Arizona is in a much better position – financially and otherwise – than at this time last year.
We’ve recovered 100% of all jobs lost during the pandemic. Arizonans are making more money. And thanks to the passage of the largest income tax cut in state history, they get to keep more of their money.
Our economy is roaring. There’s no question about it. But we have work to do for the future of our state – especially for our children.
We must get our kids caught up
We have fought hard to get our kids in the classroom and keep them there. Think about what our kids have gone through. Frequent disruptions to learning. A perpetual focus placed on masks – and not nearly enough on math.
Last year, just 38% of students passed the statewide English Language Arts test, and only 31% passed the math test. Less than a third of kids are passing math, and some school boards want to return to online learning? No one with any sense should consider this a reasonable option.
Luckily for our kids, we’re going to listen to parents – not fear-mongers. We launched our Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program earlier this year, which funds up to $7,000 for child care, transportation, online tutoring and school tuition.
Our budget builds on this program and works to get our children back on track. We’re dedicating $100 million toward this effort, with more available to meet additional demand. This funding will help launch the “AZ Back on Track” Summer Camp, an eight-week program that will get our kids caught up in math, reading and civics.
We need to help our students make up ground – now – and this program is our best chance for them to catch up on much of what they’ve missed during the last two turbulent years.
Secure our water future for 100 years
As we get our kids caught up and prepare them for their futures, we must also look at the future of our most valuable resource – water. We have more citizens, more jobs and more cutting-edge businesses than when we took office seven years ago.
More growth means we need to pay more attention to water. Our state uses less water than it did in 1957 – with more than six times the population and 16 times the economy – but we must always keep our most precious resource at the top of our minds.
That’s why our budget not only prioritizes water, it proposes the most ambitious water investment in our state’s history – $1 billion.
Protect our border communities
As we build toward the future, we must also focus on the needs of the present. For Arizona, that means taking additional action to secure our border.
Last year, we deployed the National Guard to our border and invested $55 million in the budget for this support mission.
But more action is needed. The wall and physical barriers work, but we can do more in the meantime. Our budget will invest $50 million for boots on the ground, physical barriers, detention and prosecution.
This year’s budget also allocates funding to establish the American Governors’ Border Strike Force, an interstate agreement designed to protect our communities from dangerous criminal organizations.
Support our health care workers
Just as we’re taking matters into our own hands with the border crisis, we’ve done the same with the public health crisis.
Thanks to a national model for mass-vaccination sites, we’ve distributed more than 10 million doses of the vaccine to men and women across our state. Nearly 100% of Arizonans 65 or older – our most vulnerable – have gotten a shot. Two-thirds of our entire population has, too.
Although the vaccine is widely available to anyone who wants it, we still face serious challenges in health care. Our hospitals are straining, and we must ensure that all Arizonans in need of care can receive it.
In addition to ongoing funding to help with staffing shortages and other challenges caused by COVID-19, our budget invests more than $25 million to expand the Accelerated Nursing Academy – a 12-month program compared to the standard 48 months needed to become a nurse. This will help get more nurses into hospitals to care for Arizonans.
The best part about our budget is that we can make all these investments while once again cutting taxes, paying down debt and topping off our rainy-day fund. Hard-working Arizonans have been through so much these past two years. The least we can do – at a time when inflation is at its worst in 40 years – is give them back the money that belonged to them in the first place.
Arizona is in the best financial position it’s ever been. And once we pass this budget, we will raise the bar once again.