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I’d guess a member of Gov. Katie Hobbs’ staff was ordered this week to run out to the nearest Walgreens and purchase a jumbo-sized dispenser of eye drops.
Because on the subject of universal school vouchers, the governor just blinked … again.
Back in January, Hobbs submitted a budget that called for the repeal of universal vouchers, known officially as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
But the Republican-controlled Legislature was having none of that, and when all was said and done with the budget, the vouchers remained.
Vouchers started small, but grew and grew
The program was forced through by GOP majorities and signed by then-Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
It was a scam from the start, a way for Republican politicians to gut the regular public school system while simultaneously appeasing the wealthier members of their base, who now can use public money to subsidize their children’s private education.
Hobbs has explained her reasoning for opposing vouchers a number of times. It’s not a complicated argument.
She was a member of the Legislature when the first voucher program was pushed through on the deceptive claim that it was only meant to fill a need to educate children with special needs.
That was just a way to poke a hole in the dam holding back all those taxpayer dollars.
Hobbs is playing the cards she was dealt
As Hobbs said, “I didn’t support it then because I knew it would lead to continued expansion until it got to this point. This voucher system we are under now doesn’t provide real choice in educational opportunity for most families. It diverts resources from public schools and provides a subsidy for already wealthy children whose parents could already afford private education for them.”
It’s here now, however, and though Hobbs pushed for a budget without the vouchers, she didn’t get it.
Since then it has been standoff.
Until this week, when Hobbs blinked.
To get something close to what she wants, she’ll have to blink again. Maybe a few times.
On the radio Hobbs advanced the notion of a compromise. Perhaps a cap on enrollment or a cap on voucher spending.
In July her office released a memo saying the universal voucher program “could cost the state over $943 million, with over 53% of all new K-12 education spending going towards only 8% of Arizona students.”
And that it could lead to a shortfall of nearly $320 million in fiscal 2024.
Maybe poker isn't the best metaphor
So now it’s a poker game.
Hobbs has an ace in the hole, her veto pen. In the last legislative session she vetoed 143 bills, most all of them Republican sponsored.
Republicans have a solid hand themselves, however. A full house of vouchers.
In order to get a cap on spending or enrollment, I’d guess Hobbs will have to promise to sign some new version of the bills she vetoed.
Who knows what kind of madness she’ll have to go along with in order to combat the madness of vouchers bankrupting the state.
That’s how it works in Arizona.
Which means, I suppose, that I was wrong to describe the metaphorical card game going on at the state Capitol as poker.
No matter how voters shuffle the political deck in Arizona, we always seem to wind up playing Crazy Eights.
Reach Montini at email@example.com.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Katie Hobbs blinks, again, on universal school vouchers