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Senate panel OKs budget, including tax referral

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a budget agreement that Republican leaders reached with Gov. Jan Brewer, but it remains to be seen if there is enough support to bring the spending plan to the floor for a vote by the whole body.

While GOP leaders were able to secure the vote of Sen. Jack Harper, one of the Republican holdouts, they still appear to be at least one vote short of the 16 they need for the bills to pass out of the chamber.

Sens. Ron Gould and Pamela Gorman, Republicans from Lake Havasu City and Anthem, respectively, are both opposed to the budget because of a provision that would let voters decide if the state sales tax should be temporarily increased.

Complicating matters is the absence of Sen. Carolyn Allen. The Scottsdale Republican is incapacitated because of a knee injury and is not expected to show up for a vote.

Democrats have said they will oppose the plan, so Senate President Bob Burns and other Republican leaders will have to rely on members of the majority if the bills are to be approved.

That budget proposal is substantially similar to the plan that lawmakers passed on July 1.

In order to avoid the veto the earlier spending plan had received, Republican lawmakers including the ballot referral. The deal includes a three-year cap on spending, and another ballot referral that would ask voters to temporarily suspend a constitutional provision that keeps them from altering voter-approved spending.

If approved by voters, the sales tax would increase by 1 cent for the two years, and then a half-cent for an additional year. It would be phased out after the third year.

The deal also calls for the repeal of the $250 million state equalization property tax, and a $400 million a year reduction in income taxes that will begin in 2011.

The Appropriations Committee approved the budget mostly along partisan lines, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposing it.

Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu, was the lone Republican who voted against the budget deal.

“I am never going to vote for a tax increase,” he said.

The Senate later forwarded the bills out of COW, and has decided to meet again Aug 4.

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