Arizona House to debate $9.2 billion budget Monday

PHOENIX - The Arizona House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on a $9.2 billion spending plan for the coming budget year Monday, but the package approved by the Senate may be in for a rough ride.

The plan passed the Senate on a party-line vote with majority Republicans backing the plan authored by Senate President Andy Biggs. But some House Republicans appear ready to oppose the plan when it comes up for a vote because of its spending and how the budget was revealed without more House input.

"This process and what's in it is just a mess," Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said Monday.

Carter declined to provide details of her concerns, but it is known that money to overhaul the state's broken child welfare system falls short of what Gov. Jan Brewer wants. And other House GOP priorities also come up short, including enough highway money and money for water infrastructure, among others. Other issues could include the revenue numbers the Senate used to get to their bottom line.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the package of nine bills Monday morning along party lines, and the full House is set to take it up the bill in the afternoon. Committee Chairman Rep. John Kavanagh said last week that he was encouraged by the ease with which the budget came out of the Senate and the governor's support for most of the package.

Brewer's chief of staff, Scott Smith, said last week that there was still one major sticking point and several smaller ones keeping her from fully supporting the plan. Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said Monday those concerns still exist.

Monday morning's committee hearing didn't expose any issues among majority Republicans, with all votes for the package coming with 7-4 GOP majorities. Amendments offered to House budget bills essentially aligned them with what the Senate passed, with two minor exceptions.

The House needs 31 votes to pass a bill, and Republicans control 36 seats. So at least six Republicans will need to join Democrats in opposition to block the budget from passage.

If the budget fails, it would set the stage for more negotiations that could take days or weeks to conclude.

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