Arizona Supreme Court steers clear of budget dispute
Phoenix, AZ – Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling on the fight between Governor Jan
Brewer and legislative leaders has both sides claiming victory.
The Republican controlled Legislature approved an $8.2 billion
spending plan on June 4th. But Senate President Bob Burns and
House Speaker Kirk Adams made a conscious decision not to send it
to the governor. They admitted the reason was political: They
wanted to gain leverage over Brewer who doesn't like the plan.
She wants to spend more.
(Certainly it's imperative that we come to some conclusion, some
agreement for the people of Arizona. I certainly am not going to
decimate education. I'm not going to put at risk our most
vulnerable population. Nor am I going to destroy public safety in
the state of Arizona. I think those are the three main issues we
need to come to agreement on.)
Brewer thinks the best way to do that is for her to get the
bills, presumably veto them, and start over. More to the point,
the governor said she doesn't want lawmakers to be able to play
games, holding onto the bills until the end of the budget year
June 30th, a move that would force her to either sign their
budget or risk shutting down state government. So she sued the
Legislature asking the Supreme Court to force Burns and Adams to
let loose of the bills. In arguments Tuesday, attorney David
Cantelme who is representing the two lawmakers, did not dispute
that they are trying to gain political advantage over the
governor. But Cantelme told the justices that doesn't mean they
should order legislators to give Brewer the bills now.
(If she wants to veto them, she can veto them on June 30th, or
July 1st. Her veto power is not in any way impinged. But it may
become more politically difficult. I would agree with that, to
veto them the later it gets. To that I say, so what? That's a
political struggle. It's a political negotiation.)
The court, however, wasn't buying it. In a brief order, Chief
Justice Ruth McGregor said that once both the House and Senate
pass a bill, the state constitution requires them to send it to
the governor without delay. And they specifically said that
budget adopted June 4 was not sent -- and has still not been sent
-- quote -- within the time mandated by the Arizona Constitution.
But the justices, said there were, in their words, unusual
circumstances in this case, including the fact that there are
only five business days between now and the end of the fiscal
year. So they said while lawmakers did break the law, they
weren't going to order them to cough up the bills, at least not
this time. Despite that, Brewer issued a statement declaring a
victory. And her press aide Paul Senseman said that, court order
or not, the ruling shows lawmakers are breaking the law and
should send her those bills.
(Just because they didn't order them to do it, Howie, doesn't
mean they don't have to abide by, they shouldn't abide by the
constitution. The governor feels that it's clear now more than
ever, what the constitution requires the Legislature to do. And
they should send those bills immediately.)
Adams however, had a one word answer. No. Nor does he see the
order as a defeat -- or even a requirement to now start sending
bills to Brewer after they're approved.
(We're going to continue to try to figure out exactly what the
court ruling means. There is a little bit of ambiguity as to
whether or not is it immediate or is it prospective. They seem to
have split the baby in some regards. So our attorneys are
analyzing that right now to try to figure that out.)
In the meantime Brewer and GOP leaders continue to meet with the
clock ticking and no deal on a spending plan for the new budget
year that begins in just a week.