WitchesBrewThe state budget is a witches brew concocted in secret behind closed doors between the governor and GOP legislative leaders, and special interests who are the stakeholders in the annual GOP tax cuts sweepstakes.

Democratic leadership and the rank and file membership of the legislature of both political parties are not included in the secret budget negotiations, and forget about any public input — who cares what you people think?

The authoritarian Tea-Publicans who lord over us treat us all like mushrooms: they keep us in the dark and feed us bullshit. See the Arizona Republic‘s Linda Valdez, Get this GOP: We aren’t mushrooms.

This is in no way “regular order” or a transparent and democratic budget process. The budget is something that should go through a series of committee hearings with public testimony, and  be hashed out in public in the open from the earliest days of the legislative session.

It should not be a secret concocted behind closed doors and sprung on the legislature with little or no time to consider the budget. It should not be rushed to a vote at the eleventh hour– while other bad bills are also being rushed through the legislature often under cover of darkness in the dead of night — in the hopes that the public and the media will not notice what is going on before adjourning sine die.

The budget process is Arizona’s shame. It cries out for reform.

Howard Fischer reports at the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) on the budget winners and losers. Lawmakers ‘very close’ on budget deal that would increase spending by $60 million:

Leaders in the Arizona House and Senate presented rank-and-file lawmakers with a $9.58 billion spending plan, but aren’t yet ready to bring the budget to a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough said Monday afternoon that the budget, as agreed to by GOP leaders in both chambers and Gov. Doug Ducey, would increase spending by $60 million over the previous year’s $9.52 billion budget. It’s unclear if a majority of Republican legislators in each chamber are on board with the deal, “but we are very close,” the Chandler Republican said.

If the budget deal were to fall apart, the consensus among lawmakers is that such a breakdown would occur in the House, where some Republicans have vowed to withhold their votes for the budget unless a series of policy changes are met, including increased spending for the state’s universities, the K-12 school system and infrastructure spending.

Details shared by Yarbrough hinted at attempts to meet those concerns.

University funding would increase by $32 million, though $5 million of that is earmarked for [“Kochtopus”] “economic freedom schools,” research indoctrination centers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University that don’t produce degrees. [Note: the legislature cut $99 million from the Universities last year, so the universities are still in a deep hole.] A series of deferments of university funding – an accounting used to help settle the budget during session – will also be eliminated with $200 million in one-time spending.

“I think the universities may very well be the greatest beneficiaries of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Yarbrough said.

Similar budget gimmicks will be eliminated for the Department of Economic Security and the Department of Child Safety.

K-12 schools would benefit from compromises that scale back cuts in funding proposed by Ducey in January. The benefits would include relief to charter schools, who were set to lose funds due to the elimination of small school weight funding, as well as $600,000 in cuts to district-sponsored charter schools, as opposed to the roughly $1.2 million cut proposed by the governor.

K-12 schools will still be required to use a new, current year funding model to determine their budget needs – a shift estimated to cost schools roughly $31 million. Yarbrough said the budget includes $15.5 million to the school site fund, which will be distributed to schools to help cover that loss.

[Fischer further describes this funding change this way, Biz tax cuts, university funds in proposed $9.5B AZ budget:

Most of the “new” money for public schools is actually just restoring some of what lawmakers voted last year to cut — sort of.

That policy change, set to take effect this year, bases state aid to schools on so-called “current-year funding.”

That’s the number of students they anticipate having. The old system used the prior year’s enrollment as a starting point. Some modeling done last year by the state Department of Education showed the overall net loss to schools in making the change at $32 million.

Yarbrough said the state will put back about half of that, not directly to schools but into a “classroom site fund” administered by state education officials. Those dollars can be used for everything from reducing classroom size and boosting teacher pay to dropout-prevention programs.]

Yet several rank-and-file Republicans, after being briefed on the plan, still grumbled that it doesn’t include enough funding for K-12 schools.

