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Senate President Petersen Calls Out Democrats For Refusing To Discuss Budget

January 13, 2024

By Daniel Stefanski |

On Tuesday, Senate President Warren Petersen issued a press release, blasting his Democrat counterparts for “refusing to come to the table for budget negotiations.”

Petersen’s release revealed that the Senate Appropriations Chairman, John Kavanaugh, had transmitted two messages to Democrats – one on December 21, 2023, and the other on January 4, 2024. Those emails requested “input on which areas of government the Minority Caucus would prefer to reduce expenditures on, and which areas to prioritize continued funding for. According to Senate Republicans, not only have Kavanaugh’s emails gone without “response or acknowledgement,” but Petersen “was informed the Minority Leader is directing her Caucus not to engage with the Senate Appropriations Chairman on the budget.”

In a statement accompanying the news release, Petersen said, “It’s unfortunate we’re kicking off this legislative session with Senate Democrats playing games at the expense of our taxpayers. It’s time to be adults. We want all lawmakers to be at the table during budget negotiations, as the citizens of Arizona expect of their elected leaders, but we’ve heard nothing but crickets from the Minority Leader on her statutory obligation. We may have no other choice but to move forward without their input.”

The Senate Republican leader’s words hit a nerve with the chamber’s Democrats, who fired back through their “X” account, writing, “FOR IMMEDIATE RESPONSE: it’s day 2 of session. You’ve moved forward on every other budget without Democrats, so this newest attempt at grandstanding falls flat. The state’s revenue picture has gotten worse month over month, so you know it’s not fiscally responsible to make budget decisions prior to the next Finance Advisory Committee meeting.”

Senate Republicans corrected the record by reminding Democrats that they had “actually invited Democrats to the table last year as well.” The Republican Caucus shared an email from Kavanaugh from March 2, 2023, in which he extended an invitation to the Senate Minority Leader to “begin the process of discussing with you the budget priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus.”

The early back-and-forth between the two political parties follows Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ second State of the State address, where she called on legislators to “find common ground” and to “work together to solve this gap.”

Both parties have vastly differing approaches to solving the state’s budget shortfall, though their rhetoric is somewhat similar at the start of the legislative session. In the Senate Republicans’ Majority Plan for 2024, they vowed to complete this mission “without irresponsibly tapping into the Rainy-Day Fund or using budget gimmicks,” promising instead to “use sound fiscal management strategies, like trimming unnecessary spending and prioritizing government’s top functions.” Hobbs stated that her soon-to-be-released budget would “rein in wasteful spending without sacrificing public safety and public education, establish guardrails on unaccountable programs without hurting hard-working families, and tighten our collective belts through increased efficiencies and innovation without gutting programs that support small businesses, seniors, and those in need.”

Last year, House and Senate Republicans approved a budget that was vetoed by Hobbs. Despite many partisan fights in the public eye between Republicans and the governor, Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma deftly managed a surprise budget compromise, in which their policy priorities remained largely intact. Hobbs will be under increased pressure this time around to extract more concessions from Republicans – especially over the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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