Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey releases budget proposal for 2017

Jan 15, 2016, 1:30 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey released his budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year on Friday, as he put firm numbers behind policies he outlined in this week’s State of the State address.

The bottom-line budget under the proposal released Friday increases about $300 million, from $9.2 billion this budget year to $9. 5 billion in the year beginning July 1.

The budget included an additional $106 million in funding for K-12 education, $14 million in ongoing spending for university funding and allocated an additional $31.5 million to expand the border strike force to crack down on drug trafficking along the Arizona-Mexico border.

The budget plan provides required inflation and student growth increases of $46.5 million, plus another $44 million for new initiatives.

Those include a $30 million, three-year program to increase technical education, $6 million for schools that boost college prep courses and more than $410 million in all for a new education data system.

The increases to technical education are targeted to specific programs and won’t make up for a $30 million cut enacted last year that will hit technical schools starting in July. Lawmakers in both parties said that puts the many of the state’s special technical education high school districts at risk and they want that money restored.

“The superintendents I talk to say unless they get the full $30 million by March 15 they will be shutting down,” said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson. “It’s flabbergasting that he would think to put this thing on a death spiral.”

Eileen Klein, president of the Board of Regents, said universities need to be the top priority if higher education is to remain affordable, but seemed pleased that cuts were off the table this year.

“Our reaction is first and foremost that the governor is no longer cutting the universities and is instead now reinvesting new state dollars into the university system,” she said.

The proposed budget also included spending $27.5 million on corrections, with $17.6 million allocated toward 1,000 medium custody beds, $9.8 million for inmate health care adjustment and $1 million for retirement contribution adjustment.

Ducey’s statewide hiring freeze imposed last January is expected to save the state nearly $8 million for the 2017 year.

In a statement, Ducey said the budget will allow a greater amount of resources to be allocated to departments such as child safety and education while not raising taxes.

“We have a moral and legal obligation to pass a balanced budget and, just as importantly, we have a responsibility to protect our most vital commitments and vulnerable citizens,” the statement read.

The Republican governor faced an estimated $1 billion shortfall in the budget year that began July 1, but after the budget passed last March revenues began soaring.

Economist Glenn Farley said there has been $9.2 billion in general fund ongoing revenue for the 2016 fiscal year, a number that will grow to $10.2 billion in 2019 for the first time since the Great Recession.

Jordan Dale, budget analyst with the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, said Ducey’s budget reached several goals, including a balanced budget, maintaining long-term health of the general fund and spending responsibly.

Senate President Andy Biggs said in a statement he is “pleased” with Gov. Ducey’s ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low in this year’s proposed budget.

“I am pleased to once again hear the governor’s commitment to a structurally-balanced budget, while we also meet the pressing needs of our state,” the statement read. “This session we will work responsibly to spend within our means and make choices that will grow the economy and enhance opportunity for Arizonans.”

House Speaker David Gowan said in a statement lawmakers will work hard for Arizona taxpayers to keep taxes low and opportunity at an “all-time high.”

“I am committed to keeping this state out of the red and on a fiscally stable path,” the statement read. “I look forward to working with Governor Ducey, President Biggs and the legislature to get this done.”

This year the treasury is expected to have $555 million in cash when the fiscal year ends, although just $218 million is ongoing revenue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey releases budget proposal for 2017