiring officers to go into the water to save someone.

22 hours ago

FILE - Cracked dry mud is seen in a community reservoir that ran nearly empty after its retaining w...

Brandon Gray

BLM to invest over $15M in Arizona for landscape restoration project

The Bureau of Land Management has selected Arizona for its “Restoration Landscapes” project. 

22 hours ago

(AP Photo/Alberto Mariani, File)...

Associated Press

Former Arizona official who claimed election deniers made work ‘toxic’ gets $130K settlement

A former elections official for a rural Arizona county where leaders have embraced election conspiracy theories has received a $130,000 settlement over toxic work environment claims.

22 hours ago

The stretch of 12th Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets at the Zone homeless encampment...

Kevin Stone

2nd block cleared out in Phoenix’s Zone homeless encampment

A second block at the Zone homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix was cleared Wednesday as enhanced cleanup operations continue.

22 hours ago

Booking photo for Melissa Larue, who was released from the hospital and taken to jail after getting...

Woman shot by Phoenix officers last week jailed after release from hospital

A woman shot by police officers in Phoenix last week has been released from the hospital and taken to jail, authorities said.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Arizona Democratic leaders pan budget plan for lack of school voucher cap