Legislative Update

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The state legislature brokers a budget deal. Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times will give us an update.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. An apparent breakthroughs as lawmakers reach an agreement on a spending plan. Here's an update with Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. We don't say this much, breaking news at 5:30, they got this thing figured out?

Jim Small: It looks like they should have a budget done by the end of the night. Probably not -- few more hours. They came up with a deal. That's proposal made that the Arizona house and the governor's office Thursday last week made a proposal to the Senate. Said, here's where we're at. This is kind of take it or leave it. The Senate over the weekend worked on it, looked at it, made a couple of minor changes, couple of small tweaks to it and today the Senate said okay, we can live with this. We can agree with it. Let's see if we have the votes. They found the votes so this afternoon the House and Senate met at a conference committee to put the final amendments on to the budget package.

Ted Simons: It seemed like the governor and house were on the same page here heading in, but it sounded like Senate president Biggs, who was going to be on the program tonight, we thank you for coming in, obviously he's busy now, it sounded as though president Biggs was saying give me the names, show me the votes. I'm not doing anything until you're sure you got this.

Jim Small: We talked to folks in the Senate about that issue. Why the insistence that we see this list of names and who is going to vote for it? There was a general feeling in the Senate that they had agreements in the past on the budget with the house. You know, so that they passed the first budget, sent it to the house, expected it to pass and the house said no, we won't pass it this way. There were a half dozen Republican legislators who said no, we want certain things addressed. So the house made changes, sent it back to the Senate, Senate wasn't happy about that so they made their changes back. Ostensibly with the understanding that the house would support that. The house didn't support those amendments. That's how we got here. Seems there was a desire to avoid a situation where they agree on something and the house goes, wait, sorry, just kidding. We don't have the votes for it.

Ted Simons: So let's talk with the child agency funding. That's a very big aspect of this. What does the deal say about that? Is everything up front or are we going to see more funding later on?

Jim Small: The funding levels will stay where they're at in terms of compromise I think around $20 million. The governor initially asked for 25 million. It's going to stay at 20 million, but the bigger deal with the new child welfare agency is it's an intent language. The house when they passed it put intent language on it that said the legislature intends to deal with this problem and address -- provide adequate funding to address all these needs issues that may arise with the new agency. The Senate changed it, said, the legislature will do it but only after the agency is completely separated from the department of economic security and there's certain threshholds met. The house didn't like. That the governor's office clearly didn't like that language. So the final version will have the language that the house passed a couple of weeks ago.

Ted Simons: The intent language stays.

Jim Small: Yes.

Ted Simons: The house and governor went on that won. What about the charter, district charter program? That was a big issue.

Jim Small: That was really the driving issue in the house, the thing that led primarily the six Republicans to dig their heels in. So the Senate had proposed getting rid of all funding for the district charter schools for basically the current fiscal year. The house said, well, let's leave it for this year and scrap it in the future at a cost of $33 million. The Senate said, we'll cut it in half. The final place where they landed is going to be 24.5 million, not quite the full amount, the 33 million, but just a tick under 25 million. Which gets them through most of the year and obviously going forward into next year this program is going to be ended.

Ted Simons: Basically allows them to land the plane. The plane isn't going anywhere after this year.

Jim Small: Correct. The school district has to figure out how to handle it.

Ted Simons: What about university funding?

Jim Small: There's a little bit more added in. I think the governor was looking for 15 million. They are going to end up around 4.5 million in new money, down from the 5.5 the house wanted but a little under three that Senate budget had last week.

Ted Simons: Getting back to child welfare agencies, there was so much talk about let's get preventive services funded to keep kids out of whatever comes after CPS. Did those services see any bumps, any significant bumps?

Jim Small: Not in terms of new spending. The spending levels will stay what they have been. One of the big ones, there was a lot of push for child care subsidies, which is basically a subsidy given to working poor families. Generally single mothers so they can go to work and put their kids into a daycare. That cost is subsidized as anyone with a child knows that cost can pile up real quick. There's some funding in the budget for that but it's in the new funding over what has been in past budgets. It means the backlog will continue. I think something like five or six thousand, people backlogged on to this list.

Ted Simons: There are caps on that program.

Jim Small: correct.

Ted Simons: I heard, probably read in your paper somewhere, that one of the problems the Senate had with coming back and addressing CPS in a special session or at a later date was that was a way to get rid of the caps and they don't want to see those caps go away.

Jim Small: That's an issue. There's kind of a divide even amongst Republicans as to whether that kind of spending is a hand out -- there are a number of Republicans who say this is exactly the kind of government subsidy, if we're going to have one it allows people to go to work, put their kids in a safe place and not having to make a decision about showing up at your shift or putting your kids in a dangerous situation.

Ted Simons: What happens next? Will we have a special session coming up?

Jim Small: Yes. Looks like we will. The governor said she expects a special session to deal with some of the policy work required to create that new agency and no doubt if though need additional funding the intent language says the legislature will provide that.

Ted Simons: But a done deal. Great work. Good to have you. Thanks for stopping in.

Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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