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Budget debate continues at the state Capitol in downtown Phoenix

Rep David Cook tweet re_ Globe wildfires.jpg
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 21:33:14-04

PHOENIX — After a week away, members of the Arizona House of Representatives reconvened Monday in an effort to jump-start a debate on the budget, which has yet to be passed, even amid mounting pressure from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Two critical pieces of the $12.8 million proposed budget -- a $2.5% flat tax and a cap of 4.5% on state income tax -- failed to advance Monday morning.

As a result, the House adjourned until Thursday.

“The Finance Advisory Council has urged us to use caution, caution, caution, but this bill doesn’t feel cautious at all,” said State Representative Mitzi Epstein, (D) Ahwatukee/Chandler.

“Permanent tax cuts set against short-term one-time money. This bill isn’t cautious, it’s a flying cannonball into the deep end.”

Republicans claim the tax cuts will bring more jobs to Arizona and create a better economy.

“They’re going to Texas for the low tax rate, they’re going to Nevada because of the low tax rate. We need to continue to grow and that is why I support this amendment,” said State Representative Steve Kaiser, (R ) North Phoenix/Cave Creek and Scottsdale.

Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, both the House and Senate went into recess, partly because there were not enough votes to pass the budget and partly because some leaders had vacations planned and would be unable to vote.

Following that, Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed several bills and vowed not to consider any further bills until a budget was passed.

Over the week-long recess, Republican leaders added amendments to the budget bill -- such as reviving a bill that would fine teachers for "biased teaching," prohibited COVID-19 vaccine requirements, and an amendment that would create a fund for cancer-stricken firefighters -- in hopes of enticing more Republicans to agree to the budget.

One amendment, that was defeated on Monday, would have kept the state's unemployment benefits at a max of $240 a week, the current rate.

None of those amendments are enough to secure a "yes" vote from Republic Rep. David Cook, of Globe. As it stands, no Democrats are in favor of the budget bill, which means every Republican vote is needed.

Cook opposes the flat tax because he does not think the state is doing enough to pay down its debt and because he wants to protect the financial impact it would have on cities and towns.

His position on the bill is no secret, but Monday's vote was part of an exercise from Republican leaders to get Cook on the record of being against the budget.

That led to an exchange between Cook and Majority Leader Ben Toma, (R) Peoria-District 22.

“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Majority Leader, do you think I don’t want to cut taxes?” Cook asked.

“Mr. Cook, I think we’re about to find out,” Toma responded.

Cook voted "no" on both proposals.

While the budget debacle continues in downtown Phoenix, Cook has to also think about his family and home, which is located in Globe, where the Telegraph and Mescal fires, each of which have burned more than 50,000 acres, are burning.

In a tweet, Cook said his family was told that they will need to evacuate.

“I was brought away from my home to vote on bills that did not have the votes in the house or senate,” Cook said in his tweet, followed by photos that showed smoke in the area, as well as a 500-gallon water tanker to hopefully protect his property.

He was back to Globe Monday afternoon, according to his Twitter account.