Arizona’s budget for the new fiscal year was signed last week and went into effect on July 1st.
Its $18 billion has resulted in some notable increases for departments and projects that have been the subject of state debates: K-12 education, a needed expansion of Interstate 10, and addressing nursing shortages and issues at the border between the states USA and Mexico. efforts of.
Education spending saw the most notable increase, with the budget increasing by nearly $1 billion, a 17% increase.
That increase wasn’t just an accounting ploy to appease voters in an election year, according to Pima County school superintendent Dustin Williams.
“It was an unusually good education budget,” he said.
“What you want to see is the money that is being put into the base amount, the money that is being funded per student. And we saw about $700 million in new money.”
Another education-related area that has seen significant growth is funding for care programs.
$50 million will be specifically allocated to the Department of Health for accelerated care programs, with $6 million going to Creighton University, a Nebraska-based private Catholic school, and the rest going to state universities.
An additional $15 million will also go to the Nursing Education Investment Pilot Program.
“Right now I’m seeking money for grants that the legislature needs to approve,” said Connie Miller, chair of the general nursing and health education program at the University of Arizona School of Nursing.
“We were really hoping to get a little more funding to be able to take on more students, and one of the limiting factors for us to take on more students is that we know it’s very difficult for students to get clinical appointments. “
Miller said U of A hopes to replace more of its clinics with higher-quality simulations.
In the second part of the budget, $300 million was allocated for the construction of the border wall.
That money was the subject of a recent episode of the AZPM podcast, Gavel to Gavel. AZPM Politics reporter and podcast host Andrew Oxford speaks with Arizona Daily Star Border reporter Daniel Khamara.
He said the border fence money was unlikely.
“Almost the entire southern border of Arizona is federal land,” she said.
Known as the Roosevelt Ease, the 60-foot area stretches the entire length of Arizona.
“If the state wishes to erect any sort of border barrier, it can build on state land that ends that federal easement, or, if it can obtain permission from private landowners, it can build on that federal easement can be built in the North.”
But she said the funding could not fill the gaps in the border wall being built by the Trump administration, a point many state lawmakers insisted on.
“As far as I can tell, all of these gaps are on federal land, so they can’t create a real physical barrier there.”
Another area of infrastructure spending will address an increasingly slow and particularly dangerous section of Interstate 10 that runs between Casa Grande and Phoenix.
The 26-mile stretch is the last remaining stretch of freeway between Arizona’s largest metropolitan areas with fewer than three lanes.
“This section passes through the Gila River Indian Community and ADOT is working with the Maricopa Association of Governments to obtain the necessary permits to begin the project,” said Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Garin Groff.
The state has allocated $400 million to add an additional lane of traffic to I-10, although it won’t cover the full cost.
“We are also seeking a $300 million federal grant. We look forward to learning its status later this year, and the first budget was $290 million,” said Groff.
The project is scheduled to start in 2023 and be completed in 2026.