The Highway User Revenue Fund, better known as HURF, will even remain intact – a rare change for a fund vital to infrastructure improvements that lawmakers routinely raid to help balance the budget. The budget includes $96 million for HURF, though some of that is from one-time funding sources, Yarbrough said.

The budget also includes tax cuts, as promised by Ducey, who’s vowed to lower taxes each year he’s in office. A package of roughly 10 corporate tax cut measures will eliminate roughly $26 million in state revenues, according to Yarbrough. So is a tax break for Grand Canyon University, a move pushed by Yarbrough since 2014.

[More on the corporate welfare tax cuts from Fischer, Biz tax cuts, university funds in proposed $9.5B AZ budget:

On the income side is that $26 million set aside for tax cuts. The largest share of that, about $8 million, is for “bonus depreciation.”

Right now, an Arizona business can immediately deduct up to $25,000 a year in new equipment. Anything beyond that is carried forward into future years.

The push is to have Arizona law conform with current federal law that allows an immediate $500,000 deduction. The other big break is set aside to exempt manufacturers and smelters from having to pay the same sales tax on their electricity that is charged to other customers.

Yarbrough acknowledged neither one helps the average Arizonan.

* * *

There is one tax change that could affect those at much lower income levels.

Current law provides a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit, up to $200 for individuals and $400 for couples, for donations to organizations that do charity work for the needy. The change doubles both those amounts.]

The budget lacks one crucial item: a restoration of KidsCare, a health insurance program for children of the working poor that state health officials estimate could provide coverage for more than 30,000 Arizona kids. Senate President Andy Biggs has killed a bill that, despite overwhelming [3-1] support in the House, would use federal dollars to bring back the program, which lawmakers halted as a cost-saving measure during the recession.

The Arizona Republic, as well as all of you, should keep pounding on the Senate for a vote to pass the KidsCare restoration bill. Our View: Quit stalling and pass KidsCare.

Authoritarian Tea-Publicans are still plotting a hostile takeover of the third branch of government, the judiciary, by tying appropriations for the Courts to an unnecessary expansion of the state Supreme Court to allow Governor “Il Duce” to stack the Supreme Court with more “Kochtopus” judges. Budget ties court funding to additional Supreme Court justices:

Arizona courts won’t get a million dollars in funding for new probation officers unless Republican legislative leaders get their way and add two new justices to the state Supreme Court under the budget to be introduced today.

The proposal by Republican leadership in the House and Senate ties the $1 million funding increase to the passage of Rep. J.D. Mesnard’s bill that would expand the size of the Supreme Court from five justices to seven, according to budget documents obtained by The Arizona Capitol Times. Those funds would be used to hire 16 new probation officers to serve a growing population on probation – a move court officials argue will help keep more people out of prison, a cost-saving for the state.

* * *

The budget includes $500,000 in funding for two new justices, as well as $100,000 for a 1.5-percent judicial pay raise. Both line items are also contingent on the passage of HB2537.

But those funds were the result of negotiations between lawmakers and Arizona’s five current Supreme Court justices, who have been opposed to Mesnard’s effort to expand the court.

* * *

Chief Justice Scott Bales told a meeting of the Arizona Judicial Council in March that the court’s five justices unanimously oppose HB2537, at least as a standalone measure. Bales and court officials have negotiated with Mesnard and other lawmakers for more funding for the court, as well as pay increases for themselves and judges in county superior courts and the appellate courts. Judges haven’t received pay raises since 2008.

* * *

[Critics] have argued the effort is politically motivated and the true aim is to allow Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to place his conservative stamp on the court by appointing two more justices.

Earlier this year, Ducey appointed conservative [“Kochtopus”] lawyer Clint Bolick to the Supreme Court.

Mesnard says there is not enough support for HB2537 to pass. The budget doesn’t include as much funding as the justices had pushed for in negotiations, so they’re unlikely to support the bill.

And rank-and-file lawmakers may, like Mesnard, oppose the thought of tying court funding to the bill.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A budget is a moral document.” This is an immoral budget from the evil GOP bastards in the Arizona legislature and Governor “Il Duce.” It is shameful public policy.