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Hobbs says lawmakers unlikely to reach a deal on teacher raises this year

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs says lawmakers are unlikely to reach a deal this session to ask voters to extend a key public education funding measure.

A narrow majority of voters passed Prop. 123 in 2016. The measure, which increased the amount of money taken from the state’s land trust fund for public education, is set to expire if voters do not renew it before the end of 2025.

Most Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who are responsible for referring a renewal to voters, agree Prop 123 should be renewed. But Hobbs says lawmakers still disagree on the details.

“As far as I know, Prop. 123 is not moving forward right now,” she said.

Republicans want to limit withdrawals to between 5.5% and 6.9% and use all that money for teacher raises.

But, Democrats want to increase the amount taken from the trust fund from 6.9% to 8.9%. 

In Hobbs’ plan, she proposes using that larger chunk of the moneyfor teacher and support staff raises, general school funding and school safety improvements.

Hobbs said on Tuesday that it is “very likely” she will call a special session at some point to force lawmakers to come back to the Capitol and work on the issue. 

Hobbs said that holding a special election for voters to address this issue alone is an option she can utilize before the measure is set to expire

Last Wednesday, Hobbs also noted that if Prop. 123 isn’t addressed this year, she’d “look forward to doing it with a different Legislature next year.” 

Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) is not confident that it will happen this year.

“I don’t know if it will or not. I don't know,” Petersen said Tuesday.

Hobbs said, with a Prop. 123 deal unlikely, her focus is on crafting a state budget.

“What we have made clear is we would like a budget and sine die,” Hobbs said. “And as far as I know there is not a lot to get up to my desk anyway.” Sine die is a Latin term used to describe the last official day of the legislative session.  

Hobbs remains hopeful that a budget can get done by the end of May, but acknowledged that could be difficult given the Arizona Senate is only meeting once a week and the Arizona House is not scheduled to meet again until June.

That schedule would appear to rule out a budget vote in May, but Hobbs said Republican leadership could always call lawmakers back to the Capitol early.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.