Special Session Update

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Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small discusses the recently-concluded special legislative session that resulted in $300 million of new budget cuts.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon", I'm Ted Simons. Lawmakers wrapped up their special session today, sending $300 million of budget cuts to the governor, who quickly signed the legislation into law. Here with more is Jim Small, legislative reporter for "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: What actually happened? What's getting cut?

Jim Small: Well, what happened today was the legislature approved the package of bills they were set to do last week before things went a little bit HINKY in the state senate and the thing fell apart. And basically, looking at $300 million in cuts to education and the department of economic security, which runs the state's social services, social welfare programs, things like that… food stamps. And, looking at some fixes to state agency funding that allows a couple of agencies like the corporation commission and the Department of Revenue to access money that they'd been appropriated to but the statutory mechanism had been vetoed so they were looking at the money they couldn't touch.

Ted Simons: Last week the meltdown in part because one senator was not there and couldn't find him. Was he there today?

Jim Small: He was there today. Last week, one of the reasons he didn't show up because he wasn't going to vote for the budget. Today he stood up and apologized to his colleagues and said I'm sorry I didn't let you know where I was going to be or why I didn't know where I was going to be and then voted yes on the bill and said he'd had time to think about the situation and received a commitment from his leadership team that his concerns about agencies being able to raise fees, that those would be addressed in the future. So he was satisfied enough with that and had a change of heart. Showed up and they had the 16 votes they needed.

Ted Simons: I was gonna say there was talk that a couple of democrats in the senate might be switching over. President Burns was working on them, but no one switched over?

Jim Small: Not on the main bill, the cut bill. The one that cut $300 million. This morning, senate President Burns was meeting with the Democrats really focus was senator Albert hale, from Northeastern Arizona, from the Navajo reservation, and looking to get funding -- federal aid for native American district schools. And that was one thing they'd been fighting for for a while and there was talk that the Republicans were going to give into that and going to try pick up a couple of democratic votes that way. The way it worked out with the senator coming back and another one that was gone, who was out of town last week, with her coming back, and they had the votes they needed.

Ted Simons: A little bit of hurt from the Democrats?

Jim Small: I think they were hurt much the way they had been. They made a number of speeches in the house about how Republicans are just looking at one part of the problem and not everything, that they're only looking at cuts and not looking at increasing revenues.

Ted Simons: The governor, any indication she was pushing things along in any way, shape or form?

Jim Small: The governer was probably involved behind the scenes. I think really what happened today, though, was mostly the one senator who had kind of gone off the reservation a little bit came back and had a change of heart for whatever reason. And voted for it. You know, I think, certainly, the governor's office would have been involved in any proposal that would have altered the plan to bring Democrats on board.

Ted Simons: Ok. So we've got this done. We have yet another special session likely in the next week or two, or is it likely? What are you hearing?

>> We don't know if it's likely yet. Obviously, this was a relatively easy fix. These were bills passed two or three times before. Things fell apart last week, and so whether they can actually bring together 16 and 31 votes in the senate and house in order to put together some kind of -- you know, more -- more intensive legislation, things like the sales tax referral or other tax components or revenue components, or more cuts, whether they can find the support for that, I think is unknown and might depend on what the governor and Republican leadership come out with as a plan. And to a certain degree whether they're willing to work with Democrats.

Ted Simons: Sine die for now?

Jim Small: Most likely the second week if they're going to have one.

Ted Simons: Thanks, Jim. We appreciate it.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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