Arizona proposes half a billion dollars to address border security
As the budget stalemate at the state Capitol drags on, Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican legislative leadership have agreed to a new plan, which includes more than a half billion dollars for fencing and other border security measures.
One big line item: According to budget documents obtained by Axios, the proposal would put $544 million of one-time spending into the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs’ border security fund.
- $355 million would be used for fencing.
- The rest of the money will go toward various other border security issues, such as $30 million for local prosecutors, a $53.4 million sheriff stipend and $15 million for other local law enforcement agencies.
C.J. Karamargin, a spokesperson for the governor, told Axios the new fencing will go "where it currently isn't" under the new proposal, but didn't have any details about specific locations.
- Karamargin noted that a group of migrants entered the U.S. through a gap in the border fence during a Ducey press conference in Yuma in December.
- The majority of the Arizona-Mexico border is on federal or tribal land, where the state has no legal authority to put up any barriers.
- It hasn't been decided yet what kind of fencing would go along the border either.
What they're saying: "This ultimately is a federal responsibility, but the fact that the federal government is either unwilling or unable to address this issue means we have to. So we're going to look at those areas where it can be most effective," Karamargin said.
By the numbers: The border security spending is part of a proposed $15.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2023 that has $13.6 billion in ongoing spending and $1.6 billion in one-time monies.
- The state has a massive budget surplus of about $5.3 billion.
Between the lines: Despite GOP control of the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature, Ducey and Republican leadership have been unable to pass a budget deal due to disagreements over how to spend the state’s sizable surplus.
- Republicans have only one-vote majorities in both the House and Senate, meaning they must vote unanimously on anything that lacks Democratic support.
- Ducey and leadership could reach out to Democrats for extra votes, but they want more than Republicans are willing to give them.
Threat level: Arizona faces a government shutdown if lawmakers and Ducey can't agree on a budget by June 30.
What's next: Karamargin emphasized that the current plan is only a "framework" and is likely to change as budget negotiations proceed.
- Asked whether the border security spending is negotiable, Karamargin didn't answer directly, instead saying, "Budgets are arrived at through lots of give and take, lots of back and forth about ideas… The clock is ticking. We have a short amount of time before the next fiscal year begins."
Too much: Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita called the budget proposal "garbage" and said it spent too much without providing additional tax relief to Arizonans who are suffering from inflation and high gas prices.
- "It’s pretty pathetic, right? I mean, it's kind of like an extension of the skinny budget but with a bunch of one-time payoff money to members," Ugenti-Rita told Axios. "I don’t know why a conservative would vote for it."
- Yes, but: Last year, lawmakers passed a historic income tax cut.
Not enough: Republican Senator Paul Boyer told the Arizona Republic that the budget plan doesn’t increase education spending enough, which he called a “glaring issue.”
Meanwhile: House Democratic leader Reginald Bolding told Axios that the budget plan falls short in a number of areas, most notably education, and said he doubts it has enough support to pass.
- "I think there are some misplaced priorities in that budget. I think, right now, we have an opportunity to do something meaningful here in the state of Arizona with the budget surplus that we have," Bolding said.
Flashback: In April, The House Appropriations Committee rejected a "skinny budget" that would have mostly continued spending levels from the current fiscal year.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Republican Senator Paul Boyer's reaction to the budget.
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