Our View: Three things we’d like to see the Legislature get right in 2019

January 1, 2019

Lots of people will begin New Year’s resolutions today. It’s said that something like 80 percent of resolutions are broken by the second week of February, but each year we persist in making those same promises to ourselves — because there’s still that 20 percent chance that something good might stick. State government could learn a lot from this process.

There are a number of things we’d like to see Arizona’s government get right in the new year, starting with a commitment by state legislators to get a budget passed before moving on to all those other superfluous issues and pet projects.

That’s unlikely to happen. The Legislature convenes on Jan. 14, and there are already a number of pre-filed bills dealing with issues from insurance regulations to politics in the classroom. And yet, none of those things matter unless the state has a solid understanding of its financial status.

During that discussion on the budget, the Legislature will inevitably begin talking about education funding.

No, we didn’t figure everything out in 2018 – if nothing else, the Legislature and governor just kicked that can down the road, crossing their fingers that a growing economy would make up for the $600 million being spent on the 20 percent pay increase they gave to teachers. Last year’s developments, forced by the groundswell of the #RedforEd movement, is a big change for Arizona. For years, the Republican-dominated Legislature has pushed the message that the state should fund education at minimal levels, reducing state tax burdens and allowing local voters to choose whether to tax themselves further. It’s clear that some of that may be shifting, but it’s also clear that paying for quality schools and teachers to staff them will continue to be more of an annual puzzle for Arizona legislators, and they ought to commit to making education a top priority during the legislative session.

Likewise, we expect water will dominate much of our attention in 2019. Federal officials have a Jan. 31 deadline for states to come to an agreement on the Colorado River as the drought persists and worsens. Locally, there’s an ongoing skirmish over water rights between Mohave County and the Central Arizona Project. Meanwhile, farms near Kingman are sucking up what little groundwater we have like never before. Legislators need to devote their attention to water this year – particularly the water needs of rural Arizona.

Let’s hold our state legislators accountable in 2019 to get the important work done first, before they’re back in campaign mode in 2020. Happy new year!

— Today’s News-Herald

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