State Capitol News
Tue June 30, 2009
State lawmakers make final budget push
By Howard Fischer
Phoenix, AZ – State lawmakers are set to make the big push today to enact a new
budget before the fiscal year ends at midnight.
Republican legislative leaders made a deal last week with Gov.
Jan Brewer. She would agree to most of their spending cuts if
they put a measure on the November ballot to increase the state
sales tax by a penny, at least temporarily. But several GOP
lawmakers are balking at the possibility of higher taxes, even if
the decision is ultimately left up to voters. They don't want the
compromise. Instead, they want to send Brewer the budget
Republicans adopted on June 4th -- a budget they never sent to
the governor and a budget she all but said she will veto. Sen.
Jack Harper said they shouldn't worry about that threat.
(June 4th, this body, a majority of this body, passed a budget.
We have a budget that will become law July 1st. It's my opinion
the governor of Arizona should sign that budget, or a majority of
it. If I were governor of Arizona I would sign a majority of that
Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said Harper shouldn't
count on that.
(It obviously wouldn't meet with her criteria of approval for a
budget that doesn't devastate our K-12 education system, our
university system, our public safety issues, our state's most
vulnerable and frail populations.)
Senseman stopped short, though, of promising a veto. But Harper
isn't the only one who wants to send Brewer the budget with the
larger cuts. Sen. Ron Gould also thinks it would be a mistake to
hike taxes. And he's not concerned that Brewer won't sign that
first budget and leave the state without legal authority to spend
(Spending is out of control in Arizona. We need to cut. We need
to right-size Arizona's government. And we need to do it quickly.
If we have to shut down government to do that, so be it. We
cannot continue to go on and on spending more and more money that
we don't have.)
That leaves an interesting question -- who will Arizonans blame
if they wake up Wednesday and most services are not available.
Senseman said he won't speculate on whether his boss would get
the blame if she vetoes the bill.
(Our intent right now is to get something, and disagreement
between the legislative leaders and the governor worked out and
passed. And that's where we continue to focus our energies.)
But Rebecca Rios, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said voters
should not blame her party.
(I would like to make on our behalf a very clear distinction to
the people of Arizona that we are at this impasse because of
petty partisan politics. The Democrats have not put us in this
position. The Republicans have.)
The budget package contains another interesting measure --
scrapping Arizona's graduated income tax of from 2.5 to 4.5
percent in favor of a flat 2.8 percent. Sen. John Huppenthal said
it is structured so most people won't pay more -- and those at
the top -- people he says own small businesses and can create
jobs -- will pay a lot less. But the plan could get hung up on
some details, including changes that will make some income like
contributions to retirement plans and alimony taxable twice.