As the second week of the new legislative session ends, I see a glass that is both half full -- and half empty.
We anticipate another state budget surplus of nearly $1 billion, and the Governor indicated in his proposed 2021 budget that he wants to allocate considerable new funding for public education. Funding is proposed to go to additional counselors and to fully restore District Additional Assistance (DAA) for district and charter schools, which covers capital needs such as technology, desks, building repairs and textbooks. DAA funds, which are part of the school funding formula, were cut severely during the recession, and our schools paid a price. Since 2009, schools have lost out on over $2 billion in DAA funds, leaving them unable to purchase updated materials, maintain aging buildings or replace old school buses. While this year's restoration of DAA funds is a very positive step, it still does not provide enough to address all deferred projects and critical needs that accumulated since the Great Recession.
The Governor’s budget would also invest some much-needed funds in community colleges and state universities, and one-time revenues would be used to replace several bridges in rural Arizona and widen I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson.
It’s a good start, and there will be bipartisan support for many of the Governor’s proposals, but these investments still do not restore per pupil funding for K-12 to pre-recession levels. Population increases and the cost of inflation require a greater commitment to our public schools that will require additional, sustainable and equitable funding. Access to affordable, quality healthcare for all Arizonans remains another elusive goal. And we now know that we must also prioritize the critical needs for more affordable housing and ground water management. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget misses the opportunity to take more meaningful steps and make more long-term investments.
As the session continues through these next few months, I look forward to robust debates over our varying legislative and budget priorities and I will keep you informed on any important developments.
I am ranking member of the House Health and Human Services Committee and I invite you to sit in on any of our committee hearings, scheduled at 9 am every Thursday. Spending time at the Capitol is always a learning experience and while you are there, you can sign up for Request to Speak in the lobby of the House of Representatives, which will allow you to weigh in on bills online from your home.
I have re-introduced my bill to offer affordable healthcare to individuals through our state Medicaid program but it has not yet been assigned to committee. I continue to advocate for my proposed legislation that could double the number of children eligible for affordable insurance through KidsCare, but so far, the majority party appears uninterested in any expansion of the program. Stay tuned!
I take my role as your state representative very seriously and I have been honored to serve for the past three years. I am running for re-election in 2020 and hope I have earned your continued support. I need hundreds of LD28 voters to sign my online petition to qualify me for the ballot -- you can help by clicking this link to sign my petition online. You'll need your driver's license and you will be offered the opportunity to sign petitions for all candidates you're eligible to support.
Representative Kelli Butler