Hobbs Bested In Budget Deal, State Spending Cut 10%

Hobbs Bested In Budget Deal, State Spending Cut 10%

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Republicans again got the better of Governor Katie Hobbs with their second installment of a state budget amid a tenuous divided government.

On Saturday night, the Republican-led Arizona Legislature passed the 2024-2025 state budget and adjourned for the year after finishing its tasks. This latest budget was negotiated between Senate President Warren Petersen, House Speaker Ben Toma, and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs.

“Following last year’s state budget, where Republican lawmakers provided inflationary relief to everyday Arizonans through $274 million in tax rebates distributed to struggling families, as well as a ban on the tenant-paid rental tax taking effect this January, Republicans are again successfully supporting our hardworking citizens while simultaneously reining in spending,” said Senate President Warren Petersen. “In this year’s budget, we defended more than $520 million allocated last year for much-needed transportation projects statewide. We also cut fees for Maricopa County drivers on emissions testing by 5%, and we banned fee increases on Arizonans from state boards for the next two years.”

House Speaker Ben Toma added, “At a time when Arizonans are having to tighten their financial belts, so is state government. The Arizona House of Representatives has passed a fiscally conservative, structurally balanced state budget that solves the nearly $1.5 billion deficit, without touching the rainy-day fund or using budget gimmickry. The budget trims government and protects conservative priorities. It increases funding for local border support operations and assists fentanyl interdiction efforts by law enforcement. It funds transportation and infrastructure and maintains our state’s commitment to water security.”

According to a press release from the Arizona Senate Republicans Caucus, some of the highlights from the agreed-upon budget included the following:

  • Reduction of state spending by $1.7 billion below the 2023-2024 budget (10%);
  • Reduction of ongoing spending by $330 million; and
  • Addition of $5 million for local border security support and $4 million for fentanyl interdiction and law enforcement response.

The Senate Republicans also noted that their efforts this year produced a budget that did not add any new taxes, tax increases, or debt. Additionally, the budget did not pull dollars from the rainy-day fund, ensuring that the state would have sufficient funds to draw upon should it experience more stormy weather in future years.

“We tightened the state’s belt by trimming fat from state agencies, and we reallocated unspent tax dollars to the general fund to eliminate the deficit, without irresponsibly tapping into our rainy-day fund,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh. “Most government operations within the state received a healthy and manageable 3.5% reduction in spending, with a few exceptions. Safe communities free of crime and a secure border are the biggest priorities to Arizonans and Republicans alike, and we want to ensure our budget reflects that. As a result, funding for the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, and the Arizona Auditor General remains intact, while we’re also investing millions in border security, all without raising taxes or creating new debt.”

“Our budget also reflects our support for our citizens’ Second Amendment rights,” said Senator David Gowan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Public Safety & Border Security. “We’re funding two full time positions at the Department of Public Safety to address a backlog of concealed carry permit applications and renewals, with a requirement to prioritize Arizona residents first. This move can have a positive impact in our state by ultimately strengthening the safety and security of our communities as our citizens seek avenues to protect themselves, their families, and their private property. Additionally in this budget, we’re infusing crucial dollars into the Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) located in our rural communities, so these residents have convenient access to emergency care.”

Not every Republican was on board with this budget, however. State Representative Matt Gress explained his “no” vote on the most-recent edition, writing, “This year’s [budget] seems more focused on just ‘getting it done’ than ‘doing it right.’ There’s a reason there is bipartisan opposition. This is not a budget that reflects the shared priorities of Arizonans.”

Gress’ fellow Republican colleague in the chamber, Representative Jacqueline Parker, opined, “Literally the ONLY ones saying good things about this budget are Democrats…”

Senator Wendy Rogers weighed in after the vote in her chamber, posting, “This was a solid Republican budget and I voted for it.”

State Representative John Gillette agreed with Rogers’ sentiments, saying, “After a hard fight and two days of voting, we finally passed the 2024-2025 budget with tax cuts and NO new debt. Fiscal responsibility and conservative values prevailed.”

Regardless of their stance on the budget agreement, many Republicans seemed to be excited about the end of another legislative session.

Republicans will now have to make the case to Arizona voters in the all-important November General Election about why they should return to power in the state legislature for another two years in a divided government with Governor Hobbs. Throughout the past two years, Republicans have been mostly united and focused on protecting several of their priorities from the clutches of Democrats eager to dismantle values and principles. That balance of power, though, hangs on a knife’s edge as fall awaits.

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

As Number Of ‘Gotaways’ Increases, Arizona House Expected To Pass Border Security Act

As Number Of ‘Gotaways’ Increases, Arizona House Expected To Pass Border Security Act

By Daniel Stefanski |

Fears of terrorists and other dangerous individuals crossing the border are driving Arizona legislative Republicans to take action on the southern border crisis.

