Budget time: “Let’s get ready to rummmbbbbblllllle!”

By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings

 

Turns out that it was even colder here in AZ this week than even our thermometers could measure.
 
Musta been, 'cuz hell froze over this week.

My evidence supporting this conclusion?  Sane people, in the persons of the Democratic leadership at the legislature, actually found some good things to say about the budget proposal released by Governor Brewer on Friday.

In her budget proposal, Brewer advocates restoring a bit of the huge amount of funding cut over the last few years from the education, CPS (Child Protective Services), and health care.

From the Democratic leader in the state senate, Senator Leah Landrum Taylor –

“The governor is doing the right thing by proposing we expand Medicaid. It’s a smart business decision that’s good for our state’s economy and good for the people of Arizona .

From the Democratic leader in the state house of representatives, Representative Chad Campbell –

“The governor’s budget is a good starting point. We appear to have a foundation for a plan that could bring legislators from both parties together to finally enact a common-sense budget for Arizona . I applaud the governor for her proposal to secure Arizona ’s fair share of federal dollars through Medicaid expansion.

On the other hand, the Republican leadership has been almost silent on the proposal. 

From the Arizona Republic, written by Mary Jo Pitzl and Alia Rau

Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin, both Republicans, released a joint statement responding to the budget proposal. It offers no opinion of her specific proposals but hints strongly that some of her budget hikes may find some opposition at the Republican-led Legislature.

 

 

 

“The balanced budgets of the last two years have provided a wise and responsible framework designed to enhance our state’s economic growth," the statement said. "Our hope is that the final enacted budget will replicate the success we have implemented thus far. There is clear evidence that the conservative approach to state funding is the proper way to bring our state back to full economic recovery.”

Obviously, it is still early, so any predictions should be taken with a big grain of salt, but this year is shaping up to be a lot like 2009 on West Washington.

The governor's budget that year was devastating to the above areas, but it wasn't the "worst case scenario".  The Republicans in the lege held out for that worst case, leading to a budget that passed the lege after the new fiscal year had started (every fiscal year starts on July 1, and in 2009, the lege passed the FY2010 budget in the wee hours after midnight on July 1st.  They pretended that they passed the budget on time by shutting off the clocks in the chambers.  Seriously)

The locus of this conflict in 2009 was the state senate.  It takes 16 votes to pass a measure there and the Republicans held an 18 – 12 majority that year.  The GOP shouldn't have had a problem passing anything, but there were three flies in the ointment that year –

Senator Carolyn Allen (R-Scottsdale) – the last true "moderate" Republican in the lege, she refused to vote for the draconian budget pushed by the leadership of the lege because it was too harsh.  Last seen: enjoying her retirement as much as possible.

Senator Pam Gorman (R-Phoenix) and Senator Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) – not exactly moderates; they refused to vote for the budget because they didn't think it was draconian enough.  Last seen: lobbying for Big Tobacco and burning a hole in the ozone layer over LHC, respectively.

The atmosphere, at least that between the governor and the members of her caucus in the lege, was less openly hostile over the next three sessions of the lege – 2010 was an election year, and each side needed the other, so they made nice, and in 2011 and 2012, the Rs held a supermajority of the seats in each chamber, meaning that not only didn't Democratic members have a say in the process, Republican members who wanted to "free-lance" had no leverage. 

Turn the calendar to 2013, and the Republicans still control both chambers of the lege, but with significantly smaller majorities.  In the Senate this year, it will only take two Republicans digging in their heels to cause gridlock.

Add in the fact that Brewer is a lame duck whose influence at the Capitol is on the decline, and my guess is that a lot more than two members of the R caucus will be playing the "more conservative than thou" card over the next few months, with the lives of Arizona's most vulnerable and the futures of Arizona's children on the table as the stakes.

Historical budget-related information from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) here and here.

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