Arizona House and Senate leaders have reached a deal with Gov. Doug Ducey on a plan to fund his proposal for a 20-percent pay hike for teachers, but they won’t disclose how they’ll pay for it.
After reiterating his vow to deliver on a pay raise even as teachers marched to the Capitol, Ducey issued a joint statement with House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Senate President Steve Yarbrough on Friday afternoon that the plan is now a “reality.”
“Today, we are pleased to announce that this plan is a reality. Arizona is delivering on its commitment to our students and teachers,” the leaders said.
But the announcement, which came on the heels of the “Red for Ed” movement announcing Arizona teachers will press on with their strike next week, didn’t include details. Leaders said they want to brief their members first. Leaders still have to persuade members to support the deal.
The development also followed the filing of a ballot initiative pushed by the state’s teachers’ union and education advocates that seeks to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans and earmark those new revenues for K-12 public schools.
Teachers were wary of Ducey’s proposal because it didn’t include a new revenue source, and it relied on rosy economic projections for funding. Other critics noted that the plan, as originally proposed, would sweep funding from other programs to pay for the salary hike. They also doubted whether Ducey can get it through the Legislature.
Ducey makes promises he can’t keep, said “Red for Ed” leaders Joe Thomas and Noah Karvelis. All they have seen is a news release and a tweet from the governor, and that doesn’t indicate a deal, they said in a news release.
“We have no bill. We have no deal,” they said.
The announcement signifies that legislative leaders have not only agreed to Ducey’s teacher pay raise plan, but have also come to a consensus on how to fund it, said Mesnard, R-Chandler.
But they still haven’t finalized a full budget – something Ducey said they will work through the weekend to complete.
When asked about details of the plan, Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor’s office will likely have more to share after budget analysts and appropriations staffers work through the weekend to fine-tune the details.
“We feel this is a sustainable plan. You’ll see the total package is one that is fiscally responsible,” he said.
Mesnard would not share details of the deal until he can brief rank-and-file Republican legislators. But one breakthrough that helped GOP leaders reach an accord is a new levy on vehicles that Ducey signed into law earlier this week. Mesnard said he’s confident the budget will have the necessary votes to pass in his chamber.
Legislative Republicans are counting on the new fee to generate more than $160 million annually, which is higher than the previous estimate of $148.9 million.
That will free up dollars that, in the past, have paid for the state’s Highway Patrol operations and funding for road maintenance and construction. The director of the Department of Transportation will be responsible for setting a fee to generate the necessary budget amount Republican lawmakers are targeting.
Legislative analysts estimate that the new vehicle fee will free up $107 million in state revenues, which can then be spent on education.
Presumably, those dollars will be combined with higher-than-expected state revenues to fund the pay bump for teachers.
Legislative leaders plan to introduce a budget early next week. Scarpinato said the goal is to have a complete budget introduced on Monday.
“I’m excited to have a deal with the governor and the president,” Mesnard said. “Now we’re going to work on finalizing the details of the overall budget, and we’ll be doing that through the weekend.”
Yarbrough, R-Chandler, could not immediately be reached for comment. But he has long indicated that Senate Republicans fully support Ducey’s plan.
Ducey’s pay boost for teachers includes a 9-percent raise for teachers this fall — on top of 1 percent this year — and subsequent raises of 5-percent increments in the following two school years.
Reporters Ben Giles and Paulina Pineda contributed to this report.