By Daniel Stefanski |
As the Republican-led Arizona Legislature and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs inch closer toward a deadline for the next budget, one state lawmaker is setting the record straight on the status of negotiations.
On Monday, Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen issued a press release, outlining the budget negotiations saga throughout this legislative session.
Petersen began with the passage of the budget by Senate Republicans on February 1: “Back on February 1, Senate Republicans passed a budget proposal that would have provided certainty to our citizens and state agencies. The budget maintained current funding levels and operations in state government to assure schools would remain open, health services would continue, roads would be maintained, public safety would be funded, and so forth. Every Democrat voted against the proposal. Subsequently, on February 16, the Governor called it a “do nothing budget” and vetoed the plan. The fact of the matter is the budget did a lot. Included in this budget was not only funding for the next fiscal year, but supplemental funding for several state agencies. Consequently, those agencies will soon run out of money prior to the next fiscal year.”
The Senate President did not hold back when summing up the governor’s decision to veto this budget, saying, “A reasonable governor would have signed the budget and negotiated how to spend the surplus funds separately. A wise governor would have, at a minimum, line itemed everything except for the current year supplemental funding, ensuring that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s K-12 public schools, and the Arizona State Hospital system had enough money to make it through the next few months. Chalk it up to inexperience. Her senseless veto means all are at risk.”
As the release continues, it remains apparent how much Arizona Republicans have sought to bridge the gaps with their colleagues from the other side of the political aisle – and Governor Hobbs: “Despite Hobbs’ error, Republicans immediately began to build a new budget. On March 2, the Senate Appropriations Chairman emailed all members of the Senate, requesting a list of their priorities for consideration in a new budget proposal. Room was included for reasonable requests from both Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans provided their priorities within a matter of days. Their reasonable, non-partisan priorities have been included in the budget. The Democrats provided no response until March 16, when the Minority Leader stated her Caucus would not provide their feedback for a month. Despite the lack of cooperation and leadership from the Democrat Caucus, President Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma met with the Governor on March 20 to agree on ground rules to accomplish a second bipartisan budget proposal. Since then, frequent meetings have taken place with the Governor’s office to come up with a consensus on how to best appropriate funds. The Governor’s priorities are being negotiated, as are the Republicans’ priorities. Unfortunately, the Democrats have still not provided their requests.”
Petersen issued a direct warning about the state of the state’s finances, writing: “”We are, just weeks away from some government agencies running out of funding because legislative Democrats are stalling. I’m confident we would have already passed a budget had the Democrats spent the last seven weeks negotiating the budget with us, in good faith.”
Last week, after a slew of vetoes from her office, Hobbs attempted to justify her contention with the Republicans in the Legislature, stating, “I promised to deliver sanity, not chaos in the governor’s office and I am delivering. I will gladly work with anybody who will be a partner in addressing the real problems Arizonans face, but I refuse to play political games with our state government. I’m proud of the bipartisan accomplishments we have achieved and encourage leaders in our legislature to continue to come together and pass real solutions that will grow jobs, build roads and bridges, invest in education, and deal with our water crisis.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.