Governor Ducey released his FY2022 executive budget plan, which provides details around his policy priorities outlined in the State of the State of the Address. The “recovery-focused” proposal makes over $12.6 billion in strategic investments in K-12 education, public health, public safety, wildfire prevention, infrastructure and more. That’s about 7% over the current year’s spending.
Thanks to the state’s strong fiscal health, employment recovery and last year’s adoption of the “Skinny Budget” that continued FY20 expenditures into FY21, Arizona revenues have exceeded last year’s projections by almost $920 million (or 15%). What’s more, the governor expects continued economic growth this year of about 8%. This better-than-expected revenue performance is buoyed by $1 billion sitting in the rainy-day fund and over $35 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds granted to Arizona.
Not surprisingly, the governor remains committed to K-12 education with a keen focus this year on closing the achievement gap created by the pandemic. With a combined federal and state funding commitment of $2.2 billion, the budget invests:
$389 million for high-impact intervention and programming;
$250 million in new K-12 public education initiatives including $10 million for school transportation innovations; $6.9 million in early literacy learning; $4.4 million to scale innovative programs that serve vulnerable students; and $2 million to create two new civics education programs; and,
$172 million for schools, to go toward building repairs, renovations and new construction.
Other high priority items in the governor’s budget include $3.3 million to hire new long-term care surveyors to address high caseloads and backlog; $18 million to fund the continuation of the Child Care Waitlist and a new pilot program that provides child care to children of parents pursuing education and nursing degrees; $2.9 million to reduce investigator caseload for the Department of Economic Security Adult Protective Services; $6 million for opioid substance abuse treatments; $8 million for wildfire suppression and $173 million in capital expenditures to repair, renovate or construct facilities statewide.
Finally, consistent with Governor Ducey’s desire to make government work better, his 2022 spending plan similarly invests in smart policies on cybersecurity, broadband and technology modernization. Here are some highlights of Governor Ducey’s budget:
$495,200 to expand the capacity of the Arizona National Guard Cyber Response Team, which will improve statewide cyber preparedness and emergency response;
$13.8 million to purchase body cameras for all Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers;
$16.2 million for critical updates to the statewide land mobile radio network, with additional investment in FY23 and FY24;
$7.8 million for continued development of a Business One-Stop web portal to help companies and individuals start Arizona businesses;
$10 million for broadband grants to local partnerships that demonstrate the ability to improve broadband services in underserved rural communities;
$375,900 to establish a state enterprise-wide hoteling pilot program in response to the significant increase in remote workers;
$33.1 million to fund a major expansion of the I-40 West broadband corridor, in addition to $40 million in federal CARES Act funding for the I-19 and I-17 broadband corridors;
$2 million for costs associated with relocating the state data center in Tucson to a private facility; and,
$7.2 million to the Department of Education for funding of a multi-year project to replace the school finance system.
Governor Ducey’s budget is only a financial recommendation. Now it is up to the legislature to debate which projects receive funding. With the slim Republican majority in both legislative chambers and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hope that the legislature and governor are able to come to an agreement on a meaningful budget package.