by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Arizona Mirror
February 1, 2023
Senate Republicans passed a “skinny budget” Wednesday afternoon that merely extends much of the $18 billion budget passed last year for another 12 months, despite Gov. Katie Hobbs saying that she intends to veto it if it reaches her desk.
The Republican budget proposal is a continuation of last year’s bipartisan budget and is being sold by GOP lawmakers as a way to ensure economic stability for the state as the nation is bracing for a possible economic recession.
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Last month, Republican lawmakers said they would only negotiate with Hobbs, a Democrat, on state spending after their continuation budget was signed into law. Though they have presented it as a way to ensure state government won’t shut down in July if the two sides fail to agree on a broader budget plan, the practical effect of doing so would all but guarantee a stalemate because there would be no incentive for GOP legislators to agree to spending any of the state’s nearly $2 billion in surplus cash.
Hobbs’ office signaled earlier this week that she intends to veto the budget plan, calling it a “hollow political stunt” that lacked “bipartisan input or negotiating.” Senate Democrats reiterated that view Wednesday afternoon.
“I feel like this has been a really cheap shot to our governor and our Democrats,” Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, said when voting no on one of the multiple budget bills before the Senate.
Her Republican colleagues, particularly, Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who sponsored the budget bills, reiterated that the bills were not meant to “disrespect” any member of the legislature.
“This budget is not meant to disrespect anyone. This budget is meant to reassure everyone who relies on state expenditures,” he said, adding that it is the start of the process as lawmakers will still have the surplus cash to contend with. “I look forward to talking with my Democrat colleagues, my constituents, with everybody if this should pass.”
But Democrats hammered on Republicans for devoting time to the political theater of passing a spending plan that will be swiftly vetoed instead of tackling pressing problems, like an impending $1.4 billion cut to school spending.
If lawmakers don’t waive a constitutional school spending limit before March 1, school districts will be forced to make drastic cuts that could result in widespread furloughs and school closures.
“We need to make sure that the outdated school spending limit gets addressed and it gets addressed immediately,” Senate Democratic Leader Raquel Terán said.
Senate President Warren Petersen addressed concerns from Democratic members about the lack of input Democratic members had on the “skinny budget,” saying that the members could have met with Republican leadership. He also claimed that Hobbs’ lobbyist has not shown up at the Capitol.
“We have an open door, too. Where is her legislative liaison? He has not broached this building,” Petersen said. “We are being efficient here, we are getting the people’s work done.”
Democratic members argued, however, that what made last year’s budget a bipartisan success was one-time spending, some of which is not present in this version of the budget and would require re-votes for re-appropriation for those funds.
“These bills currently do not reflect what I voted on back a few months ago,” Sen. Theresa Hatathlie, D-Coal Mine Canyon, said.
All the budget bills passed out of the Senate along party lines with the support of the chamber’s 16 Republicans.
“Now that the budget is out, is it appropriate to offer a Sine Die motion?” Alston said to laughs from the rest of the Senate.
Shortly after the Senate voted on its budget, the House Appropriations Committee swiftly approved identical spending bills. The committee accepted no testimony on the budget proposal and voted on all 13 bills in a single vote, prompting Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, to call it a “sham budget and a sham process.”
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