Some Lawmakers Ready To Break State Budget Stalemate

Some Lawmakers Ready To Break State Budget Stalemate

By Terri Jo Neff |

Some lawmakers say Gov. Doug Ducey had a “a temper tantrum” last week when he vetoed 22 Republican-supported bills over his displeasure with the how long it is taking the legislature to pass budget bills.

But with the House and Senate on recess possibly through June 10, other legislators are focusing on what needs to happen to pass a budget when lawmakers come back.

During interviews with KFYI’s James T. Harris on Tuesday, Sen. Warren Petersen (R-LD12) and Rep. Travis Grantham (R-LD12) agreed there have been problems in how the budget process has been handled so far, but both believe a consensus is possible before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Grantham acknowledged to Harris that “some folks” were at fault for how budget negotiations were handled prior to last week’s unexpected recess, but he thinks more lawmakers are seeing it is time to get a budget passed so the legislature can adjourn.

“You know the old saying that ‘nothing good happens if you stay out after midnight?’” Grantham said. “Basically, the Legislature is out after midnight, in fact it’s about 3 a.m. and we shouldn’t be there anymore, and we all need to go home.”

But Grantham says the biggest problem right now is that “too much money” is in play due to last year’s surplus and this year’s surplus. The surplus is there, he noted, because the state is collecting too much money, money he says needs to go back to the people via “a massive tax cut.”

And therein lies the dilemma, Grantham told Harris.

“The issue we’re having is there is so much money in the pot and there is so many people with so many wants and so many needs we’re having trouble staying focused on the finish line,” he said.  “We just need to focus on the budget, we need to focus on cutting taxes, and we need to focus on getting out of there.”

Grantham added that lawmakers need to realize the surplus “is the people’s money, it’s not the government’s money” and then move forward with passing a budget that allows for tax cuts.

In his comments, Petersen acknowledged that some legislative leaders “tried to move the budget without the votes” instead of waiting to ensure there were 31 votes in the House and 16 votes in the Senate for passage.  Petersen also told Harris he was “surprised” that the budget bills were being pushed without a consensus in place first.

“You can’t ignore people if people say they have issues,” Petersen said. “We had all heard about issues from different members, and if you just keep going I don’t know what other result you could possibly expect.”

Although some legislators are suggesting Ducey call a special session focused solely on the budget, Petersen is not sure that is the answer. Instead, he sees it as a matter of elbow grease and not leaving anyone out of the discussion.

“What we really just need to do is we need to do the work,” the senator said. “You’ve got to get the whole caucus together and you just keep working on the budget from whoever is on the far left of the caucus to whoever is on the far right. We’ve got to get those two to agree.”

Petersen did note another reason the budget is not garnering the support needed is that it includes non-budget bills which previously failed on the floor.

“That’s another bad policy. You don’t put bills that don’t pass into the budget to try to force a vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, Petersen and Grantham told Harris they are hopeful Ducey will work with legislators to ensure the 22 vetoed bills are reconsidered in some way once a budget is passed.

Legislature Moving Closer To Ending Ducey’s Declaration Of Emergency

Legislature Moving Closer To Ending Ducey’s Declaration Of Emergency

By Terri Jo Neff |

A Senate Concurrent Resolution that could terminate Gov. Doug Ducey’s March 11, 2020 declaration of emergency will be considered on Monday by the full Senate.

Currently under state law, a non-war state of emergency can only be ended by proclamation of the governor “or by concurrent resolution of the legislature declaring it at an end.” As Ducey has not put forth a plan for termination the current COVID-19 state of emergency any time soon, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23) seeks to end it with SCR1001.

According to SCR1001, Arizona’s government “was established to protect and maintain individual rights and must frequently return to these principles to secure these rights and the perpetuity of our free government” but that Ducey’s year-old declaration and executive orders have “drastically restricted and suppressed the individual freedoms and economic prosperity of Arizonans.”

SCR1001 cites the fact Arizonans have been “personally responsible and have exceeded expectations in slowing community spread through their own individual behaviors and actions, accepting personal restrictions as a civic duty to prevent disease transmission.”

If SCR1001 clears its Third Reading on Monday it will be transmitted to the House. It would take immediate effect upon passage in the House.

However, legislators have been forewarned by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Feb. 17 that Ducey could simply declare a new state of emergency, and even re-institute prior measures, “so long as the conditions for the existence of a state of emergency” are satisfied in accordance with the emergency powers statue.

While Ugenti-Rita’s effort would end the current state of emergency, another Third Reading is slated for Monday for SCR1010 which would require a governor to call a special session of the Legislature at the same time a state of emergency declaration is issued.

But even if Sen. Kelly Townsend’s SCR1010 passes out of the legislature, it must still be approved by voters before the changes to Arizona’s emergency powers law take affect. The Secretary of State would put the issue on the ballot for the next general election.

In fact voters could be asked to choose between Townsend’s immediate legislative special session option and one which gives a governor a few days before needing to call a special session after issuing an emergency proclamation.

SCR1003 sponsored by Sen. Warren Petersen (R-LD12) was approved last month by the Senate. It would terminate a governor’s state of emergency 30 days after issuance unless extended by a Concurrent Resolution of the Legislature. It also requires a legislative session to be called within 10 days if the legislature is not already in session.

Petersen’s SCR1003 has already been transmitted to the House where it awaits committee assignment by the House Speaker Rusty Bowers. As with SCR1010, it would be up to Arizona’s voters whether or not to make the change to a governor’s current emergency powers.