Inside Arizona Legislature's 35-Hour Dash to Balance the Budget 'As Good as It Gets'

Inside Arizona Legislature’s 35-Hour Dash to Balance the Budget: ‘As Good as It Gets’


A bipartisan vote late on Saturday that wavered between disapproval and grudging acceptance resulted in the approval of the $16.1 billion state budget for Arizona.

After that, they decided to end the 2024 legislative session.

The budget eliminates the $1.4 billion shortfall. The Senate President Warren Petersen, a Republican from Gilbert, House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican from Glendale, and Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs negotiated the draft budget, which was presented four days prior to the vote. Many MPs complained about being kept in the dark and then put under pressure to comply fast as a result.

However, supporters claimed they saw value in the spending plan’s provisions, while detractors saw plenty of opportunity to criticize the procedure and the plan’s shortcomings. They included defending the state’s universal school voucher scheme and praising impromptu additions that won over Democrats.

Hobbs commended lawmakers in a statement for their efforts on a balanced budget that eliminated the deficit and struck a compromise with partisan priorities:

“Despite that deficit, we made important investments in delivering childcare to working families, combatting the fentanyl epidemic and securing our border, and protecting critical health and human services for vulnerable Arizonans.”

Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat from Arizona, is threatening to sue over the approved budget.

She made a fruitless attempt to persuade lawmakers to change their mind about taking $195 million over the course of four years from the state’s portion of a federal settlement on opioids in order to plug budget gaps in the state prison system.

Mayes declared on Saturday night that she was “deeply disappointed” in the Legislature’s decision-making. Mayes maintained her position that the proposal was unlawful, according to her spokesperson, and added that she would be “analyzing the best legal course of action from here.”

Inside Arizona Legislature's 35-Hour Dash to Balance the Budget 'As Good as It Gets'

What is known: How will Arizona use the $542 million it received as settlement money for opioids?

House passes budget against objections from both parties.

In the House, the budget was approved 34–21, and in the Senate, it was approved 17–12 in less than 30 minutes.

Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus frequently sided with Democratic leadership and the liberal part of the caucus in opposition in both chambers.


GOP Senators Issue Warning to Judge Over Potential Trump Prison Sentence

Republican leaders and ordinary members of both parties offered support.

Representatives from the Freedom Caucus, such as Reps. Alexander Kolodin, Barbara Parker, Austin Smith, and Rachel Jones, frequently brought up procedural issues, pointing out that legislators were being asked to vote on legislation before they had had a chance to study it.

As MPs debated the budget measures, Kolodin continually denounced them, calling the process and the budget “a train wreck” that “bastardized the way that the legislative process is supposed to work.”

“Many of my colleagues on this side of the aisle think that Katie Hobbs is not particularly bright,” Kolodin stated. “But today she has certainly outplayed us, because she’s playing the long game.”

In response, Toma argued that the plan was “fiscally conservative” and that it resulted in the balanced budget that the state constitution demands.

“Despite facing a nearly $1.5 billion shortfall, we’ve fixed this deficit without negatively impacting border security or public safety, without negatively impacting school choice, and preserving still many of our commitments to water,” he stated. “We’ve prioritized and protected many transportation projects that were important to members.”

He supported the universal voucher scheme and the flat income tax, which Democrats claim are to responsible for the state’s deficit. This deficiency followed a year earlier of $2.5 billion in excess funds.

The budget, according to Speaker Pro Tem Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, was a compromise that came from bipartisanship.


Arizona Reservation Shooting Leaves Officer, Civilian Dead and Four Wounded: Police Reports

As he cast a “yes” vote on a budget package, he remarked that lawmakers couldn’t have it all.

“This is as good as it gets, folks,” he declared.

Representative Alma Hernandez reiterated that opinion and also cited a Democratic slogan that rejected the idea of a “perfect budget” and was used almost twenty times during the closing statements.

The Democrat from Tucson remarked, “I don’t know where you are getting that from, anyone who believes that we will ever have a perfect budget,” before casting her “yes” vote. “We will never see a perfect budget; I have served under Republican and now Democratic governments.

“That is delusional, truly.”

Democratic representatives Laura Terech, Jennifer Pawlik, and Judy Schwiebert—three members of the teacher caucus—emphasized funding for early childhood education, child care, and a community college scholarship program.

Rep. Nancy Gutierrez, D-Tucson, the fourth member of the teacher caucus, broke away from her fellow members.

The budget, Gutierrez said, “disgusted” her since it did not curtail the school voucher program, and it eliminated a $37 million fund meant to assist low-income public school pupils.

Representative from Chinle, Myron Tsosie, D., applauded the budget for “supporting tribal nations.”

However, Democratic leaders voiced procedure issues as well, just like Republicans did. The Democratic leader of the house, Lupe Contreras, of Avondale, informed reporters that Hobbs and the GOP legislative leaders had mainly excluded his caucus from the talks.

Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein criticized the voucher program in the Senate, calling it an unbridled drain on public coffers. She held Republican leaders accountable for their unwillingness to budge on the voucher issue as well as the shift of opioid funding from assisting Arizonans throughout the state to the state prison system.

