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Senate stays until 4 a.m. to pass budget

Senate leaders worked in overdrive to persuade enough Republicans to finally pass a plan that solves a $3-billion deficit in next year’s budget.

Republican lawmakers approved the budget package just before daybreak on June 4, but the actual floor deliberation, which began about 3 a.m., was relatively quick.

The debate lasted for only less than an hour because only one Democratic senator stayed for the floor deliberation. The rest of the minority caucus had left at midnight after several hours of waiting for the Republicans to get their act together.

All 10 budget bills packet passed by a vote of 16-to-1, with Sen. Meg Burton Cahill, a Democrat from Tempe, as the lone dissenting voice.

Two other GOP members – sens. Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale and Jay Tibshraeny of Chandler – were absent.

Allen earlier told the Arizona Capitol Times she was a “no” on the budget. Tibshraeny’s absence meant he wouldn’t have voted for it either.

But the Legislature’s work is far from over.

Gov. Jan Brewer is likely to reject the Senate’s proposal in its current form, since it did not make changes to accommodate her budget plan, which she released on June 2. Her budget includes a temporary one-cent tax increase, a deal-breaker for many Republicans.

Yet even if Brewer decided to sign the budget bills, Senate President Bob Burns told members they might have to go into special session to adjust the fiscal 2010 budget just as they re-adjusted the fiscal 2009 budget many times.

The plan now is for the House to amend its own budget proposal on June 4 to match it up with the Senate plan, and then to substitute one set of budget bills for the other – a parliamentary maneuver that speeds up the passage of legislation.

House and Senate leaders would consider small changes if requested by Brewer prior to sending the budget to her.

“We would hope that she would be able to sign this or we could possibly negotiate some minor changes because I don’t think we can deviate too far from what we have got or we lose votes,” he said.

Burns said the aim of passing a legislative budget proposal is to gain some leverage to negotiate with Brewer.

“I think we need to show that we have got the votes and that we can put a bill on her desk,” Burns said. “I would hope that she would be willing to negotiate at that point in time.”

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