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WE GOT A PRETTY GOOD BUDGET BUCKET!


There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Lisa!

Harry Belafonte


After all the drama of the last few weeks, the legislature finally got down to budget business last Monday. Unfortunately, the same types of behavior we’ve seen all year played out in both committees and on the floor. Budget bills were introduced in both chambers. Rules were changed so the minority party, who had just seen the full budget, could not ask the usual questions in committee. The senate worked late on Tuesday into Wednesday morning so a vote could be taken after midnight fulfilling the requirement for a final vote to be taken on or after the third day from the bill’s introduction.

The budget contains some great funding pieces. The price to pay for those pieces was very steep with millions of dollars going toward pet projects: The Freedom Caucus pooled their millions for tax rebates. Plus there was no cap placed on vouchers for private/home school use. Voucher talk was a non-starter for republicans. Once again no money was appropriated for vouchers. If projections hold true, there could be close to a one billon dollar hit to the general fund next school year. Let’s hope that does not happen as other programs will be trying to get something out of a dry bucket. The budget contained both ongoing and one -time funding. The one-time funding came from the 2.8 billion surplus, mostly from covid money not spent in the Ducey administration. This was the money given for pet projects and a few other one-time expenses.

Below are some of the new items in the state budget and a few of the horse trading conditions agreed upon.


Tax rebates for families with dependents. $260 million (Freedom Caucus request)

· Families with dependents who were under age 17 by the end of 2021 would receive a one-time $250 tax rebate per child, capped at three dependents or $750. Those with dependents age 17 and up as of December 2021 would qualify for a $100 rebate per dependent, also capped at three. The rebates are intended to compensate for the effects of inflation on family budgets.

There are a host of provisions and quirks. One provision is that rebate eligibility demands a person paid taxes. This disqualifies the extremely poor. Other people could get back more than they paid in taxes.


Education

· Public schools currently get an automatic 2% yearly increase for inflation. The budget would permanently increase it to $2.9%.

· $300 million one time money with flexible use.

· The budget earmarks $183 million for grants to public schools for repair and maintenance. The state is currently subject to a class action lawsuit over inattention to school upkeep, but the courtroom action is on hold after the Hobbs administration started negotiations.

· $10 million establishes a grant program for arts teachers to use for art and music supplies. Grants are for $1,000 per teacher.

· New disclosure requirements for vouchers and a House voucher study committee.

· The Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) cap is lifted for the 2023-24 school year.

· $15 million rebate for certain students in H.S. dual enrollment programs


Children’s Health Insurance

· A change in eligibility for KidsCare will expand coverage to 9,500 (FY24) and 12,000 (FY25) children of low-income families


Water spending adjustments

· This year’s budget adjusted the money to be spent in the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA). The $333 million appropriated last year was adjusted down and directed to other water projects.


Housing and Homelessness

· $150 million given to the Housing Trust Fund

· $60 million allocated to homeless shelters and service providers


Infrastructure

· The new infrastructure amount budgeted for $650 million includes over $500 million in pet projects on roads requested by individual lawmakers. This is unusual as projects are generally on a 5 year schedule but most of these “requests” were in exchange for the member’s YES vote.


Research Money

· $15 million is appropriated to fund grants of $5 million each for research into certain mushrooms with promise for helping with PTSD

· $550,000 to Department of Health Services (DHS) for Alzheimer’s research.

· $964,000 to DHS for an Alzheimer’s plan and public awareness campaign


Adoption Cost help

· Adoption costs up to $40,000 can be deducted from state tax liability.


Dept of Public Safety

· $41.1 million to upgrade State Trooper radios


Security Grants

· Non-profits at risk of hate crimes can apply for security grants up to $100,000. A total of $5 million was appropriated.


Many ongoing state agency expenses were funded at previous years’ levels causing some turmoil, especially in the Attorney General and Secretary of State Office.

Depending who you ask, people generally like the overall budget but dislike a variety of provisions depending on their expenditure focus.

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