Arizona Legislature $16 Billion Budget for 2023 Causes GOP Infighting

Arizona Legislature $16 Billion Budget for 2023 Causes GOP Infighting

By Corinne Murdock |

Less than 24 hours after the Joint Legislative Budget Committee published the proposed budget report late Monday, infighting broke out among Arizona’s House and Senate Republicans.

Tuesday marked lengthy budget discussions in the House Appropriations Committee, but in the Senate discussions were cut off abruptly with an indefinite recess of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Effectively, public budget talks ended before they started in half of the State Capitol.

State Senator David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista) said that the House didn’t honor its agreements to pass some bills; one of those significant ones being the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) continuation. 

“The House has decided that they will not honor the deals we created together and move things forward. I know there’s some media out there, social stuff going on, that they’re trying to pin us and maybe leverage us. But the point is here, they blew the deal,” said Gowan.

Gowan added that he wasn’t willing to call the committee together later on in the day, either. It appears that House legislators reneged on some serious closed-door talks — enough to upset him.

“It would be pretty hard for me to want to come back and help people who wish not to honor deals. In that effort, it’s just not appropriate in what just occurred, so I want that out to the world,” said Gowan. 

However, State Representative Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert) contended that he’d never heard of these deals as the House Rules Committee Chairman. He criticized Gowan’s preferences as “special interest” legislation that was “fat, bloated, […] unconstitutional,” and adverse to Republican interests. Gowan didn’t reply.

“I have never discussed a deal, agreed to a deal or been part of some secretive deal to move certain Senator’s special interest bills that are fat, bloated and in some instances likely unconstitutional,” wrote Grantham. “And further, why would we invite and pay an industry, with taxpayer dollars to come into our great state when they will ban, boycott and take away major meetings, corporations and events because of our Republican majorities and sound policies? #BadIdea”

Those weren’t the only serious breaks from presenting a unified Republican front on the budget. Several individual Republican legislators vocalized dissatisfaction with the budget emphatically on social media and during committee votes.

As the majority, the GOP will have to resolve those opposed within its membership if it hopes to secure the budget’s passage before the new fiscal year begins next Friday, July 1.

Among those opposed to the budget are State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale). She asserted that the budget wasn’t fiscally responsible in the face of a looming recession. Ugenti-Rita scorned provisions of the bill as “pet projects” for fellow members.

That contradicted how State Representative Regina Cobb (R-Kingman) characterized the budget during the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Cobb said that the proposed budget bills would afford the state with an 8 to 10 percent cushion — enough to “weather the storm” of a pending recession, asserting repeatedly that paying off the pension debt and rollovers would remove troublesome burdens in coming years.

“Are we going to flatline tomorrow or July 1? Absolutely not, but we’ve projected it to be fiscally conservative,” said Cobb. “I think if we’re going into a recession, we’re paying off a lot of debt that could be hanging over our heads during a recession.”

State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) also opposed the budget. He declared that the budget would only worsen an impending sustained recession and current, serious economic destruction. Hoffman criticized the raises to state employees and judges of up to 15 percent. Although Hoffman was the only Republican committee member to vote against the bill, the legislator said that the budget doesn’t reflect the majority’s platform.

“Everything in [our constituents’] lives are going up, and they’re not getting raises right now. If they are, they’re under the inflation rate,” said Hoffman.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a free market policy and advocacy organization, asserted that extraneous funding for agendas contrary to the interests of Arizonans were sprinkled into the budget. In a statement to AZ Free News, President Scot Mussi declared that the budget largely fulfilled Democrats’ wishlist. 

“The proposed budget deal includes hundreds of millions in new spending, subsidies for Hollywood liberals to make movies, tax hikes for a Green New Deal transit plan in Maricopa County and special interest pork to buy Democrat votes,” said Mussi. “We should be working toward a budget that has full Republican support, not a Build Back Broke budget supported by Democrats.”

By and large, Democrats focused their comments Tuesday on lamenting the budget’s K-12 spending. Some accused the budget’s design as a “shell game.” Several noted that they didn’t like the idea of funding more border security. 

One of the most vocal opponents of the budget, State Representative Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), called the ongoing revenue calculations “irresponsible” during committee. Butler also said that she and a majority of Arizona voters wanted $1 billion for K-12 education. Butler accused the budget of shell games related to taxation that made education funding more vulnerable. 

Despite the ongoing economic turmoil and near-universal expectation of a recession, Butler asserted that the economy was “thriving.” Butler also took issue with the fact that she was still getting briefings by midnight and memos from staff at one am early Tuesday, arguing that no legislators had time to figure out what’s all in the budget.

Present at the State Capitol were educator activists with the Arizona Education Association (AEA) rallying for more teacher pay using the $5.3 billion surplus.

