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Arizona state legislature not close to school spending limit deal

Arizona state capitol
Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-12 00:34:40-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Despite the state approving Arizona’s school district budgets last year, those districts are now cumulatively more than one billion dollars over a statewide spending cap, known as the aggregate expenditure limit.

The state legislature has the power to override massive cuts for school districts before a March 1 deadline, but a deal does not appear close.

State Democrat Morgan Abraham represents the 10th legislative district, which covers Midtown Tucson and the East Side.

He says he does not share the same confidence Gov. Doug Ducey has that a deal will get done before the deadline.

“There’s no discussions, there’s no indication that this is coming to the floor next week,” he told KGUN on Friday.

Abraham says politics are holding up progress.

“What multiple Republicans have told me is they want to see a ‘wholistic education package,’” he said. “That’s code word for ‘We not only wanna tackle the aggregate expenditure limit. We wanna throw some of our other priorities in there.’”

According to Abraham, those priorities include expanded voucher programs and killing Prop 208—a voter-approved tax hike currently being reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Abraham believes the spending limit should be a totally separate issue.

“For me, it’s just like: Let’s keep our children in school,” he said. “Let’s keep the train on the tracks.”

State senator and Education Committee Chairman Paul Boyer, as well as other republicans, point out Arizona’s education funding has already grown in recent years.

“It would be helpful for all to at least acknowledge reality: that the reason why we are where we are is because we have put so many dollars into K-12 education,” he said at the State Senate this week.

Seemingly in a stalemate for now—neither party can override the spending limit without votes from the other.

“Really do hope this doesn’t come down to the 11th hour, but I think people should be prepared for it to,” Abraham said. “School districts need to be ready. Parents need to be ready in case their schools have to close.”