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Still no consensus; Senate cancels budget hearing again

For the second time in two weeks, the Senate canceled a committee hearing on the budget – this time because it doesn’t appear Republican leadership has enough votes to pass the proposal.

Senate President Bob Burns said April 27 it would be of no use to get a budget package out of Appropriations unless there is enough support to pass it on the floor as well. He had said late last week that he perceived a consensus among his colleagues in favor of the proposal, but that apparently wasn’t the case.

“It probably would fail. We probably don’t have 16 and 31 yet,” he said.

Instead, the Appropriations committees of both the Senate and the House will meet jointly after the floor session on April 28 to discuss specifically a one-time budget option that would divert $210 million from cities to the state’s general fund. Lawmakers called it a “municipal rebate.”

“These funds exist, in part, because of taxes imposed on citizens,” House Speaker Kirk Adams stated in a press release. “Instead of increasing taxes on citizens to manage our way out of this historic state deficit, we think this makes a great deal more sense to use this money to solve the state’s $3.3 billion shortfall in FY10 in the short-term.”

The Senate also scheduled a budget vote in committee on April 23. But the hearing was canceled the day before.

Funding for schools is among the most thorny issues still facing lawmakers as they try to eliminate the massive budget deficit.

Part of the complication is it remains unclear to lawmakers how to plug in federal stimulus dollars. Burns described the difficulty this way: “How do you design the package if there are certain areas that you are not completely 100-percent sure?”

Under the rules, Arizona must restore education funding so that it is equal to either the fiscal 2008 or fiscal 2009 level, whichever is greater, once the state gets federal stimulus dollars.

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