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Ducey proposes 2020 budget: Rainy-day fund, drought & teacher pay

Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday proposed a fiscal year 2020 budget that would double the rainy day fund to $1 billion, put aside $165 million to hike teacher salaries and battle drought.

Here are three key areas of the proposed budget, which still needs legislative approval:

1. Ducey wants to save for a rainy day.

Ducey aides said a $1 billion contingency fund – twice as much as the $450 million set aside for the previous fiscal year – could mean the state avoids the fate of the 2008 recession.

“The governor has no interest in repeating the mistakes of the past,” said Glen Farley, Ducey’s chief economist. “When the revenues evaporated during the Great Recession, there was no flexibility for the general fund to rapidly respond, and it created a sort of catastrophic fiscal condition for the state,” he said.

2. Ducey said teachers will get the salary hike he promised in 2018.

The tailwinds RedForEd movement remain at work after statewide teacher walkouts last spring prompted a teacher pay raise, Ducey's plan includes the second installment of his proposed $637 million for K-12 education, including $165 million to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020.

He would set aside $68 million for additional assistance, such as textbooks, curriculum and technology. Ducey also wants to continue financing schools based on academic performance, with $60 million for schools distributed based on schools’ A-F letter grade.

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Other items include $16 million for school safety, including mental and behavioral health services, along with school resource officers.

“We’re happy to see he’s investing in all levels of education,” said Christine Thompson, president and chief executive of Expect More Arizona, an education advocacy group.

Other proposals include $104 million for higher-education programs like the Arizona Teachers Academy, Pima Community College Aviation Center expansion and Maricopa County Community College district healthcare programs.

3. Ducey emphasized urgency about the long-running drought.

Conservation efforts dedicated to protecting water levels in Lake Mead would cost the state an additional $30 million this budget year under Ducey’s proposal.

“Here’s the bottom line: We’re in a 19-year drought,” Ducey said during his state of the state speech Monday. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back.”

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Oskar Agredano/Cronkite News

Glenn Farley, chief economist for the governor’s office, presents key points of Arizona’s 2020 budget plan.