GOP pushing deal for better teacher salary hikes

PHOENIX -- Republican lawmakers are working to line up the votes for a budget deal that would give teachers more than the 0.4 percent raise offered in January by Gov. Doug Ducey.

The package would provide an across-the-board raise of 1 percent this coming year, with another 1 percent over the next two years. That gets to the same 2 percent raise the governor had offered, but phased in over five years.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Yee said Ducey's proposal, sketched out in his State of the State speech, was not going over well among members of the GOP caucus.

"We want a round number,'' she told Capitol Media Services.

That 0.4 percent hike on the average $45,477 salary reported by the National Education Association -- near the bottom of the nation -- translates out to $181 a year for the average teacher, or about a dollar a day for the typical school year. And that's before taxes.

By contrast, a 1 percent increase is $455 a year, with the promise of an additional amount the phased in over the following year or two.

But to fund the full penny this year would add another approximately $20 million on top of what Ducey budgeted for his 0.4 percent raise; another penny on top of that would cost an additional $35 million. And that expense likely would have to be covered by lawmakers opting not to fund some of the governor's other education priorities.

Among the possible losers are Ducey's plan to put $10 million into restoring state-funded full-day kindergarten, but only for schools in the poorest neighborhoods, and a $1,000 bonus for teachers who agree to work at schools in which 60 percent of youngsters come from families eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches.

The bigger battle over the nearly $9.8 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year could come over Ducey's proposal to allow the universities to keep $30 million a year they would otherwise pay in state sales taxes on items they buy.

Ducey wants that set aside as payments in a $1 billion borrowing plan for new construction. While there is some sentiment for additional university dollars, many lawmakers are balking at the funding scheme which would remove their ability to control the dollars.

The governor also asked lawmakers to let universities keep another $6 million they would otherwise pay in local sales taxes. That, however, has proven to be a non-starter amid opposition from affected communities.

Also still up for debate is Ducey's proposal to take more than $90 million collected in vehicle license fees and gasoline taxes to help fund the Highway Patrol.

The problem is those dollars would otherwise go for road construction and repairs. Rural lawmakers contend their areas have been shorted for years and want those dollars restored.

There are alternative source of revenue. One would be to ask voters to raise the 18-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, a levy which has not been adjusted since 1991. The governor, however, said he is opposed to that, even if voters were to get the last word.

A separate plan to fund Highway Patrol with a surcharge on automobile insurance rather than road funds also has failed to advance.

Even if a deal were to be reached in the next few days, the chances of a vote this week are virtually nil.

The Republicans hold a 35-25 edge in the House.

But one of those seats is vacant following the resignation last week of Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria. And the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has through the end of the week to choose his replacement from three people nominated by party workers.

That 35th vote could be crucial as several GOP lawmakers may balk at the failure to put even more dollars into K-12 education, especially with Ducey having just signed legislation that will greatly expand the ability of parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools. And the Republican majority cannot count on support from any of the Democrats who have their own priorities.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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The_Uppity_Peasant 8 months ago

Love how the Republicans strangle education almost to death, and then act magnanimous when they squeeze a few more drops into the parched throats of students, teachers and staff. Just like those pay raises negated by rising food, health, energy and transportation costs.

Dewey and those old guys and gals were great, but this is a new time for which we need a new education system. I am a southerner and a westerner and I don't give a flying f-ck about Yankee eastern institutions and the century-old, rigid, hierarchical, narrow-minded "education system". It may have been good for early 20th century farmers and factory workers, but now it is like a snake that refuses to shed its skin, not healthy.

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mcinsw 8 months ago

We are losing teachers at a rapid pace.The GOP is now deciding that a Slap in the Face is what they need in instead of a pay raise that that is more than the cost of a Hamburger at McDonalds.

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The_Uppity_Peasant 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Quite a few of your teachers are eating quite well judging by the looks of them. Only in America can we have both a recession AND an obesity epidemic. Frankly, fat teachers are like fat cops, they should be required to get into shape or be fired (unless there is a genetic component). They both set bad examples.

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