PHOENIX — If one thing is for certain, it’s that Arizona had a very good year financially.
That was the mood at the state capitol when Governor Doug Ducey’s office unveiled the details of his $12.3 billion budget proposal, much of which the governor highlighted in his State of the State address on Monday.
Backed by an expected $763 million surplus from the current fiscal year, the governor prioritized increased investments in education, corrections, public safety, and infrastructure, in addition to putting a further $25 million in the state’s rainy-day fund, a move that had legislative Democrats crying foul.
Here are some of the highlights:
20x2020: Ducey has made no secret that one of his top priorities has been the 20% increase in teacher pay by 2020, known as 20x2020, that he signed into law in 2018. The released budget plan provides an additional $175 million to fulfill this commitment.
“Project Rocket": A further $44 million will be used for “Project Rocket”, a program Ducey talked about at his State of the State address that would provide a $150-per-pupil boost to schools that are rated “C” by the state Department of Education’s grading system and include a student body that has a 60%+ participation in the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program, as well as all schools rated at “D” and “F”.
Safe Arizona Schools: $38 million is allocated to a grant program that is aimed at providing schools an additional full-time position for a social worker, school counselor, or school resource officer. While the grant program has already been in effect, there was not enough money to fulfill all of the requests. The governor’s office says that this additional money is to fund the remaining 461 requests.
Prison Locks Replacement: $48 million is set aside to replace the locking, fire, and HVAC systems in Lewis and Yuma prisons. This follows $16.5 million that was approved last year by the Joint committee on Capital Review to begin the project. ABC15 has reported extensively on the problems of inmates freely opening and closing their own cell doors.
Florence Prison: $33 million will begin what the governor’s office calls a multi-phased approach with the end goal of closing the state’s oldest prison in Florence. The increase would be used to fund additional bed capacity management space that the state would need in order to accommodate the relocation of inmates currently housed at Florence. The governor argues that this move would eliminate $152 - $400 million in maintenance cost for Florence, as well as end a staff vacancy issue at neighboring Eyman prison. His office indicated that staff levels would not be impacted by the move.
Wrong-Way and Impaired Drivers: Data provided in the governor’s report shows a 156% increase in DUI arrests since 2008. His plan gives $13 million to programs designed to combat DUI and wrong-way driving events such as six new DUI Squad Troopers and 76 new thermal cameras to detect wrong-way driving.
Body Cameras: The governor’s office has committed to equipping every DPS officer in the state with a body camera. His budget proposal provides $5 million in additional funding to accomplish this.
Expansion of I-10: $28 million would go toward expanding 28 miles of I-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande to six lanes. This would also include a bridge over the Gila River.
Broadband Connectivity: $59 million would be used to lay over 500 miles of plastic conduit line along Arizona’s highways that could be used by broadband providers to bring internet connectivity to some of the state’s most rural communities.