Jeremy Duda discusses education spending, county breakup bills
Feb. 16, 2022
The Arizona House yesterday passed a one-time override to an education spending cap that if not addressed would mean state schools would be unable to spend money that they already have budgeted. With passage in the House, the bill now awaits action in the Senate. Earlier today, we got the latest from Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror in our weekly legislative update.
“The bill passed fairly easily in the House,” Duda said. “In the Senate things aren’t so easy.”
The bill requires 20 votes in the state Senate to pass, and there are currently 14 Democrats and 5 Republicans in favor. But according to Duda, “getting that 20th is not easy.”
One concern of Senate Republicans relates to Proposition 208, a ballot measure passed in 2020 that would place a 3.5% tax on high income earners which would be spent on education. This proposition was ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court, as it would exceed the education spending cap.
“Senator Mesnard tells me that he’s still concerned that if they do this it will somehow effect that litigation and somehow allow Prop 208 to go into effect, which Republican legislators absolutely do not want,” Duda said.
State schools collectively are around 1.2 billion dollars over the spending cap already, and it’s unclear whether overriding the cap temporarily would have any impact on the court’s ruling.
According to Duda, other common education-related proposals like an expansion of the state school voucher system are “floating around, but not linked to this issue.”
The deadline to raise the cap is March 1.
Also in the works in the legislature is a separate bill that proposes to break up Maricopa County, which has a population over 4 times the next largest county, into 4 separate counties. The bill passed the House Government and Elections Committee with unanimous Republican support on Wednesday.
One particularly important Republican vote it lacks is House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who has expressed concerns about how quickly the bill is moving.
“What became very apparent is that they haven’t done a lot of legwork on this,” Duda said. “They did not, as far as we could tell, speak with any elected officials or other officials at Maricopa County about how this would work. They would have to split up the sheriff’s office, the county attorney’s office, major agencies here, split up infrastructure, and it’s not clear who all was consulted.”
While the move is ostensibly about government accountability and reducing the size of Maricopa County, which has over 4 times the population of the next largest county, it “is very hard to divorce it” from the support it has received due to false claims of the county’s election fraud, Duda said.