Last week, I voted for the sixth and final budget of my legislative career as a state senator. The budget we produced is as indelible as it is historic, for the simple fact that it was bipartisan.
It’s been nearly two decades since the Arizona Legislature came together to pass a budget not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but together, working for the common good of all Arizonans. Being part of this year’s budget process and helping negotiate significant investments in our K-12 public schools and state universities will remain one of my greatest accomplishments.
Working together as Arizonans, we have made a $1 billion investment in education, including $800 million in new and ongoing investments in K-12. We got $1 billion more for roads and more than $300 million specifically for water infrastructure. It is not hyperbole to say that these investments make a difference for our State.
Despite all that we accomplished last week, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my priorities that was not included in the final budget: a state working income tax credit .
Earlier this year, I sponsored Senate Bill 1018, which would establish an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Arizona taxpayers. My bill would have brought significant relief to Arizona families in a time of rising costs and financial uncertainty, with a family of three receiving more than $300 in assistance a year. In the end, my bill didn’t pass the House of Representatives, nor did it make it into the budget. In part of our negotiations, where a compromise is needed from all sides, we have arrived at a package without EITC. My colleagues and I all negotiated in good faith, producing a budget that will do our state a lot of good in other ways.
But more can be done to support families in our state as costs continue to rise. As my legislative career draws to a close, I implore my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who will return to the legislature next year to resume discussion around a state EITC.
An EITC has the power to be transformational for Arizona families. We have seen during the pandemic, and now again with inflation, how stressed our families have become. Policies such as the EITC and child tax credits are among the most effective methods we have to help families through tough economic times.
Gasoline prices in the Phoenix area are well over $5 a gallon, and back-to-school supplies are more expensive than ever. Food prices are also rising rapidly. An EITC would immediately help families in Arizona by putting money back in their pockets. Make no mistake, an EITC is a tax cut – and very effective, at that, in supporting families.
I am really proud of what we have accomplished this year with our budget. And I’m still very proud of the work I’ve done since 2017. I promised my constituents that I would always look for ways to improve our communities and would work with anyone who wanted to. I think I can honestly say that I kept that promise.
But a legislator’s job is never done. I sincerely hope to see the common sense policy of an EITC resumed next year. Last month, the Legislature showed Arizonans what we can accomplish by working together. I hope this bipartisan spirit continues into next year and beyond. And my request to my future former colleagues is to pass on an effective tool to directly support families in Arizona: take an EITC.
Senator Sean Bowie is a Democrat from Phoenix who represents District 18, which includes Ahwatukee, West Chandler, Southwest Mesa and South Tempe. He was first elected to the state senate in 2016.