School funding and community college infrastructure headed the list of priorities outlined separately by two elected members of the Arizona State Legislature during a panel discussion sponsored by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
The pair, who represent Legislative District 18, answered broadly ranging questions and proposed solutions regarding the current state of finances and employment in the district.
Representatives Jennifer Jermaine and Mitzi Epstein are responsible for public policies and planning in large areas of West Chandler and South Tempe. When elected to their positions, both representatives voiced their concerns for improving the schools in their community, shaping the overall budget in the district and refining the job economy to allow for more growth, particularly among younger employees in minimum wage jobs.
“Funding for schools is always number one for me,” said Epstein, who disapproves of the decisions made by the State Finance Committee in its budget for public schools. “However,” she added, “there seems to be some bipartisan support for the idea of working in the interim on long term solutions for Arizona’s revenue, especially for our schools.”
In addition to more funding for schools, Epstein said she plans on utilizing the current budget surplus for improving government support for the disabled community, as well as the direct care workers involved. “Let’s give people not just a job, but a career,” she said.
Jermaine, on the other hand, said she plans to implement policy on utilizing the government surplus for community colleges and infrastructure.
According to her studies, Pima and Maricopa community colleges lost approximately $15 million in state funding during the great recession 10 years ago, which has yet to be restored.
On the topic of protecting the state’s Highway User Revenue Fund, Jermaine said, “We have roads that are falling apart, and we have bridges and dams that are structurally unsound. These could be catastrophic events. If a dam breaks it could flood a city, or it could mean that we don’t have the drinking water we need.”
Both representatives touched on several other policies, including bills for protecting Arizona’s water resources and implementing more training for skilled workers. Rep. Epstein remains passionate for the topic of creating careers in the community, rather than just more jobs.
“If we want to have more jobs then we need to make sure we have more customers, which means we need to make sure we are providing livable wages…,” she said. “We want to make sure we are providing public policies that support a career path.”
For more information regarding the Arizona budget surplus and public policy in LD18, visit www.azleg.gov.