Lawmakers hammer out budget deal

Phoenix, AZ – State lawmakers are poised to cut $1.1 billion from the state
budget today. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

The plan adopted late Thursday by House and Senate Appropriations
committees reduces state aid to public schools by about $130
million, take $142 million from universities and $9 million from
community colleges.

Sen. Russell Pearce said lawmakers had to tap
education funding because it makes up nearly half of the $9.9
billion budget and lawmakers needed to plug a $1.6 billion

But Democratic Sen. Rebecca Rios pointed out that, even
as they cut education dollars, the Republican-controlled
Legislature is moving to permanently repeal the state's property
tax, a levy that was suspended for three years in 2006 when the
state had a surplus but is scheduled to return later this year.

(We're going to eliminate $258 million but going to sit here
today and say we don't have $100 million for public education.
It's B.S. And it boils down to where are your priorities. And I
will say that public education has never been a priority for a
majority of folks in the Legislature, even when times were good.)

Democrat Rep. David Schapira also proposed restoring some of the
cuts to education said there are other sources. He pointed out
that the GOP plan proposes to fill the balance of that $1.6
billion hole with an anticipated $500 million the state hopes to
get from the federal bailout package making its way through

(There is a significant amount more money that is on its way. The
version that has passed the House and the proposal that is
through committee in the Senate both include significant amounts
of money for higher education which could more than make up the
difference between the numbers in this bill and the numbers in my

But Republican Rich Crandall said trying to balance the state
budget on the chance that more dollars are on the way is a bad

(We know that there's a federal bailout moving through the
Congress at this time. We know that it's large, very large. We
know that every state is going to get something. Beyond that, we
don't know a whole lot. We don't know when we're getting it. We
don't know when the treasurer's going to have it to disburse. We
don't know what strings are attached to it. We don't know what
amendments the U.S. Senate's going to attach to it. We don't know
if it's for 09, or if it's for 10 or 11.)

Democrats also attempted to propose another method to balance the
current budget with smaller spending cuts: Defer making some
payments due this fiscal year into the next one. But Rep. John
Kavanagh said all that does is delay the problem until next year,
when the anticipated deficit already is estimated at $3 billion.

(Rolling over payments to next year is part of the reason we're
in our current crisis. We've done too much rolling over. And
rollovers, besides pushing debt into the future also cause the
problem of not cutting your ongoing budget.)

Aside from cuts to education, the plan reduces funding for
virtually every state agencies and specifically directs the head
of each to reduce personnel costs, whether through layoffs or
forced time off without pay. Kavanagh said as unhappy as the
Democrats are with the package, there are Republicans who believe
lawmakers should have cut the operating budgets even deeper.

(Nobody likes everything in the bill. Nobody got everything they
wanted. Nobody got everything they wanted out in. But, overall,
we've all come to a general consensus. And we're either for or
against it.)

The next step is floor debate in both the House and Senate later
this morning, followed by a final roll-call this afternoon.
Republican legislative leaders say they have the votes to get the
measure to Gov. Jan Brewer who is expected to sign it.