Steve Farley votes for 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers: “What a way to celebrate my last budget night”

PHOENIX — State legislators successfully passed a budget package Thursday morning that includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers in Arizona — but not without opposition from 34 Democrats.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced a new plan three weeks ago to provide a 20 percent pay raise to teachers across the state by the 2020 school year. The plan — often abbreviated online as #20×2020 — called for an immediate 10 percent raise at the beginning of the 2018 school year, plus an additional five percent raise at the beginning of each of the next two school years.

The governor soon after hammered out the official budget agreement with Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.

After lengthy debate and an extensive amendment process that started Wednesday afternoon and continued into early Thursday morning, both chambers of the legislature passed their respective budget reconciliation packages with funding for K-12 education. The legislation was approved in the house by a vote of 33 to 26 and approved in the senate by a vote of 20 to 9.

House Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Lela Alston, Richard Andrade, Wenona Benally, Isela Blanc, Reginald Bolding, Kelli Butler, Mark Cardenas, Cesar Chavez, Ken Clark, Eric Descheenie, Kirsten Engel, Mitzi Epstein, Diego Espinoza, Charlene Fernandez, Randall Friese, Rosanna Gabaldon, Sally Ann Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Ray Martinez, Tony Navarrete, Gerae Peten, Pamela Powers Hannley, Rebecca Rios, Macario Saldate, and Athena Salman.

Senate Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Olivia Cajero Bedford, Lupe Contreras, Katie Hobbs, Juan Mendez, Robert Meza, Catherine Miranda, Lisa Otondo, Jamescita Peshlakai, and Martin Quezada.

The Democrats’ votes — especially after the party tried to align itself with the labor union’s #RedForEd movement — risk putting the opposing lawmakers at odds with teachers across the state, who will benefit from the 10 percent portion of the pay raise in only three months. A recent poll found that more than 75 percent of voters approve the governor’s plan.

The Arizona Democratic Party and labor union-backed Democrat David Garcia both oppose pay raise plan. Hiral Tipirneni, the Democrat who lost the April 2018 congressional race in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, also opposes the plan, calling it “quick and dirty.”

But not all Democrats felt the same way.

Democratic State Senator Steve Farley, the assistant minority leader running against Governor Ducey in November, voted to approve the budget package.

“You have $405,719,100 — I did the math in there, I checked it with my Democratic staff — this year alone,” said Senator Farley. “Unbelievable. What a way to celebrate my last budget night.”

Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee celebrated the pay raise package as “the largest increase in K-12 education spending since the Great Recession.” Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli pointed to the ‘no’ votes on the roll call screen — where ‘no’ votes are indicated in red lighting — and declared, referring to the union protests, “That is not ‘Red for Ed.’”

In a floor speech explaining his ‘yes’ vote, Republican State Representative Anthony Kern reminded teachers across the state that the 20 percent salary increase would not have happened if Democrats had their way obstructing its passage.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk,” said Representative Kern. “Talk is pretty cheap. It’s your vote that counts … If Republicans voted with the Democrats tonight, [teachers] would be walking away with $0.”

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard agreed.

“[The pay raises] are real,” said Speaker Mesnard. “I don’t know how we can make anyone believe it until they start materializing in your paychecks. But it is real. And, when that happens, remember this day. Remember who voted for it and remember who voted against it.”

A version of this article appears at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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Randi Weingarten, head of teachers union backing Steve Farley, deleted pro-Ducey tweet

PHOENIX — Randi Weingarten, the president of a teachers union backing State Senator Steve Farley’s gubernatorial bid, quietly deleted a tweet praising Republican Governor Doug Ducey.

Farley, a Democrat, announced in a fundraising email Monday that he had officially received an endorsement from the Arizona branch of Weingarten’s union.

“Exciting news!” the campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “American Federation of Teachers Arizona has endorsed Steve for governor.”

Weingarten has longstanding ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The union endorsed Clinton’s presidential bid in July 2015, calling her “the champion of working families need in the White House.” The endorsement, only three months after Clinton announced her candidacy, drew criticism from supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dismissed the support as rushed and political.

Farley cited his own endorsement as proof that “we won’t improve K-12 education until we get rid of Doug Ducey.” What the Democratic state senator failed to mention, though, is that Weingarten applauded the governor’s education strategy.

In January 2017, when Governor Ducey announced a new plan for the state of Arizona to restore recession-era funding cuts to education, Weingarten immediately praised the plan social media.

“Good news for Arizona!” she tweeted. “Gov. Doug Ducey just said he plans to add $100 million in new K-12 education funding this year as a down-payment on the full restoration of a school capital funding formula that was slashed during the Great Recession.”

However, Weingarten quietly deleted the tweet, which no longer appears online. The Farley Report obtained a screenshot of that now-deleted tweet. The tweet can be seen above.

When asked last week if he would support a teachers strike, Farley responded that it was “hard to tell” if such an act would be counterproductive but added: “If the teachers are leaning in this direction and we’re not getting any action when it comes to the legislature, then we should support where the teachers are going.”

Farley recently lost the endorsement of another teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, to his Democratic primary opponent David Garcia. Garcia was roundly criticized for announcing the endorsement in the middle of an unrelated grassroots effort organized by teachers. The Arizona State University professor was called-out on the radio for having “trampled on” the effort by turning it into a campaign event without their knowledge.

“Since I came into the Governor’s Office three years ago in 2015, we have $1.7 billion additional dollars,” Governor Ducey said on KTAR radio this week. “Our per-pupil spending is up 10 percent in the state of Arizona, and the amount of dollars available for teacher pay — that’s both raises and new teachers — is plus-9 percent since 2015.”

A version of this article first appeared at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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