Those for the budget praised it for getting more things right to address the state’s current needs. One Democrat, State Representative Cesár Chávez (D-Maryvale) signaled support for the budget, pointing out during committee that the legislature had a little over a week before its deadline for the budget hits. He concurred with his Democratic peers that K-12 education needed a “true, historic investment,” but that he had a responsibility to make the budget work ahead of the deadline. 

State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) offered a list of positives within the budget solving statewide problems: over $1 billion to solve water supply problems; over $1.6 billion overall increase in K12 spending, which meted out to $750 per pupil or a $23,000 increase per classroom; over $1 billion in debt payoff in unfunded liabilities and pensions; over $1 billion increase in public safety (police, fires, courts); and over $500 million to increase health care like in diabetes management training and postpartum care.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

The Corporation Commission’s Upcoming Meeting Could Have a Huge Impact on You

The Corporation Commission’s Upcoming Meeting Could Have a Huge Impact on You

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

If you don’t typically pay attention to the Arizona Corporation Commission, now is a good time to start.

The role of this government agency is to set rates and policies for utilities. That sounds simple enough, right? But for over a year now, the commission has been in the process of developing a “clean energy” plan that looks to ban all fossil fuels in our state. Next week, this renewable energy mandate will be brought up for a vote again. And the consequences could be a disaster.

Green New Deal mandates would cost ratepayers over $6 billion

In July 2020, the commission quietly released its plan to impose California-style energy mandates in our state. But it wasn’t until August of this year that an independent cost analysis had been completed. And the results were eye-opening.

In order to achieve the 100% clean energy mandate by 2050, utilities would need to phase out all fossil fuels, purchase more solar and wind generation, expand lithium-ion battery storage, and convert natural gas generation to green hydrogen. The cost for all this would be over $6 billion, which comes out to an estimated $60 per month or $720 per year for the average ratepayer.

Remember when the green energy lobby said that these mandates would actually save you money? It turns out that was just another lie. But the cost isn’t the only issue.

>>> CONTINUE READING >>>

Hearing Of Bill To Prevent Arizona Corporation Commission Energy Policy Power Grab Set For Tuesday

Hearing Of Bill To Prevent Arizona Corporation Commission Energy Policy Power Grab Set For Tuesday

On Tuesday, the Arizona House Natural Resources, Energy & Water Committee is scheduled to consider HB2248, which seeks to ensure that policy decisions are made by officials the people of Arizona elected to make them.

“The Arizona Corporation Commission is established in the Constitution of Arizona to regulate public service corporations, which includes non-municipal corporations that furnish gas, oil or electricity for light, fuel or power,” as per the legislative record. “Specifically, the Commission has the full power to prescribe rules, regulations and orders that govern a public service corporation’s rates, charges and classifications, which is collectively referred to as its “ratemaking authority.”

The Commission is not authorized to set energy policy.

As previously reported by AZFN, HB2248 sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin (R-LD14) is in response to various Green New Deal mandates implemented by the ACC in recent years for how public service corporations can do business. It makes clear that legislators -not the ACC’s five members- have authority for establishing policies related to critical electric generation resources, whether biomass, coal, fuel-cell technology, geothermal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, or petroleum fuel products.

HB2248 would prohibit the ACC from adopting or enforcing any “policy, decision or rule” which directly or indirectly regulates what types of critical electric generation resources to be used or acquired by a public service corporation within Arizona’s energy grid “without express legislative authorization.”

Sen. Sine Kerr (R-LD13) has introduced SB1175, a companion bill to HB2248. The bills would amend Title 40 of the Arizona Revised Statute by adding a new section designated as ARS §40-213. The amendment would not apply to any ACC policy, decision, or rule adopted before June 30, 2020 but would be retroactive to that date if passed.

The Free Enterprise Club, a pro-business group, reports that “several interest groups and Green New Deal activists have signed in against the bill, and they have coalesced around one argument: legislators aren’t smart enough to handle energy policy. This is a topic that should be left up to the “experts” over at the ACC.”

“As HB 2248 and SB 1175 move forward, it will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to being told that they are stupid and should stand in the corner while the Corp Comm attempts to set energy policy for the state,” the Free Enterprise Club asserts in a blog post. “Hopefully, it will stiffen their resolve to do the right thing: stopping the Green New Deal in Arizona.”

In 2018, Arizona voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 127, a ballot measure that would have forced electric companies to get half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Prop 127 was pushed by California billionaire activist Tom Steyer’s political group NextGen America.

Despite the massive spending by the group, Arizonans rejected what was described as the “costly, politically driven mandates,” outlined in Prop 127.

In fact, Arizona voters’ rejection of the mandates in Prop 127 caused Democrats in close races like Mark Kelly to denounce both the Green New Deal and a ban against fracking.