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House Approps advances budget bill on 8-5 vote

A House panel voted along party lines May 5 to approve a fiscal 2010 budget bill that relies on $630 million in spending cuts and taking another $394 million from dedicated funds.

The primary budget bill also relies on $990 million in federal stimulus aid allotted to Arizona by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"This budget makes incredibly deep cuts to vital programs the state provides," said Assistant House Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. "A budget is nothing except the reflection of our values and priorities."

Sinema and other Democrats criticized the budget plan for the impact the cuts will have on Arizonans.

But Rep. Rick Murphy, a Peoria Republican, said there is no such thing as a "good budget," considering lawmakers are required to bridge such a staggering deficit.

"Any budget that we pass is going to be a bad budget, and we have to recognize that," he said.

The proposal also banks on more than $500 million in non-tax revenues, nearly all of which will come from two controversial policy changes.

One of the changes would sweep $255 million in excess fund balances from school districts, taking back money that was given for education in recent years that hasn't yet been spent.

The other proposal would ask Arizona cities to give back $210 million of the tax revenue they receive from the state. In exchange, cities that volunteer to give up the money would be allowed to sidestep restrictions that require development impact fees collected by cities to be used only for infrastructure, and instead use the money for general government operations.

Democrat members of the committee failed in numerous attempts to amend the main budget bill. They tried unsuccessfully to reduce cuts to healthcare, education and other areas of the budget.

The committee is still considering nine additional bills that are part of the overall package aimed at closing the budget gap.

Major agency cuts:

AHCCCS – $62.6 million

Community colleges – $9.1 million

Corrections – $34.9 million

Economic Security – $72.7 million

Education – $220.6 million

Health Services – $21.9 million

Universities – $40 million

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