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Burns tells colleagues to pass fiscal 2010 budget — now

The Senate’s top Republican is pushing to pass a budget proposal for fiscal 2010 in the next few days — even without the buy-in of the House or the Governor’s Office.

Senate President Bob Burns told members of his caucus that now is the time to vote on the budget.

Lawmakers are running out of time, he said. The state Constitution requires the Legislature to pass a budget before July 1, when the next fiscal year begins.

This urgency was echoed by Sen. Russell Pearce, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“Let’s give her a budget and see if she’ll sign it,” he said.

Arizona faces a deficit estimated at $3 billion, one of the highest in the nation relative to total annual revenue.

During a caucus meeting on May 27, Sen. Barbara Leff, a Republican from Paradise Valley, asked whether leadership is planning to pass a budget that Gov. Jan Brewer will sign or if they even planned to work with her before acting.

Burns said he would like to work with the governor, but said he wouldn’t make her approval of the plan a requirement to move forward.

“If we can’t seem to come to an agreement, maybe we need to push the envelope,” he said.

The same goes if Senate Republicans are able to come to a consensus and the House isn’t, or if Republicans in that chamber support different budget options.

“I think if push comes to shove, I think we ought to push a budget out of the Senate to the House if that has to be done,” Burns said.

Burns’ plan is to hold small-group meetings with members for final review of the budget proposal that has passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The packet of bills excludes a tax increase and repeals a $250 million state equalization property tax.

Leff wanted to know if there would still be wiggle room in the budget when leadership meets with members. She said she and several of her colleagues ended up having essentially no say on the budget draft that was crafted by the two chambers’ leadership teams earlier this month.

Burns said he hopes the wiggle room will grow “smaller and smaller until it disappears.” He emphasized it would be an ugly budget. They may even have to come back to fix it in special session, he said.

Burns told reporters he believes they are within “a few days” to getting a budget out “if we can just get people to vote (for it).”

The House, meanwhile, is not pushing as aggressive a schedule, said House Majority Leader John McComish.

“We’re working on it, but we’re not ready to make that statement,” he said.

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