By Terri Jo Neff
For the last three weeks the Arizona Legislature has spent more time not working on the state budget slated to start July 1 than they have spent working on it. But optimism is rising -particularly within the Republican caucus- that the impasse may be over.
Gov. Doug Ducey warned lawmakers at the end of May that he did not want to see any legislation hit his desk unless it was the 11 bills contained with the budget packet. He even vetoed 22 bills, all of which had Republican supports, to show he was serious.
On Monday, a number of people involved in the budget process signaled that compromises were being worked out to ensure 31 House and 16 Senate “aye” votes will be put forth for all 11 bills, or at least a significant number to get things moving forward.
According to Sen. Vince Leach, the proposed budget compromise provides money for education, public safety, road infrastructure, debt reduction, and “significant tax relief.” The first four of those items have been the key areas of disagreement, while the latter involves both tax cuts and a transition to a flat rate income tax.
Ducey also released a letter of support for a revised budget package which would now provide cities and towns with an 18 percent share of the state’s Urban Revenue Sharing Fund rather than 15 percent. The increased percentage is intended to cover $225 million in revenue municipalities were estimated to lose if Ducey’s proposed flat rate income tax is approved by lawmakers.
The transition to a flat tax would take place over a few years, and would limit the top rate at 4.5 percent, although Arizonans making less than $250,000 would have a rate of 2.5 percent.
Another compromise expected to be introduced would cap the amount of tax cuts next year at $1.3 billion unless certain revenue thresholds are hit. In that case, the tax cuts could go as high was $1.8 billion.
The Arizona Education Association has come out against the tax cuts and the flat tax. However, the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona threw its support behind Ducey’s efforts to reach a compromise on the budget package. According to a statement released Monday by HBACA, the budget “enhances Arizona’s economic environment, provides more resources to keep Arizona growing, and promotes housing affordability.”
The mayors who signed the letter to Ducey are from Avondale, Buckeye, Camp Verde, Chandler, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Lake Havasu City, Kingman, Marana, Mesa, Payson, Peoria, Prescott, Sahuarita, Surprise, Winkenburg, Youngstown, and Yuma.