Legislative Budget Plan

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Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian reports on the legislative budget plan state lawmakers passed out of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Today the house and senate appropriations committees passed a series of bills that represent the legislature's budget plan for next fiscal year. Here to tell us more is Dennis Welch, who reports on the legislature for "The Arizona Guardian." This was a little surprise, this was announced on Presidents Day, and all of a sudden we've got hearings this morning?

Dennis Welch: It's being rushed through the legislature, even though they know there's really no realistic possibility of these package of bills getting through. What lawmakers are telling us is hey, this is an effort on our part to get the governor to sit at the table and start brokering some sort of a compromise, some sort of accord on this state spending plan. So they've put out a budget that is about two, $300 million less than what the governor has proposed, it includes no spending increases over the budget cycle we're current in, and this has prompted the governor to come out with a pretty harsh response today. Really trashing this proposal.

Ted Simons: What did she say today? Her office yesterday called this bill a reckless and short-sighted -- what are the words today?

Dennis Welch: I think, you know, she said today that this would basically threaten public safety, would hurt education, health care, with public safety there's no spending increases for new jails, for additional prison guards. For education, there's no increased spending there, which is by net is almost a cut there because of inflationary costs and stuff like this. So she was very direct and very specific in laying out the differences between her budget proposal and the proposal of her Republican colleagues down at the legislature.

Ted Simons: And education, everything from soft cap school spending to school construction, remedial reading, the universities, community colleges, the governor's got a little something for all those. The legislature has absolutely zippo.

Dennis Welch: Exactly. They're saying it's just a starting point for negotiations, this is going to change drastically as it moves through the process. And remember too, this governor has not been afraid to veto a budget, even from her own party. As we remember a couple years ago, she kept vetoing these proposals they kept sending up there.

Is this just the legislature -- we've had leadership on, they were acting as if we don't have a problem, we don't have a disconnect, we're working our way through it, it sounds like they're not working at much of anything here. Are we at logger heads is there a table even to sit at anymore?

Dennis Welch: For a couple weeks now, Steve Pierce has been saying, she's not been very cooperative, we're trying to talk and she's just not. So they're going to put this proposal out that includes no new spending out there, and in part which is driving a lot of this stuff too, you've got to remember next year this one-cent sales tax that voters enact a couple of years ago is going to go away. They're going to lose a billion dollars worth of revenue there. Tax cuts they proposed for the jobs bill they passed last year are going to be enacted. So you'll hear a lot of talk about this, quote, cliff we're going to fall off of, a cliff they made themselves that is driving a lot of this. We've got to hold back and prepare for them time or we're going to lose a lot of revenue.

Ted Simons: They also seem to be mentioning the federal health care reform, that would going to cost the state a lot, they think. And Don Shuter who's on the program the prope's chair, he's saying we've got to prepare for a double-dip recession. Are there indications of a double dip recession on the horizon?
Dennis Welch: No. It's ironic today they came out and passed this budget proposal, and JOBC this independent body out there put out a report that said, tax collections for the state were up 46 million dollars over what was forecasted. What was budgeted for. And this on top of today if you look on the national stage, the Dow Jones hit 13,000 for the first time since I think march of 2008. The signs right now, at least economically are starting to turn up.

Ted Simons: Where do we go from here? The governor has her priorities, the legislature it sounds as though there's a walking this thing out to start negotiations. Where do we go -- and are we going to learn about this or is it all behind closed doors?

Dennis Welch: That's interesting. We're going to learn more as it moves through. This has been an expedited process. To give you a sense of how little people had to -- time people had to prepare for this, only four people really signed in to speak in favor or opposed to these bills.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about that as well. It was obviously at the last moment on a holiday, and the next morning we got the hearings. Were people prepared? Was anyone down there to say anything to these folks?

Dennis Welch: There wasn't a lot down there. They were allowing people to speak, but there wasn't a whole lot down there, in part because it was introduced so late, and I think in part too people know these things aren't going anywhere.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff, Dennis. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Welch: Thank you.

Dennis Welch:Arizona Guardian;

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