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Arizona lawmakers set stage for late-night budget debate

Arizona lawmakers set stage for budget debate
Posted at 9:03 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 08:42:03-04

Arizona lawmakers pulled an all-nighter to discuss passing a $10.4 billion state budget plan that provides more than $300 million for raises for many of the state’s striking teachers

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The Republican-controlled House and Senate moved in fits and starts all day as they worked on amendments to the budget deal leaders worked out with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. Those amendments were part of the usual last-minute changes and horse-trading that comes with a deal that needs 16 Republican votes in the Senate and 31 in the House to pass.

The Senate was expected to begin floor debate on the budget at 8 p.m., and the House expected similar timing. The delay is needed to craft the final changes to the package of 10 bills.

 

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Minority Democrats mainly oppose the spending plan, but may end up voting for it because it provides more than $400 million in new school funding.

Besides providing more than $4.5 billion for K-12 education, the budget envisions spending about $1.8 billion for the state’s Medicaid program, $1.1 billion for prisons, $725 million for public universities, about $630 million on social services and $388 million for the child safety department.

Freeing up the money for the added school funding required cuts and maneuvers across several parts of the budgets, including raids on special funds like one that helps clean up pollution from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. But much of the added cash comes from an unexpected boost in revenue that appeared in the first quarter of the year because the economy has finally heated up. As of March 31, the state had brought in more than $330 million more than expected in tax revenue.

Senate President Steve Yarbrough said the pace was average and on par with last year’s budget. He said it was “goofy” to think that anyone was stalling the process.

“It’s just the nature of the beast,” he said. “It’s the legislative process.”