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Gov. Doug Ducey Signs $12.8 Billion Arizona Budget

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a $12.8 billion budget for Arizona on Wednesday, hours before a midnight deadline to adopt a spending plan for the state in the new fiscal year beginning Thursday.

The governor’s signatures end a lengthy and contentious process for House and Senate Republicans, who approve almost all the spending bills by themselves, on sharply divided, party-line votes. Democrats strongly opposed the GOP budget deal, which phases in a permanent $1.9 billion annual cut in revenue to provide an income tax that mostly benefits the wealthiest Arizonans.

But it’s that reduction in revenue that is the crowning achievement for Republicans like Ducey, who in a statement boasted that the income tax cut, which gradually reduces income taxes to a flat 2.5% rate for all Arizonans, benefits all taxpayers in the state.

“That means job creators will continue to choose our state to expand operations, working families will get to decide how they spend more of their hard-earned dollars, and those who served our nation will rightfully keep more of their own money,” Ducey said in a statement.

The governor's spokesperson, C.J. Karamargin, also supported the cut.

"When you have a budget that pays down the debt that we have as much as we do, when you have infrastructure investment of $321 million, when you have $30 million going to developmental disability providers to provide essential services, I think it is myopic to think that this budget only benefits a certain group of people."

Democrats roundly criticized the budget as a wasted opportunity in a year when state coffers had a surplus of cash. Throughout the past two weeks of budget debates, they reminded Republicans, including Ducey, of past promises to invest in state services during more austere budget years.

“We could have had a transformational budget to rebuild and revitalize Arizona. We have a $2 billion surplus that could go toward investing in our public schools, providing teachers much-needed raises, updating and repairing our state's infrastructure, paying down our debt and more,” Senate Democrats said in a statement. “Instead, we have decided to prioritize welfare for the wealthy.”

In addition to ongoing cuts in revenue, Democrats also criticized the budget as a sort of GOP “Christmas tree” — in order to secure the vote of every Republican, all 31 in the House and 16 in the Senate, the budget is also packed with controversial policies that have nothing to do with the state’s spending plan.

But with such narrow, one-vote majorities, Republican leaders added policies expanding access to Arizona’s school voucher program and creating conspiracy-fueled election laws — including a measure to strip authority from the Democratic secretary of state — to ensure the budget bills passed.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.