How Healthy Is Arizona?

Arizona Federal Funds Pie

By Nicholas Petsas

This summer has been full of surprises. Some were not so pleasant such as a cancelled study abroad trip to Greece because of an unhealthy professor. A more pleasant surprise to me was how much I learned about the interactions between state and federal budgets in my summer internship in Massachusetts for the National Priorities Project. An Arizona native, and University of Arizona student, I was researching the flow of federal dollars to the states. In the process, I learned a couple of interesting tidbits about my own state.

Arizona’s total state budget was $27.6 billion in fiscal year 2012 and fully 40 percent of that came from the federal government.

The state of Arizona spends half of those federal dollars on health care, dwarfing any other kind of spending. To put it in perspective, health care is twice as much as all economic security programs, which includes unemployment benefits. It's also more than twice as much as transportation and education programs combined. And federal dollars for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families, accounted for 71 percent of Arizona’s total Medicaid costs and one-fifth of the entire state budget.

Other unique statistics and grants include:

  • A program for electronic health records was the second largest stimulus grant that Arizona received from the federal government, totaling $76 million.
  • Research for Arizona State University and University of Arizona totaled almost $1 billion.
  • The Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council received $1.8 million to protect Arizona’s cotton from destruction by moths.

Arizona has low income taxes and federal funds make up a large share of the state's budget relative to peer states. What does this mean for my great state of Arizona? I’ll let you decide.

Nicholas Petsas is a summer research intern at National Priorities Project. He's a student at the University of Arizona Honors College in Tucson.