She declared when she cast her “no” vote on the budget, “It would have been a disaster without the Democratic caucus.”

However, Senate President Petersen stated that the cuts represent a compromise reached by the negotiators.

After voting “yes,” Petersen told The Republic, “We put together a bipartisan budget.” “It doesn’t have anything super liberal in it, nothing uber Republican.”

Some indirectly blamed Hobbs as well for not standing up more strongly for Democratic priorities.

Senator Anna Hernandez, a Democrat running for a seat on the Phoenix City Council, stated, “When you’re in a leadership position, you should have a spine.” She mentioned the individual at the “top of the tower.” The state’s Executive Tower houses the Governor’s Office on its higher floors.

Sen. Catherine Miranda, a Democrat from Phoenix, voted “no” in protest of the opioid fund raid, claiming it would deprive the fund of its ability to assist Arizonans who are addicted. She declared that the “sleight of hand” that was taking $75 million out of the fund was intolerable.

Senate progress was hindered by AG’s objection to the drug fund raid.
Mayes’ resistance to what she regards as the theft of opioid settlement funds to pay for jail charges was a major roadblock in the budget’s passage. Mayes predicted that the Legislature would lose in court if she and the feds sued over the change.

In order to help the state Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry pay for its expenses for the balance of this year and all of next year resulting from a settlement over poor health care, an initial version of the budget pulled $75 million from a nationwide opioid settlement. After that, the budget called for taking an additional $40 million year for three years.

In an attempt to reduce the state budget deficit, Hobbs and Republican leaders eyed the opioid funding. They contended that the settlement agreement permits the use of a portion of the money for the purchase of opioids in jails and prisons. While acknowledging that there was a procedure that needed to be followed, Mayes stated the budget authors weren’t doing so. Besides, the budget request was excessive, she contended.

Regarding the budget proposal, Mayes told The Arizona Republic, “The scale of this is just staggering and mind-blowing.” “They want to fund the prisons with half of Arizona’s entire state share of the opioid fund.”

For a large number of legislative Democrats, the legal argument prevailed.

Lawmakers adjourn with Mayes impeached and unresolved Democratic ethics allegations.
While lawmakers completed some unfinished business on Friday and Saturday by wrapping up the budget, some priorities were shelved with the sound of the gavel, which is Latin for “sine die,” which adjourns the legislative session without specifying when it will reconvene.

After a group of House Republicans proposed in May that Mayes be impeached for allegedly misusing her position, targeting political opponents, and selectively enforcing state laws, lawmakers decided not to pursue a trial.

The House Ad Hoc Committee on Executive Oversight recommended that the Legislature exercise its authority to impeach Democratic Congressman Mayes in a 102-page report that detailed its findings and exhibits.

Mayes engaged in “malfeasance in office,” according to the committee, which gave six instances. These include Mayes’ letter cautioning against a manual vote count in Mohave County, her unsuccessful legal attempt to prevent Cochise County from delegating election administration, her consumer alert regarding “crisis pregnancy centers,” and her town halls concerning water resources and potential legal action for nuisance.

Mayes was criticized by the committee for failing to appear before it and for declining to support a 2022 bill that would have banned transgender girls from participating in school athletics.

The committee’s probe, according to Mayes, was a “sham” and “absurd.” The panel was boycotted by Democrats.

Toma first informed The Republic that, based on what he had read of the committee’s report thus far, he would vote to impeach Mayes. However, he stated in May that he would need to assess the mood among House Republicans and seemed dubious about the process considering that conviction requires the backing of two-thirds of the sharply divided Senate.

Toma remarked, “I happen to be pretty decent at math.” “I recognize that it would be challenging to reach the 20th Senate seat.”

Without a full House vote, the impeachment effort ultimately failed.

The fate of two House Democrats who were suspected of violating ethics rules was the same.

Early in June, the bipartisan House Ethics Committee reached a unanimous decision that Representatives Oscar De Los Santos and Analise Ortiz had behaved disorderlyly following the first unsuccessful attempt to abolish Arizona’s 1864 abortion law.

Furthermore, the panel discovered that De Los Santos, the Democratic Party’s assistant minority leader, violated House rules pertaining to decorum and discussion, as well as debate that was not permitted.

Following the first unsuccessful attempt at repeal, De Los Santos and Ortiz led a group of other Democrats in chanting at their Republican counterparts, “shame,” “blood on your hands,” and “hold the vote,” repeatedly.

According to the investigation, De Los Santos went too far when he organized and took part in these activities. The ethics panel also determined that Ortiz exhibited disruptive behavior.

In a combined response, the two lawmakers stated that when they spearheaded the demonstration, they were speaking for their constituents.

However, it was becoming more and more obvious that a vote on penalizing the Phoenix Democrats was not at the forefront of the legislative session as the last hours passed.

“At the moment, we are working on the budget. It’s beyond my control,” Contreras said to reporters on Saturday while speaking from the House floor.

“We don’t run this building.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *