Arizona’s potential $400 million budget gap is on the minds of state lawmakers representing Gilbert as they head into the new state legislative session, which begins Monday, Jan. 8.
State Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, and state Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler, listed their priorities at Gilbert’s annual legislative meeting last week at the Municipal Center.
Gilbert’s other members of the Legislature – Reps. Laurin Hendrix, R-Gilbert, and Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, representing Legislative District 14; Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Rep. Julie Willoughby R-Chandler, representing LD13 – were invited but did not participate.
“Definitely the budget will be very different,” said Pawlik, who is serving the last of her three terms representing LD13. “We are facing a shortfall and I hope that that doesn’t mean we are cutting education.
“Education is the one area that I’ve been focused on and then also water and affordable housing.”
She said a team of people have been working on different bills on water and on affordable housing and that they should be forthcoming soon.
The new flat income tax, slowing sales tax collection and a ballooning school voucher program have been blamed for the shortfall.
Petersen, who represents LD 14, said his priorities included inflation, public safety, water and the budget gap.
He said the GOP is tackling inflation with a bill that would drop per-gallon gas prices by 30 cents to $1 in Maricopa County by allowing more blends of gasoline to be sold. He said that the bill should drop soon.
He also pointed to his party’s plan to hike teacher pay by $4,000 a year with proceeds from the State Land Trust.
“It’ll put us above the national average as far as teacher pay goes,” he said.
He also said that Sen. Sine Kerr was going to introduce some “common-sense” water bills.
“We’ve done really well as far as conservation goes,” Petersen noted. “7.5 million people using the same amount of water as 1.5 million people last year should be applauded and should be recognized for what a good job we’ve done.”
He also addressed the border issue, calling it a crisis forced on the state by the federal government. He said the ongoing priority is to support the police and especially the sheriffs in the border communities.
For Petersen, the budget hole wasn’t as pressing.
“We do have a shortfall,” he acknowledged. “It’s not a terrible problem to have as it gives us the opportunity to prioritize. I think our approach this year will be kind of a zero-based budget approach.”
He said the Senate has put out requests to both the Republican and Democratic members for their priorities and what they wanted to protect and hoped the House was doing the same as “we need to make cuts.”
The two lawmakers spoke less than a combined four minutes as the bulk of the time was spent by Gilbert officials.
They included the public works director, police chief, fire chief, development services director, and budget director. Those officials told the lawmakers what’s going on in town, including Gilbert’s water conservation measures.
The directors talked about ongoing projects, including the proposed victims advocacy center and North Water Treatment Plant as well as planned capital needs like a crime lab. They also discussed how inflation and supply chain issues have impacted their departments.
Councilman Scott Anderson was absent from the meeting.
No one from the public attended as the meeting was not well-publicized on the town’s website.
The meeting was not noted on the town’s calendar or on the site where council agendas are posted.
Instead it was listed on the Town Clerk’s website under Courtesy Notices and Notices of Possible Quorums.
By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor www.gilbertsunnews.com
2024-01-12 07:00:00 , www.gilbertsunnews.com – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article