Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
I wish all of you a happy, healthy and blessed 2017.
2016 was a good year at the Arizona legislature. We increased funding for education, reformed the firefighter and police pension plan, passed legislation to grow jobs in Arizona, and focused on promoting free markets and limiting burdensome regulations.
The 2017 legislative session starts on January 9th. I will be serving as Senate President Pro-Tempore and Appropriations Chairman. One of my duties as the Appropriations Chairman is to help balance the state budget.
Two recent events have made balancing the state budget more challenging. The passage of Proposition 206, which raises the minimum wage, will cost the state general fund at least $25 Million extra this year and the adverse ruling by the courts in the Hall Case against pension reforms done five years ago, will cost the state $10 Million this year alone.
When voters passed Proposition 206 I don’t know if they realized that the extra cost to increase the wages for state-funded care-givers for the elderly and disabled and for entry level school workers would have the effect of diverting money from other important priorities like raising classroom spending. The legislature had no control over the passage of Prop. 206 and the legislature had no control over the court ruling, but it is the legislature that has to fix the problem.
So when the unexpected happens, the state has to do the same thing a family does when unexpected costs occur…we re-prioritize, figure out where we can shave off spending in some places to add it in others. It is a challenge, but one that can be done and will be done.