Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times brings us up to date on the latest from the state legislature.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" get the latest from the state capitol in our weekly legislative update. The federal government gives approval to the South Mountain Freeway in Phoenix. And the Valley's retail vacancy rate falls to single digits for the first time in years. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
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Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. With the controversial budget now in the rearview mirror, state lawmakers are pushing ahead for a planned April 2nd signee die. Here with the latest in our weekly update is Luige del Puerto with the "Arizona Capitol Times." Before we get to the goals of getting out of there, give us a general view of what happened. Last time we were on with the "Journalists' Roundtable," it could be a day, a week, months. This happened overnight.
Luige del Puerto: It's done, it's gone. It's on Governor Ducey's desk right now and we are presuming he either will sign the budget bill today or tomorrow. This happened very quickly. As you know last week they introduced, unveiled that they have a budget deal. Then the budget bills were introduced and by Saturday morning they all have been approved and the opposition to it melted away, if you will.
Ted Simons: I want to talk about how it melted away in a second. Why hasn't he signed this?
Luige del Puerto: We're not exactly sure why it's taking him a bit longer to sign it. We're presuming he will sign it and, right now I understand he may be out of Phoenix. We think he's in Tucson, if I'm not mistaken. But rest assured this budget will be signed.
Ted Simons: How did this get done? Last time we talked about this was Friday and the House especially seemed at odds with a lot of this budget, and kaboom, it's over.
Luige del Puerto: Friday morning there were as many as 10, 11, more votes in the House against this budget proposal. We're hearing that maybe four senators are against it, as well. But the biggest heartburn, if you will, that those lawmakers have had, had to do with the budget for the Universities and K-12. But then in the Senate there was one very crucial, very important vote that made all this happen. It's a vote, a Democratic state senator.
Ted Simons: Who is Carlyle Begay?
Luige del Puerto: He is a lawmaker from the North, he represents the tribes. There was a bit of a controversy before he joined the state legislature as to where his residency is. But Carlyle Begay voted for the budget and defended his actions by saying we're not going to improve this budget in favor of Democrats. I've got do what I need to do and get what I can out of it. He got about $1.2 million in transportation infrastructure funding.
Ted Simons: And $1.2 million is not a very long road. What is this all about?
Luige del Puerto: We're not exactly sure what the money would be used for. He mentioned it wouldn't be a very long road if it's for road construction up in his district. But you know, this money he said is important to his district. He has to get what he thinks he could get from his budget. The legislature was willing to give it to him. Andy Biggs has a great relationship with Carlyle Begay and he got what he wanted.
Ted Simons: Because the University funding cuts dropped from $104 million to $99 million, that got a couple of votes on board?
Luige del Puerto: There were rumors earlier it could be as high as $140 million. When they started to move that budget reduction figure to $104 million, $99 million, it became a little more palatable for most folks. It gave the K-12 community a lot more flexibility in how they would manage the cuts. The cuts would remain the same. K-12 is getting $113 million out of district supplies. It's for buying textbooks, computers, et cetera. They are still getting cut by that amount that, hasn't changed. Instead of this budget taking, you're going to take that out of what's called nonclassroom spending, it's up to you now how you want to manage those cuts. The really good schools have gotten a lot of federal grants for all kind of programs. That's a good thing in this budget.
Luige del Puerto: Not April 1st, people --
Ted Simons: Yeah, too many April fools jokes.
Luige del Puerto: There are 600 or so bills they have to slug through within the next couple of weeks. You're right, the goal is to get the session wrapped up by the first week of April.
Ted Simons: Are there frayed nerves or is everybody just sitting around the campfire?
Luige del Puerto: The focus is on getting all of these bills through. It's going to be very busy, there were a couple of big measures passed in the instant. There was a referral ballot measure that would redirect money to legislation. After failing yesterday the measure passed today. They are just going through all of these proposals. Is it this mood is shifting into just getting all of these bills through.
Ted Simons: But everyone is still getting along? There aren't fractions or divides we've seen in the past few years.
Luige del Puerto: We haven't seen the kind of fractions as in years past. In 2016 we are facing an estimated there are estimated budget deficit down $700 million. The way to fix that is through a cut. If there's a unifying theme in his budget, it's going to be painful for a lot of agencies or programs. People understand they have to make those cuts.
Ted Simons: More on the "Journalists' Roundtable" on Friday, good stuff. Thanks for joining us.
Luige del Puerto: Thank you.
Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;