Over the weekend, Senator David Gowan issued a statement over the border crisis and his Caucus’ efforts to send a border-related measure to Arizona voters for the November General Election. He specifically focused on the ongoing apprehensions of suspected terrorists at the border, writing, “Democrats touting dangerous and misleading rhetoric about the Secure the Border Act, as well as the border crisis as a whole, is reckless for many reasons. They would like citizens to believe the only people entering our country are innocent asylum seekers. However, the data coming from federal agencies, such as the FBI and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as our state law enforcement, consistently tells us otherwise. These agencies have been warning us of the increase in terrorists entering our country illegally and the threat they pose to the safety of America.”

The southern Arizona Republican senator added, “According to the most recent federal data, the number of suspected terrorists who’ve entered our country illegally has spiked over 2,500% during the Biden Administration. Border Patrol agents have apprehended nearly 400 illegal aliens between fiscal years 2021 and 2024 whose names appeared on the terror watch list. This includes Afghan, Pakistani, and Chinese nationals, among many others. Our country is in danger, and we are in dire need of securing our border!”

Earlier this month, the Arizona Senate Republicans Caucus’ “X” account shared a video with statements from Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb and National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto, highlighting the dangers of the increasing number of ‘gotaways’ who have eluded law enforcement at the border. Many of these individuals are entering the United States through the Tucson Sector of the border, which covers a vast stretch of southern Arizona.

A recent Freedom of Information Act request from Fox News revealed that “between FY 2010 and FY 2020 inclusive, there were over 1.4 million gotaways, ranging from a low of 86,226 in FY 2011 to a high of 171,663 in FY 2013.”

There have been at least 1.8 million ‘gotaways’ at the border in almost four years of the Biden administration (FY 21-24).

Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen, who successfully ushered the Secure the Border Act through his chamber this past week, released a statement on the urgent need for voters to be able to consider this measure and state Democrats’ opposition to commonsense border solutions to protect communities. Petersen said, “The Governor’s reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of our citizens during this open border crisis our state is currently enduring at the hands of Joe Biden has left us no other option than to send the Secure the Border Act to the ballot. She’s blocked numerous attempts by Republican lawmakers to pass legislation addressing this issue, so we want to empower Arizonans to take matters into their own hands to protect their communities and support our law enforcement.”

The Republican Senate President added, “I’m pleased to report this critical measure, also known as HCR 2060, passed the Senate this week and now heads to the House for a final vote before appearing on the November ballot. Sadly, all Senate Democrats voted against the measure. Illegal immigration cost Arizona taxpayers more than $3 billion dollars last year. We’re confident we can offset future losses, reduce crime, and save lives with HCR 2060.”

Now that HCR 2060 has been passed by the Arizona Senate, it will now be considered by the Arizona House of Representatives. This chamber, which is led by Speaker Ben Toma, is expected to approve of the measure, which would send it to state voters for the November General Election.

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

Bill To Increase Law Enforcement Numbers Signed Into Law

Bill To Increase Law Enforcement Numbers Signed Into Law

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona legislators are taking action to support the state’s law enforcement.

Earlier this month, Governor Katie Hobbs signed SB 1683, which “establishes rules for the cross certification of peace officers from states adjoining to Arizona” – according to the overview from the state House of Representatives.

Senator David Gowan, the sponsor of the proposal, issued a statement following the governor’s action on his bill. He wrote, “Arizona’s law enforcement agencies in rural and border communities are currently understaffed, as they attempt to tackle both border-related crimes and routine calls for service. They should have the ability to call for backup support from law enforcement in neighboring states during emergency situations. States bordering Arizona, like California, have laws allowing Arizona peace officers to aid their law enforcement in emergency situations, but our law enforcement does not have the same ability.”

Gowan added, “My bill, SB 1683, which was just signed into law, will help fix this issue by allowing our law enforcement to invite peace officers from adjoining states to provide their assistance in Arizona when needed, as well as conduct cross-certification. Cross-certified peace officers may exercise all of the powers of Arizona peace officers, if directed by their agency in an emergency situation. According to Coconino County Sheriff Joe Driscoll, lives will be saved because of this new law.”

On the Arizona Legislature’s Request to Speak system, representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as County Supervisors from Coconino, endorsed the legislation.

In March, the Arizona Senate passed the bill with a bipartisan 23-5 vote (with two members not voting). Last month, the Arizona House approved an amended version of the legislation with a unanimous 60-0 result. The Senate concurred with the House’s changes with a 23-6 vote (with one member not voting) before sending it to the Governor’s Office.

