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Senate revives sales tax referral

The Arizona Senate has revived a measure that contains a provision for a sales tax increase, even though some lawmakers have called it a “dead horse.”

Senate President Bob Burns indicated lawmakers would continue to work to pass the ballot referral. But he said he hopes Brewer will sign the budget without the tax referral while they continue to drum up support.
Late in the afternoon on Aug. 13, the bills were still in the Senate and had not been transmitted to the House.

H2015, a bill that contained the proposal for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax for the next two years and a half-cent increase in the third year, went down by a vote of 14-11 on Aug. 12.

The next day, Sen. Jim Waring, a Republican from Phoenix, motioned for reconsideration. Waring, who had voted “no” on the bill, was in a position to make the motion since he was on the prevailing side of the vote.

But Waring clarified on the floor that his motion in no way indicates that he has changed his mind. He said he acquiesced to Burns’ request for reconsideration so leadership would be able to continue to work on the sales tax referral.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray described the proposal as a “dead horse” after it failed.

“It got killed two different times here today – two different bills, two different iterations of it, two different versions of it,” Gray said. “It’s been a dead horse for a long time, and we have been beating it for a long time trying to bring it to life.”

Burns pretty much shot down the idea of negotiating with Democrats as a block and indicated he would continue to try and pick up individual minority votes.

“I would prefer to negotiate to make limited changes to the budget so that we can keep what we have,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to square one and start all over, and I’m afraid that’s what would happen if we have to deal with a block.”

Burns was set to meet with Brewer in the afternoon of Aug. 13. He said he hopes the governor would sign the budget and then lawmakers would continue to work on the issue of referral. That would show some “goodwill” towards the Republican caucus, he said.

“I think we need to address the bleeding that we have in state government,” he said. “It is basically a step in a number of steps that are going to have to be taken in order to get this fiscal house back in order. The referral to the ballot I would see as step two.”

But Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia said he doesn’t see any of his members supporting the Republican budget plan.

“I think they realized that it’s an ugly package,” Garcia said.

One of the charges against Democrats is they have been inflexible. When Garcia was asked if he were willing to do cuts in addition to the $600 million in reductions that were made in January, he said, “I don’t think we get to that until we are asked to the table and I don’t think President Burns is going to ask to the table, and now I am more certain that we are not going to be invited back to the table.”

Garcia said there is no need for them to be flexible if they are not even at the table.

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