Action Alert: Budget Week is Coming on Monday (Updated)

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After weeks of secretive backroom dealmaking among Republican leadership, the Governor and their lobbyists — to the exclusion of the Democratic legislators who represent 45% of Arizonans — word is that the state budget is coming on Monday, and the legislative session could potentially wrap up by this Thursday, barring any last minute hostage taking by Republicans who want to get their pet bills passed before committing to voting for the GOP budget. Sine die cannot come soon enough.

In case you were wondering, no this is not how the budget process is done in other states. It is not even how it used to be done in Arizona. It is an undemocratic disgrace that is ripe for legislative reforms.

The AP reports, House, Senate hope to roll out Arizona budget deal soon:

Republican leaders in the Arizona Legislature said Thursday they hope to finalize a budget deal with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey over the weekend and roll out the plan early next week.

Senate President Karen Fann said she’s hoping to brief small groups of majority Republicans starting Monday before introducing budget bills. The plan is to enact a budget by the end of the week, but glitches could delay progress.

“So depending on how everybody cooperates, and if we get everything done then that’s the preferred plan,” Fann said. “But if it stalls we could go another week or two if we don’t get the votes.”

The Arizona Republic suggests that Sen. Fann may be overly optimistic. These four Republican lawmakers are big roadblocks for a deal on Arizona’s budget:

Four Senate Republicans have said publicly they will vote against their leaders’ budget plan. That leaves Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, without a GOP majority to move a spending plan forward.

Without a majority, Senate Republicans would have to win Democrats’ votes to pass a budget, a rarity in recent years.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said she will vote against the budget if lawmakers don’t fully repeal the $32 vehicle-registration fee passed with last year’s budget to fund highway patrol operations.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said she was “certainly a no” on the Senate Republican budget plan. Her priorities — including funding for people with developmental disabilities, K-12 education, universities, and KidsCare — weren’t reflected in that document, she said. “I’m not going anywhere until I get my priorities addressed; it’s just that simple,” Brophy McGee said. “That’s what I’m elected to do. … I’m prepared to be there as long as I need to be there.”

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, drew a line in the sand on the budget nearly two weeks ago, saying he would withhold his vote unless lawmakers considered a bill that would give survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue their attackers.

Sen. Heather Carter, who serves on the state’s Human Trafficking Council, has joined Boyer in boycotting a budget vote until the state loosens the statute of limitations on civil suits for childhood sexual-assault survivors.

With four Senate GOP lawmakers against the budget, the session, already dragging on, may not end anytime soon.

The public doesn’t get to weigh in on a legislative budget proposal until the chambers announce a public plan, which usually doesn’t happen until it’s clear the governor and lawmakers can agree.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he’s also preparing for a Monday kickoff with member meetings that typically precede the introduction of actual budget bills. He declined to commit to that timeline, however.

“I think that we are close enough that there could be substantive progress on Monday,” Bowers said.

Bowers moved Thursday to sideline opposition from a Republican senator who refused to back any budget until lawmakers took up a stalled proposal lengthening the amount of time a person who was sexually assaulted as a minor can sue.

With only a 17-13 majority and at least one other GOP senator backing Sen. Paul Boyer, Republicans would have lacked the needed 16 Senate votes.

Current state law allows only two years for someone to sue after turning 18. Boyer had proposed up to seven years after someone realized they had been sexually assaulted. That drew opposition from other Republicans, who believed it was unfair to allow someone to potentially be sued decades after an alleged assault.

Bowers said he was choosing a compromise. A draft of the legislation shows it increases the time to file a lawsuit to age 30, and restarts that clock if new criminal charges are filed for up to a year after the case concludes.

Boyer wasn’t biting, saying on average people assaulted as minors don’t come forward until they’re in their 40s. Not letting someone sue once they realize they were victimized would allow predators to keep targeting children, he said.

“By not including a way to go after current sexual predators, I can’t accept that,” Boyer said.

Bowers said he’s giving what he can.

“What Mr. Boyer decided to do is up to him,” he said. “We are trying to address the challenge in the statute of limitations in a way that all the parties have agreed previously to do.”

Minority Democrats aren’t involved in ongoing negotiations between top Republicans and Ducey’s staff. Bowers and Fann said they’re getting regular briefings.

The governor proposed an $11.4 billion spending plan in January that mainly devotes a $1 billion surplus to state reserves and education funding.

Republican lawmakers objected to several parts of the proposal, including Ducey’s plan to keep a tax windfall the state got from the 2017 federal tax overhaul and his plan to make a $542 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund, designed to prevent massive cuts if a recession hits. They instead wanted to refund that extra cash to taxpayers and pay down debt, with a smaller reserve fund deposit.

Bowers hinted that the governor may get much of what he wants, at least as far as the rainy day fund is concerned.

“We respect the governor, and we respect the governor’s priorities,” Bowers said. “We are working to get what he needs.”

Republican Rep. Mark Finchem, who opposes the governor’s plan to keep an expected $155 million windfall from the federal tax cuts, said negotiators have whittled their proposals down to two, including one that would adjust tax brackets.

“The federal government’s taking less out of people’s pockets,” Finchem said. “Most of our caucus believes that it’s not our place to turn around and pull that out of their pockets for the state’s use. It was given back to the taxpayers, it needs to stay with the taxpayers.”

Assuming that Republicans fall in line and vote for the GOP budget as they usually do, this typically sets off a “rocket docket” marathon session of bills that the GOP leadership wants a vote on. Too frequently this includes zombie bills that you thought were dead brought back to life by “strike everything amendments” (a practice which ought to be banned), without any public input or debate. Sine Die week is always the most dangerous time in the Arizona legislature for bad bills to be passed.

So keep a sharp eye on the Arizona legislature this week, and don’t let them get away with slipping bad bills through without public input or debate.

UPDATE 5/20/19: The Arizona Capitol Times reports “Republican leaders who control the majority in the Arizona Legislature said Sunday they’ve reached a deal with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1.” House, Senate leaders cut budget deal with Arizona governor:

Senate President Karen Fann said four days of negotiations led to the deal that she and House Speaker Rusty Bowers will present to majority Republicans on Monday morning. Bowers also confirmed the agreement. If the deal passes muster with Republican lawmakers, a budget could be approved by the end of the week.

Both declined to provide details [to the public] before briefing their caucus members, who could ask for changes. Bowers and Fann said last week they hoped to cut a final deal over the weekend and introduce budget legislation Monday.

Minority Democrats were not involved in the negotiations.

Remember when Governor Ducey called for bipartisanship in his State of the State address earlier this year? ““I’m not here just to work with Republicans on Republican ideas” he said. He lied.

The public, and their Democratic representatives who represent them in the state legislature, were cut out of the budget process. This is not how it is supposed to work.




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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.

1 COMMENT

  1. God forbid the public at large or the minority are involved in the State budget preparation. The geniuses like Fann and Bowers, and Cobb and Finchem are all this state needs. All others need not be involved.

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