Earlier this session, Senator Wendy Rogers posted about the bill as it progressed through the legislative process, saying, “Thank you Coconino Sheriff Jim Driscoll and deputies for putting forward SB 1683 to supplant Coconino County with cross-state-border law enforcement augmentation.”

SB 1683 will go into effect 90 days after the conclusion of the 2024 Arizona Legislative Session.

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

Hobbs Vetoes Organized Retail Theft Punishment Bill

Hobbs Vetoes Organized Retail Theft Punishment Bill

By Daniel Stefanski |

A legislative solution to crack down on organized retail theft crimes in Arizona was vetoed by the state’s Democrat governor.

Last week, Governor Katie Hobbs, vetoed SB 1414, which would have “require[d] a person who is convicted of a third or subsequent organized retail theft offense to be sentenced as a category two repetitive offender in certain circumstances” – according to the overview from the Arizona House of Representatives.

In her veto letter to Senate President Warren Petersen, Hobbs didn’t give a direct reason for why she took this action on this particular bill. Instead, she pointed to another proposal that she had signed into law, writing, “I have signed Sen. Gowan’s bill SB 1411 establishing an Organized Retail Theft Task Force in the Attorney General’s office that will be critical to adequately and appropriately combat this issue. Their first report is due July 1, 2025 and I look forward to reviewing their policy recommendations and working together to find balanced policies for this matter.”

The Arizona Senate Republicans Caucus’ “X” account respond to the Governor’s veto, saying, “Soft-on-crime Democrats with their relentless pursuit of treating criminals like victims will quickly change Arizona into the nightmare California has become. Law-abiding citizens should be outraged Katie Hobbs vetoed SB 1414, which would have established tougher punishments for retail thieves. Senate Republicans will continue to support policy that promotes safe communities and discourages criminals from victimizing our citizens and businesses.”

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell also weighed in, stating, “By vetoing a prosecutors and retailers-supported bill for harsher penalties for retail thieves who want to sell what they steal, Katie Hobbs has shown us she is cut of the same weak on crime cloth as Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, LA DA George Gascon, and Cook County State’s Atty Kim Foxx. Fortunately, she’s not in charge of a prosecution office. We will continue to hold thieves accountable.”

On the Arizona Legislature’s Request to Speak system, representatives from the Arizona Retailers Association, City of Phoenix, Arizona Food Marketing Alliance, Fraternal Order of Police, City of Glendale, City of Buckeye, City of Litchfield Park, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, City of Chandler, and City of Surprise signed in to support the legislation. A representative from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona opposed the bill.

The Arizona Senate had passed the bill in February with a bipartisan 18-10 vote (with two members not voting). Earlier this month, the Arizona House approved the legislation, after amending it, with a bipartisan 37-22 vote (with one member not voting). The Senate then concurred with the House’s changes, albeit with a partisan 16-14 split.

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

Hobbs Signs Bipartisan School Tax Bill

Hobbs Signs Bipartisan School Tax Bill

By Daniel Stefanski |

A bipartisan school tax bill has become law in the State of Arizona.

Earlier this month, Governor Katie Hobbs signed HB 2173, which “revises statutes relating to tax levy calculations for a common school district not within a high school district (Type 03 district), [and] details session law provisions that redirect monies collected by the additional tax in a Type 03 district in TY 2023 to the state General Fund” – according to the overview from the Arizona House of Representatives.

According to a press release from Arizona legislative Republicans, this bill “was introduced after mistakes identified in the current fiscal year caused dramatic tax increases in several rural school districts, most prominently in the Continent Elementary School district in Green Valley.” Due to this bill’s enactment, “elementary-only districts like Continental will no longer pay tuition for these high school students, but rather they will be ‘open enrolled’ in the school of their choice like any other student around the state.”

The three legislators in the district that was particularly targeted by the bill – Republican State Representatives Gail Griffin and Lupe Diaz and State Senator David Gowan – issued statements to cheer on the success of this emergency measure.

“Property tax increases significantly impacted Green Valley residents this year, prompting immediate actions to remedy this situation,” said Representative Gail Griffin. “Despite the complexities involved, collaboration with school finance experts has led to a sustainable solution.”

“We will resolve the issue of overpaid property taxes for these districts in the upcoming budget, Representative Lupe Diaz added. “We have proposed a reasonable resolution to the Governor’s office to provide targeted funding to those rural school districts, so taxpayers receive an equitable reduction in order to pay them back for last year’s overcharge.”

“As soon as we were made aware of these unintended consequences, we swiftly came together to find a solution,” said Senator Gowan. “My amendment on this bill ensures the dollars that should not have been collected will be returned to taxpayers in the form of a deduction on the following year’s property tax. I also made sure the school districts most disproportionally affected in LD-19 were taken care of.”

HB 2173 was sponsored by House Education Committee Chairwoman Beverly Pingerelli.

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