Hush hush budget negotiations between Governor Ducey’s staff, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and Senate President Karen Fann concluded late last week and today legislators started getting a look at what they were being asked to support. The budget is large, nearly $12 Billion by the time everything is accounted for, but not all of the spending is traditional spending.
More than $500M is headed for the state’s Rainy Day Fund, another $300M will be for income tax cuts (tax conformity), and $190M will be for accelerated debt repayment, which will save taxpayers around $24M a year in interest costs on the current debt.
Conservatives may also like a phase out of the $32 Public Safety Fee although they are going to be unhappy that it will take five years to actually get rid of it entirely, leaving plenty of opportunities for it to be brought back later.
After you get past those bright spots, it is a lot of traditional spending. $130M for an I-17 expansion, $165M for the next 5% teacher pay boost (keeping the promises made by the GOP majority in 2018), a boost in pay for public safety workers, and major boosts in education spending that will effect K-12 as well as the Universities and Community Colleges.
Reaction was mostly partisan, with Democrats like State Senator Peshlakai announcing last week that she would refuse to support the budget even though she had not seen it yet. Most Republicans expressed confidence that something similar to the proposed budget would pass, but with narrow margins in both bodies, it only takes one or two GOP defections to either stop the budget from passing or to give real leverage to the Democrats to extract additional concessions in exchange for their votes.
A number of Republican legislators are taking advantage of their own leverage to try and extract concessions on legislation that matters to them as well. In an interview on KFYI’s James T. Harris show, Constantine Querard explained the budget process and the horse trading that will eventually lead to a final budget –