Legislative Update

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Luige del Puerto from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly political update.

Ted Simons: The state house and senate continue to fight over a budget plan, this as the governor threatens to veto any bill sent to her desk before she gets a budget. Here with more in our weekly political update is Luige del Puerto, of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you. Sounds like things have hit the wall there at the capitol. What's going on?

Luige del Puerto: Things are crawling at this point. Not even crawling, they're not really going anywhere. The governor said yesterday, basically told legislators yesterday, don't send me anything until we've completed the budget. Both the speaker and senate president said yes, we get you, we're not sending anything until this budget is completed.

Ted Simons: It can't be completed until the house and senate can agree, right now they don't agree, do they?

Luige del Puerto: Well, it won't be completed until the house, the senate and the governor's office can agree on a budget. It's always those three branches, having to come together and decide what they want in this proposal. In terms of numbers, they're not very far apart. Just a couple million dollars. Separate, the senate budget from the house budget. However, there are crucial policy decisions within the senate budget that -- Let me backtrack. There are a couple policy decisions the governor and the house want that's not in the senate budget. And that's why we're seeing this kind of unusual dance, if you will.

Ted Simons: What are those policy decisions?

Luige del Puerto: For example, the governor is wanting full funding in that new agency that she wants to be created to deal with child welfare. In addition to that, the governor also wants a lot more money for the universities. The senate budget cuts some of that amount. And also there's issue of charter school conversion. The governor wants to see more funding for that, the senate has cut in half the funding provided to them in the house budget.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, the budget itself, just that money for that one-year reprieve was $33 million, which was contested somewhat. They've cut that in half as well. Was that done by necessity, was that done for other reasons? What's going on there?

Luige del Puerto: Clearly senate Andy Biggs -- Senate president Andy Biggs does not think it's right for the -- It's right for the districts to be creating charters. To him there's some philosophical objection to that. What we wants to do is not only cut that budget in half, but eliminate that budget for the next years.

Ted Simons: What about the $900,000 that John Kavanagh wanted to give to private prisons is that gone for good or just for now?

Luige del Puerto: Right now everything is in flux. We don't know if that comes back. Today he refused to concur in the changes that the senate has made, so what happens next is that the senate and the house will have to pick essentially three people in both ends and to come together and hammer out a budget deal. And we're presuming Kavanaguh would be somewhere there, because he was a sponsor of the house bills.

Ted Simons: So we've got house wanting this, the senate wanting that, is there any -- I know what you're going to say. Is there any opportunity that Democrats who are just not players in this at all, could they become players, or is this still a Republican issue that will have to be decided by Republicans?

Luige del Puerto: Right. I don't see Democrats getting involved in the budget discussions or getting a seat at the table, if you will, there. Are two reasons for that. One is that last year's -- Circumstances were clearly unique. We had a big fight over Medicaid expansion; the governor clearly wanted that so she cobbled something together. It's an election year. It's hard for me to see Republicans who are facing primary challenges approving a budget that is -- That has the backing of a couple Republicans and then Democrats.

Ted Simons: Any support of any democrat for a Republican primary would probably be poison there. Before we leave, speaking of Democrats, they're watching their counterparts having all sorts of trouble, and now they're having -- Some sort of leadership coup?

Luige del Puerto: One of the democratic senators wanted to clear the air if you will, there was rumors maybe he would vote for the senate's Republican budget. He wanted to say that that's not true and it turn in addition this -- It spiraled into what we saw yesterday, which is an attempt to remove the leaders, the democratic leaders and replace them. That near coup, almost coup, that actually failed, but it just goes to show you the troubles that we saw when they ousted their previous leader, some of those troubles remain. This is really a divided caucus.

Ted Simons: Basically what you've got is a bunch of Republicans can't figure out the budget, a bunch of Democrats can't figure out leadership and everyone is waiting for someone to blink.

Luige del Puerto: As Bruce Wheeler said today, they've lost their minds.

Ted Simons: Right. We'll stop it right there. Good to have you here.

Luige del Puerto: Thank you.

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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