Update to Arizona GQP Legislative Budget: Let The Games Begin. Tjat was quick, game over before it even began.

The Arizona Mirror reports, House GOP ‘skinny’ budget proposal shot down in committee:

A $13 billion dollar budget, sold by Republican lawmakers as a continuation of last year’s budget while the legislature debates how to spend its current $5.3 billion dollar surplus, was promptly shot down in its first hearing in a House Appropriations Committee.

Two Republican lawmakers joined the panel’s Democrats to vote against the so-called “skinny budget” plan, which Chairwoman Regina Cobb said was a response to what she saw as a lack of movement on creating a budget.

She framed the rejected proposal as an attempt to keep spending stable for agencies and programs already operating with government funds. But panel members criticized it as falling short of meeting the needs of Arizonans.

“There are so many needs within our state, and with $5.3 billion (in surplus), there’s a lot we can do,” Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said. “I think that we have a responsibility to do more than pass a continuation budget.”

Udall was joined by fellow Republican [fake GQP elector and insurrectionist] Rep. Jake Hoffman in voting down the package of budget bills, all of which failed on 6-7 votes.

Cobb chastised Hoffman, Udall and Democrats for not being able to move past their “egos” and stymying the budget process.

“Because you didn’t get what you wanted, you voted this way,” she said as the hearing ended. “That’s ego. And that’s what kept us from moving forward.”

It’s all on you, you craptactular chairwoman. You suck at your job, so you want to blame others for your own gross incompetence.

Udall, who is seeking nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction, told the Arizona Mirror after the hearing that a future budget lobbying for her vote should include increased spending in special education, special education transportation, and student improvement. 

“School improvement is my top priority, trying to make sure that we improve academic outcomes for our students,” she said.

[Fake GQP elector and insurrectionist] Hoffman opposed the spending plan for the opposite reason: The “skinny budget” spent too much. He said he was skeptical that no new bills with extra spending would be passed later, and said his vote was contingent on a commitment that wouldn’t happen, which he didn’t receive. [And he never will.]

“Government is spending like crazy. We have a $5.3 billion dollar surplus. That doesn’t mean that we’re doing a great job. That means that we’re overtaxing the people that we represent,” he said.

The surplus is from federal Covid relief payments to the state which have not been fully appropriated because Republicans want to steal the money for Gov. Ducey’s tax cut for wealthy Republican camaign contributors, and an economy which is recovering faster than state economists had originally predicited from the Covid recession because of the “Biden Boom” economy. This fucking moron doesn’t have a clue of what he is talking about. Republicans know absolutely nothing about economics.

The bulk of the state’s tax revenues come from sales taxes, and legislative budget analysts have said for months that the surplus is largely being fueled by unexpected growth in consumer sales as Arizonans make purchases that were delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Huge problems, but no solutions

The vote to reject the budget bills came after lawmakers heard testimony that the spending proposal failed to meet the needs of the state.

Brenden Foland, a lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, noted that refusing to increase school funding when there are surplus dollars available is a missed opportunity to address real issues in classrooms. Arizona is consistently ranked at or near the bottom in per-pupil spending, and Foland said that funding is needed for a host of issues, including increasing teacher salaries to alleviate a growing shortage, mental health resources for students and opportunity weight funding for schools with high percentages of low-income populations. 

“This money could be used to make a real difference for our students,” he said.

This Budget Actually Makes Deeper Curts To Education Funding

Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, expressed concern over Arizona Department of Education budget cuts the bill could introduce. It not only makes a new cut of $21.9 million, but because it continues last year’s funding formula that was based on pandemic enrollment numbers, schools would also be unable to recoup the $266 million lost last year

“Are you suggesting that we fund ghost students?” Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, asked sharply.

Says the guy who wants to privatize public education by enacting and expanded vouchers bill to accomplish this by diverting public tax dollars to private and parochial charter schools. This explains his animosity towards public education. 16 years of this fool in the Arizona legislature is long enough. Whatever happened to term limits? Kick him to the curb.

Students are returning, Butler replied, but the new budget doesn’t acknowledge that — and schools will be left scrambling.

Cobb said that would be resolved in future budget years, once enrollment rises. [You mean like this coming school year in 2022-23 that you are supposed to be funding?]

Likewise, maintaining existing spending on environmental programs was inadequate, said Sandy Barr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter. She said the proposed budget doesn’t support the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality or state efforts on climate change or water quality and monitoring. Most worryingly, Barr said ADEQ’s funding request to resolve deficiencies found by a recent audit, which include arsenic and uranium standards in water, wasn’t included in the proposal.

