By Steve Yarbrough (R-Dist 17)
Having grown up on a farm in eastern New Mexico and being the grandson of a ranching family in the same area, I am deeply honored to speak to Arizona's farmers, ranchers and rural leaders about the coming Legislative year.
We can continue to see steady growth in Arizona's economy, but it's not at the rate we've seen in the boom years. State revenue is predicted to be up $320 million from last year, but almost all of that will already be accounted for in formula funding for K-12 education and Medicaid enrollment. Like last year, there is little extra money on the table for new initiatives.
Legislative leadership will continue to make education a top priority. Last session we were able to appropriate an extra $68 million for a 2.1% pay increase to our fine teachers in the state. The Legislature did its level best to get the money in their wallets, but local schools ultimately determine how their money is spent, and unfortunately school districts continue to spend less as a percentage in the classroom each year.
2020 isn't that far off, and that's when Proposition 301 expires. Voters approved that six/tenths of one cent increase in the state sales tax in 2000, and you can bet we'll be hearing a lot of talk about making sure it is extended.
Water is the lifeblood of Arizona's farms and ranches. The Governor formed a water task force, and they could come forward with recommendations that the Legislature would consider.
I'm looking forward to what will be my final session at the Legislature, and I hope to hear from you when you have concerns or questions about what's happening at the State Capitol.
By Katie Hobbs (D-Dist 24)
Senate Minority Leader
We're heading into another election year so brace yourselves for tall tales, stretched truths and straight-up fibs. But you don't need a politician to tell you how Arizona is really doing.
You can see it at your kids' and grandkids' schools where their teachers do heroic work educating them and preparing them to succeed in life, despite earning the lowest salaries in the nation. Learning in buildings that need repair and with outdated textbooks and computers, our kids and their teachers are doing the best they can.
But those in power at the state capitol passed legislation to take public school money and give it to wealthy families in Phoenix and Tucson who send their kids to private schools. Private school isn't even an option in rural Arizona yet your hard-earned tax dollars will pay for their kids' elite schooling. That isn't right.
You can see how Arizona is doing in the jobs listings where opportunities for low wage jobs are growing, but not as much for highly skilled workers. While unemployment may be down, Arizonans deserve to have an education system and business environment that produces top-dollar jobs and the workers who can fill them.
You can see how Arizona is doing by looking at the water flowing from your kitchen faucet and the deals for control of our water supply that are being made behind closed doors in Phoenix. Our state wouldn't be what it is today without access to water and we must protect that access for everyone – agriculture, development, municipalities and recreation. Water is universally critical and should not be politicized. If changes are needed they must be done in a collaborative and transparent way.
You can also see how Arizona is doing by looking at your tax bill. State revenues are in a nose dive but Arizona families sure aren't paying less. It's the corporations and wealthy political donors who have reaped this windfall. That pot-holed road you drive to work on and those underpaid teachers are a direct result of this giveaway.
Arizonans are and always have been industrious, independent and fair people. We take care of ourselves and we look out for each other. But the leaders at the state capitol have made taking care of themselves their top priority. It's time to right that wrong and tell them to look out for those they were elected to serve – the people of Arizona.
By J.D. Mesnard (R-Dist 17)
As we know, Arizona is the greatest place in the country to live and work, but there’s much the Legislature can do to make it even better. Fostering economic growth, ensuring the state has a quality education system, and addressing the opioid crisis are among my legislative priorities for 2018.
The Legislature should enact policies that strengthen the tax and regulatory environment that’s allowed our economy to prosper. Tax reform at the federal level requires us to bring Arizona’s tax code into compliance, and that presents a great opportunity to implement our own pro-growth tax policies to boost the economy. Arizona’s regulatory environment has already made the state a leader in the development of new technologies, like autonomous cars, and the state should do more to reduce unnecessary and cumbersome regulations in other industries.
The Legislature added over $300 million in new spending for K-12 education last year, including a $1,000 raise for most public-school teachers (phased in over two years). That’s a good start, but more resources will be needed to keep our schools and students competitive. Arizona’s K-12 financing system is the most complicated in the country, and too many dollars never make it to the classroom. The Legislature will continue to promote education policies that emphasize classroom resources while empowering parents and students who know what’s in their children’s best interests.
Like the rest of the country, Arizona has been devastated by the opioid epidemic. Governor Ducey made an emergency declaration on the issue last year, and the Legislature must pass legislation this year with measures to stop opioid deaths, control access to these drugs, and prevent opioid addictions.
As the West continues to struggle with persistent drought, Arizona has benefitted greatly from the foresight and planning of past generations of leaders. Governor Ducey’s office began hosting meetings with stakeholders last year to discuss ways to improve the state’s water policy, and the Legislature stands ready to assist as a consensus builds in this vital policy area.
While Arizona will face some serious challenges this year, we will also be presented with some incredible opportunities. I’m confident that the Legislature will be ready to address both and I am excited about what lies ahead for the state in 2018.
By Rebecca Rios (D-Dist 27)
House Minority Leaders
Arizona House Democrats remain committed to advancing policies that will strengthen our state now and into the future. Improving public education and safeguarding positive water policy are two of our top priorities. As a more than $23 billion industry, agriculture is an important contributor to Arizona's economy. We will continue to support policies that foster Arizona's trade infrastructure and workforce development in order to support agriculture and our economy more broadly.
Education will always be a top priority for House Democrats because investing in education is crucial for long-term economic strength. Investing in public education, including K-12 schools and universities, is critical to changing the trajectory of the state. Democrats have prioritized efforts to reduce class sizes, correct the teacher shortage problem and develop long-term solutions that will provide our schools the resources they need. And our schools need more robust and sustainable funding than they have received in recent years. Agriculture benefits, along with every other industry in Arizona, from reliable and skilled workers. House Democrats have been, and will continue be, the champions of public education and Arizona’s teachers and students.
House Democrats are also committed to ensuring that Arizona's water future is secure. It is of the utmost importance in Arizona that our water is managed sustainably, as both our climate and our economy demand an approach that balances current and future needs. We know that good water policy cannot be static and Democrats will continue to work for policy changes that support the livelihoods of as many Arizonans as possible. It is my hope that our state's historical process for developing water policy through consensus is not abandoned for political expedience; water is too important to let politics get in the way of common sense.
House Democrats have a clear vision for improving our state. And because we know that robust and sensible state policies will be critical in safeguarding Arizona's economic strength, we stand ready to work with our colleagues in the Arizona House and Senate to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and improve our schools.Join Our Family