by State Senator Katie Hobbs

Last Monday, as the legislative session began, the Arizona Legislative Democrats unveiled our priorities for the state. We have a clear vision for improving our state by making strategic investments to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and improve our schools.

First and foremost, we know that restoring the voter-mandated inflation funding with the lawsuit settlement in Prop 123 (to be voted on in a special election in May) is just the start when it comes to re-investing in K12 education. We have to keep good teachers from leaving Arizona, and we propose mentoring and retention incentives for our best teachers. We also need to restore building renewal funds and bring our classrooms up to date with materials and technology.

We must also re-invest in our higher education system for Arizona to remain competitive in the 21st century. We have the ability to restore at least half of the $99 million in cuts to the state universities that were made in year’s budget.

We believe it is crucial to build stronger communities by strengthening programs for the most vulnerable Arizonans. The Department of Child Safety is still in crisis, with a backlog of uninvestigated cases that is higher than when Governor Ducey’s hand-picked director took over, as well as over 19,000 children in out-of-home placements. An independent audit by Chapin Hall last year made several recommendations that would improve efficiency and accountability at the agency, but those recommendations are sitting on a shelf. We propose implementing these reforms, as well as funding preventative programs that would keep more kids safe and families together. Additionally, we propose expanding childcare for low-income parents, and restoring Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to 24 months (it was reduced to 12 in last year’s budget).

Investing in infrastructure, such as transportation, will improve our economy by creating jobs and improving roads that are important for commerce. We should also enhance funding to attract business and tourism.

Even conservative states like Texas and Utah are looking at reforms in the corrections systems as a way to reduce costs and we should be doing the same. The Arizona Department of Corrections has become our largest government agency, and has been spared from many of the cuts faced by other programs. But we should prioritize education over incarceration.  We should study reforms that would reduce recidivism and stop throwing money at expanding private prisons.

Arizona families and businesses have struggled through some of the harshest cutbacks during the economic downturn. As our revenues grow we should use those dollars to restore some of worst cuts our state has ever seen, and invest strategically to move Arizona in the right direction. Our kids need a quality education if we want them to compete in the workforce, our families need a safety net when they fall on hard times, and businesses need infrastructure to grow.

Click here to read a summary of these priorities. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I hope you will join me in supporting these to move Arizona forward.

Thank you,

Katie Hobbs

Senate Democratic Leader