“This is really no way to care for our state or the kind of legacy to leave for future generations,” she said.

Bowers: GOP may need to seek Dem support

Leadership in the House said that ironing out a budget proposal that will earn approval from legislators is a daunting task, especially where bipartisan support is concerned.

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding said Democrats are ready to negotiate, but that putting together a barebones effort isn’t on the table.

“The $5 billion dollars needs to be invested in Arizona,” he said.

The housing crisis and infrastructure needs are paramount, and the surplus dollars can be spent helping alleviate rising homelessness and repair aging roads, Bolding said.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers told reporters after the vote that his party’s priorities include water, border security and changes to last year’s tax cut package. A special session might be on the horizon, depending on how well the rest of this session accommodates those priorities, he said.

Bowers said the “skinny budget” was an attempt by members who were interested in passing budget cuts to gain approval for a slimmed down version, and that its failure meant a new iteration would only get more expensive and likely require bipartisan support.

“My job is to get a budget. We can either do it with (just) Republicans — but I don’t have any to spare,” he said. “That’s the preferred way just so that we can try to keep costs down.”

GQP authoritarianism – no interest in bipartisan consensus building. This disenfranchises half of the citizens of Arizona who are represented by Democrats. Isn’t this what Republicans constantly whine about at the federal government level?

Republicans hold one-vote majorities in both the House and the Senate, and GOP leaders in the Senate are facing similar challenges in passing a budget that relies solely on Republican votes.

The House’s attempt to pass a “skinny budget” was prompted by Republican Sen. Paul Boyer’s demand that lawmakers add $900 million to K-12 funding. Only by doing so, he said, would he support a GOP effort to repeal-and-replace last year’s massive income tax cuts, which would negate a planned referendum on the tax cuts in November.

Howard Fischer adds, “Skinny” budget plan runs aground as Arizona is awash in cash:

It’s not just the Democrats and some Republican lawmakers who want more spending. The Republican governor made it clear Wednesday he was not interested in signing a spending plan in his last year in office that simply keeps things the way they are.

“Nobody’s talked to me about a skinny budget,’’ Gov. Doug Ducey told Capitol Media Services. “We have a $5.2 billion surplus. And we have real needs right now, including our border, wildfires that are happening across the state and the Arizona state water commission,” he said.

“I presented the budget that I wanted the week after the State of the State” speech he gave in January, he said. “And I still want that budget,’’ which proposes $14.25 billion in spending.

[Fake GQP elector and insurrectionist] Hoffman, by holding out his vote, and preventing the measure from advancing to the full House, may have effectively dealt himself out of future negotiations.

“We offered an opportunity for the cheapest budget we can get,’’ House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, told Capitol Media Services after the Wednesday vote. “And so, we’ll just have to go by ear now and see what we can come up with.’’

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said doing nothing is not an option. She pointed out that the Arizona Constitution gives the Legislature just one mandatory duty: adopt a spending plan for the next fiscal year [by July 1st].

If there is not a final budget approved by the House and Senate and signed by Ducey by July 1, state agencies shut down.

Cobb said Wednesday’s vote gave her some insight into what has to happen next — meaning, starting again with what was in the baseline budget and then putting in “what we need to put in.”

What Cobb means is legislator’s pet policy bills in order to buy off their votes on the budget. But the Arizona Supreme Court ruled last year that this GQP practice is unconstitutional. Arizona high court explains why it tossed budget bills:

The Arizona Supreme Court explained why in November it quickly affirmed a lower court ruling throwing out parts of three budget bills passed last year and invalidating one entire bill that was part of the budget package.

[It] took the high court less than two hours after it heard arguments on Nov. 2 to agree with the lower court that three budget bills packed with a conservative wish list of policy items violated the constitution’s provision that the substance of legislation must be clearly expressed in bill titles. The court also found that a fourth bill making up the budget package violated both the title rule and one that says bills must cover but a single subject.

Provisions in the three bills where only the title rule was violated were blocked as unconstitutional. The fourth bill was declared entirely void for violating the single-subject rule.

The decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the Legislature.

Republicans who control the Senate and House have worked around the requirements for years, slipping policy items into budget bills in order to win support for the whole budget package. Last year, the Legislature was particularly aggressive and packed the 11 bills that make up the budget with a hodgepodge of conservative policy items, some of which had failed as standalone bills.

With the high court’s new ruling, lawmakers will surely be sued and quickly lose if they continue violating the constitutional rules.

The budget stalemate continues because of failed Republican leadership.