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House GOP leaders unveil budget

Just a week before their deadline, House Republican leaders announced they will unveil a budget later today that will bridge a $1.9 billion deficit, though they conceded the proposal has not been agreed to by Democrats or Gov. Janet Napolitano.

But House Speaker Jim Weiers said the package was formed using input from Democratic lawmakers. The spending plan, he said, comes after months of talks with Democrats and includes components for which they advocated, including borrowing $500 million for school construction.

"This is not ‘Republican' because I happen to be a Republican," he said. "This is a budget. This is just a budget proposal."

Weiers called the package "a reasonable budget" and said it will likely be accepted by most people, even though it includes components that not everyone will like.

"We're trying to dig ourselves out from where we are," he said.

And where lawmakers find the state may be a bone of contention, as the prospective budget would address only $1.9 billion of what legislative budget analysts now say is a $2.2 billion deficit.

At a hearing last week, several Republican legislators said it would be unwise to approve a budget that ignores the worsening financials of the state. Rep. John Kavanagh, a Scottsdale Republican, said a proposal that did not address the entire shortfall would be "a big lie."

In addition to the $500 million in borrowing, the House Republican budget plan will also include:

  • $505 million in state agency spending reductions
  • $391 million in fund shifts
  • A $106 million shift in highway fund money that would pay for the Highway Patrol
  • A $187 million school count reassessment that reduces the need for new schools because of declining student counts
  • An $85 million shift from the state's rainy day fund
  • An $18 million reduction in revenue sharing to cities
  • A $76 million savings from delaying some building repairs

Details on the agency cuts and fund shifts were not immediately available, but Weiers said they would be released by the end of the day.

Check back at www.azcapitoltimes.com for updates later in the afternoon.

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