East Valley leaders like Gov. Janet Napolitano’s proposed education package but aren’t so sure about her plans to curb illegal immigration.
The governor’s $10.1 billion budget proposal, released last week, also serves as a road map for the direction she wants to take the state. She wants several new initiatives, including more money to expand full-day kindergarten, tighten border security and provide pay raises for state employees and teachers.
Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, said the governor’s plan to expand full-day kindergarten, raise teachers salaries, and fund more scholarships for universities and community colleges is just good business.
As the East Valley looks to attract high-tech firms, Arnett said the region will need the competitive edge of an educated work force. And the governor’s plans will help do just that, he said.
“We’re no longer competing against other areas of the country or the state,” he said. “We’re competing against places like Ireland, China and Japan.”
Others agreed, saying Napolitano’s plan to improve the state’s education system will pay long-term dividends.
Tempe Councilwoman Pam Goronkin said it was clear that the governor had made education a top priority, which will help cities and towns land other high-tech businesses such as Google and Intel.
“I think its necessary for a knowledge-based economy to invest in education,” said Goronkin, a registered Republican, who plans to endorse Napolitano in the coming election.
Specifically, the governor on Tuesday proposed $145 million for full-day kindergarten and another $45 million for an across the board teacher pay raise.
However, optimism on education is replaced with uncertainty when it comes to the governor’s plan to tighten border security and stop illegal immigration.
Mike Whalen, a former police office and current Mesa city councilman, said no plan to control illegal immigration will work unless the federal government gets involved.
“I’m not sure the state of Arizona can do anything to help us out,” he said Friday.
The governor has proposed a $100 million border security and illegal immigration package that would fund more manpower and better technology to improve law enforcement.
In addition, Whalen said the governor’s plan to crack down on businesses hiring illegal immigrants is nearly impossible to enforce.
Unless there is a federal database with easy access to check Social Security numbers, Whalen said, law enforcement doesn’t have the personnel to police state businesses.
On other proposals in the governor’s budget, many East Valley leaders were unwilling to speak publicly, saying they didn’t want to anger either the Democratic governor or the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Besides immigration and education, the governor also proposed $100 million in targeted tax cuts as well as paying back state funds — such as the Highway User Revenue Fund — that were raided in the past.
Kathy Langdon, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, said the governor’s plan to repay the Highway User Revenue Fund would benefit the East Valley.
In the past, the Legislature has taken about $63 million from the fund to help balance budgets. Napolitano said she would like to pay back about $40 million of that.
Langdon said growing communities such as Gilbert depend on those funds to help maintain the town’s streets.
“Anytime transportation dollars get squeezed, growing communities like ours will feel the impact,” she said.
Chandler City Councilman Matt Orlando also agreed with the governor’s approach to repay the old debts.
“I like the fact that (Napolitano) wants to pay off debts before cutting taxes,” Orlando said. By doing that, Orlando said, the state would have more money in the long run to give back to schools and other services that many state residents depend on.