The budget fix to eliminate a portion of the state’s $2 billion deficit is moving through Senate committees while the House is on hold until Nov. 19.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved four bills after a relatively short deliberation on Nov. 18. Some of the bills received bipartisan support.
All committee members supported S1004, which deals with foreclosures and the state’s anti-deficiency law.
The panel, however, rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Albert Hale, a Democrat from Window Rock, to allow school districts that receive impact aid money from the federal government to use that money to offset cuts to their budget.
“They have federal money that is just sitting there, and in this time of (budget) cuts, they need to access to that money,” Hale said. “You have to understand that reservation schools are in unique positions. Any cost, like transportation, is higher.”
Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce said he will not support the amendment because leadership has taken the position of not entertaining any modifications to the budget fix.
The panel did make a change. It adopted an amendment that removed a provision dealing with money for the Arizona Science Foundation from one bill, and then put the same provision in another bill.
Apparently, the provision was erroneously drafted into S1001, which deals with cuts to education and the Department of Economic Security, when it should have been placed in S1003, the general revenue measure.
The House suspended rules on Nov. 17 to allow them to take action on the legislation all at once on Nov. 19. The rules normally require bills to be read on three different days before a vote on the floor.
House Democrats, meanwhile, held a press conference to blast the governor for failing to protect education and vulnerable people from budget cuts. The governor has said on several occasions that she will push for a budget that avoids harmful cuts to those areas.
“It’s disappointing to see that Gov. Brewer has given up on her promise to protect education, families and the most vulnerable,” House Democratic Leader David Lujan said at a press conference. “Our state’s fiscal crisis is bigger than just cuts and we all need to work together toward a realistic, comprehensive solution for a stronger Arizona.”
Democrats, though, continued to call for securitizing the state lottery and tobacco-settlement money, which they said could generate as much as $1.4 billion without raising taxes. But it’s not clear whether the state actually could borrow money on future lottery revenue considering the lottery is set to expire in 2012 unless it’s renewed before then, which would require voter approval.