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Arizona House passes its version of the state budget, kills school voucher expansion

Arizona capitol
Posted at 9:30 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-26 00:30:32-04

PHOENIX — Following the lead of the State Senate, the Arizona House adopted a $12.8 billion budget for the next fiscal year. It includes a 2.5% flat tax which permanently removes $1.9 billion from the state’s general fund.

Governor Ducey weighed in after the House passed the flat tax saying “it ensures working families and all Arizona taxpayers get to spend their money how they choose, and it will help our state stay competitive so we can continue to attract good-paying jobs.”

The House budget is different from the Senate’s.

On Friday during a debate on the final appropriations bill, three Republicans voted against using public money to fund private K-12 education. The Senate amendment would have greatly expanded the eligibility of school vouchers.

It was a small victory for public school teachers. “The House voted down a massive expansion to school vouchers, but we did see they did pass a lot of bad policy,” said Arizona Association of Educators President Joe Thomas.

House Republicans did adopt Senate passed amendments punishing teachers and districts if they teach critical race theory, allowing students to attend class without being vaccinated for COVID-19 or being required to wear a mask.

The House also added an amendment of its own which would change the curriculum of civics and American history currently used in Arizona public school classrooms. Republican State Senator Paul Boyer, who pushed for the voucher expansion, hinting in a tweet he is likely to oppose the House amendment.

“We’re going to have to comeback in a conference committee and decide what to do,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Regina Cobb, (R) Kingman District 5, said.

The budget dedicates money to buying back state buildings and paying down the debt. It increases spending for public safety, infrastructure, and education. Money for cities and counties will also increase.

The House was supposed to vote on the budget Tuesday, but Democrats refused to show up after dozens of amendments by Republicans were dropped on their desks 90 minutes before the session was to begin.

Republicans did not have enough members present in the chamber to proceed. That was not the case Thursday. In response to the Democrat's actions, Republicans set time limits on each bill quickening the pace but not the outcome of the vote. All the appropriation bills passed on 31-29 party-line votes.

Next week the House and Senate will work out their differences and then send the budget to the governor for his signature.