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Ducey’s budget proposes funds for new and expanded programs

While nearly half the $12.3 billion is going to K-12 education, the proposed spending plan by Gov. Doug Ducey also carves out dollars for some new and expanded programs and priorities.

There’s no increase in per-student funding for the state universities. But Ducey is proposing $35 million for what is being called the New Economy Initiative.

The governor’s office describes that as making “targeted investments” to increase the number of graduates in critical high demand industries like coding, artificial intelligence and “entrepreneurism.” Those dollars also would go to reducing the time necessary to obtain a degree “by modernizing curriculums and programs.”

Another $10 million is set aside in Ducey’s own budget to give the universities cash to provide the necessary matching funds to obtain grants.

And Ducey wants $1 million to better publicize the Arizona Teachers Academy, a program which provides free college education to those willing to go into teaching and remain there for at least four years.

The governor’s budget also does not alter state aid to community colleges. But it would fully restore funding for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – programs at Maricopa, Pima and Pinal community colleges.

There also is $4 million for the Arizona Advanced Technology Corridor to have those three community college systems set up training programs for companies. Another $6 million is earmarked for the 10 rural community college districts to use pretty much the way they want, divided up based on enrollment.

In public safety spending, Ducey wants $48 million for upgrades and repairs at the Lewis and Yuma prisons. That includes cash for the broken locks at the Lewis facility, a situation that came to public attention after a Phoenix TV station obtained videos showing inmates starting fires and being out of their cells.

That’s on top of another $37 million being added for system-wide maintenance and repairs.

There’s $37 million in salary increases for corrections officers which translates to a 5 percent raise, with an additional $6 million to create for the first time the position of corporal for officers who want more money but do not want to be supervisors.

Ducey’s budget also sets aside $33 million to deal with “population management.” That includes closing the state prison at Florence and transferring the staff to the nearby Eyeman Prison to deal with the fact that nearly one out of every three correctional officer positions are vacant.

At the same time, the plan provides cash to pay county jails or private prisons willing to take some of the more than 3,900 inmates now housed there.

The spending plan also includes $23 million to wipe out a waiting list for subsidized child care, $14 million earmarked to help incentivize adoption of children with significant disabilities and sibling groups, and $5 million to double the “grandmother stipend” which provides financial assistance to extended family members who agree to take in children who are relatives. And there is $11 million for a 10 percent raise for caseworkers at the Department of Child Safety.

The governor also wants $8 million in new grants for local law enforcement to do more drunk-driving traffic stops, $2 million for state liquor authorities to go out and investigate places that over-serve customers, and $1 million for 76 new thermal cameras to detect wrong-way drivers.

There also is $3 million to equip every officers at the Department of Public Safety with a body camera, another $2 million to hire 20 people to download and store all the videos, and $2 million to provide housing in remote areas for DPS officers.

Ducey’s budget also includes $700,000 in hopes of convincing motorists to drive less.

That is designed to help Arizona to meet the standards set in 2015 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for ground-level ozone. The problem is particularly acute in the Phoenix area where last year there were nearly 40 days where pollution levels exceeded the standards.

But Daniel Scarpinato, the governor’s chief of staff, said his boss was not interested in adopting measures similar to California, which has higher fuel-efficiency standards – meaning more miles per gallon and lower emissions per mile – or special fuel formulations to reduce emissions.

“We’re going to be for policies that are good for our economy and protect our environment,” he said.

Ducey’s budget also has $416,400 to hire six full-time veterans’ benefit counselors, people whose job it is to help connect veterans with their available cash programs and counseling.



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