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Republicans prepare for budget vote

House Speaker Kirk Adams (left) and Senate President Bob Burns. (Photo by Bill Coates)

House Speaker Kirk Adams (left) and Senate President Bob Burns. (File photo by Bill Coates)

Democrats have accused Republicans of breaking off budget negotiations June 28 and breaking a promise that they wouldn’t use the bipartisan talks to leverage a deal with the governor.

“We felt we had been meeting in good faith,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, a Tucson Democrat.

The negotiations, which had been taking place since the special session began July 6, came to an abrupt halt yesterday morning. An 11 o’clock meeting lasted only about 15 minutes, after GOP leaders told their Democratic colleagues that they had reached an agreement with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and scheduled a vote on a budget for July 29.

Lopez said Democrats were expecting to continue budget talks to attempt to bridge the $500 million separating the two sides, but the Republicans did not come to the meeting with the intention of negotiating.

“The statement that was said to us was that their members were not interested in decreasing the reductions that were in the last budget,” she said.

But House Majority Leader John McComish, an Ahwatukee Republican, called the Democrats’ recollections of the negotiations and a deal to not work with Brewer “revisionist history.”

“When we talked to them about that issue we said, ‘Look, you’ve got to remember that we’ve got a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature. If the governor wanted to talk to us, we were going to talk to her,” he said. “We never said we will swear on a stack of Bibles that we won’t (talk to her).”

The budget plan, which Republican leaders presented to Brewer July 27, will consist of the provisions that were vetoed earlier this month, along with the creation of a special election this fall to raise the state sales tax by a penny. It is also coupled with new provisions designed to win support from fiscal conservatives.

Brewer has been pushing for a sales tax ballot referral since March and vetoed the bulk of a budget approved by lawmakers in the final hours of the regular session because it did not include the ballot measure.

But the sales tax language being considered by Republican lawmakers is different than what Brewer has been calling for. Rather than a tax increase of one penny for three years, the tax hike will be one cent in fiscal 2010, three-quarters of a cent in 2011 and a half-cent in 2012.

Other additions to the July 1 budget include:

-Freezing state government spending for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 at $10.2 billion – the amount of spending originally enacted for the FY09 budget. The spending for the fiscal 2010 budget would be about $8.2 billion.

-Referring to the ballot a three-year suspension of Proposition 105, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 that prevents the Legislature from reducing funding for voter-approved programs. Billions of dollars in education and healthcare spending were off-limits this year because of Prop. 105.

-Reducing corporate and individual income taxes by $200 million each beginning in fiscal 2012.

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