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Hobbs: 'Highly likely' Arizona budget will include new school voucher rules

Katie Hobbs speaks at podium
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs on Oct. 3, 2023.

Gov. Katie Hobbs says she and lawmakers are close to finalizing a new state budget that could include new guardrails on Arizona’s school voucher program.

Hobbs said Tuesday morning it is “highly likely” that the budget will include checks on the program, which was one of her main priorities heading into budget negotiations. However, Hobbs declined to specify exactly what guardrails the budget could include on vouchers, also known as empowerment scholarship accounts.

“I think you’ll see very soon what’s in the budget around ESAs,” she said.

In her budget proposal in January, Hobbs suggested rule changes to limit how many students qualify for the voucher program. However, leaders at the Republican-controlled Legislature said they would block any effort to change voucher eligibility requirements.

Hobbs and the Republican-controlled Legislature must reach an agreement on a new state budget by June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

With just a few weeks left before that deadline, Hobbs said both sides are looking forward to wrapping up negotiations as soon as possible.

“It is imminent,” Hobbs said.

Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said rank and file lawmakers will receive copies of the budget on Tuesday. The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday, though Kavanagh was unable to say whether a budget vote will happen this week.

Last year, Hobbs signed a bipartisan budget that included millions of dollars in pet projects for legislators as the state enjoyed a nearly $2 billion budget surplus.

But now, Arizona faces a projected $1.3 billion deficit over the next two years.

The governor declined to comment on where the state will cut spending to address that shortfall.

Politics Education
Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.
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