State lawmakers worked overnight and passed a $15.6 billion budget in the early morning hours of June 23

Arizona Capitol dome/Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy |Arizona Mirror

UPDATE: Arizona’s budget gives extra funds to schools, roads and water projects in bipartisan effort

By Mary Jo Pitzl, Ray Stern, Stacey Barchenger |Arizona Republic

Arizona lawmakers worked through the night to pass a nearly $18 billion state budget early Thursday that used an extraordinary surplus to boost K-12 funding, eliminate pension debt and launch myriad road projects.

While the dark-to-dawn budget process was nothing new for the Legislature, the bipartisan votes to pass the spending plan were. Republicans, who control legislative leadership, typically only have needed their members to pass a budget, while Democrats have typically been a united opposition bloc.

But matters were different this year as a handful of Republicans dug in to object to a budget they said spent too much.

After an attempt in April to launch a GOP-only budget failed, House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he would turn to Democrats for support, noting the price tag would only grow.

He was right: The budget sent to Gov. Doug Ducey has nearly $18 billion in spending, compared with the $13 billion budget that was in place this year. The $18 billion includes more than $2 billion in sales tax dollars earmarked for specific projects.

Lopsided majorities of both Republicans and Democrats approved the budget, which will take effect next week, when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Highlights include:

$1.25 billion for state debt and pension obligations.

$334 million for water projects as the first installment on a three-year, $1 billion water investment.

10% pay raises for state workers, with even more for certain occupations.

$1 billion to pave the  way for a laundry list of road projects across the state.

$425 million for the state’s rainy-day fund, which already tops $1 billion. Lawmakers said this will provide protection against future recessions.

$1 billion in new money for K-12 education, including $526 million more for base funding, which gives school districts the greatest flexibility in how to use the money.

The new Arizona state budget includes extra money for water projects across the state.

The base increase for schools is an 8.8% hike, which covers the cost of inflation, leading some Democrats to complain it barely advances the schools’ fortunes.


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