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House narrowly approves bill to borrow $750M

The House today narrowly approved a bill that would close about half of the current year’s budget deficit through borrowing.

The measure, which was approved by the Senate last week, passed the House 31-27. Its passage was not guaranteed, and for much of the debate during the vote, it was unclear if it would find enough support.

Even House Republican leaders said they weren’t certain if S1003 would pass.

“We just put it up there. We weren’t sure,” said House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, who is responsible for corralling votes for the Republican caucus.

In all, 19 of the 34 Republicans opposed the bill. Rep. Bill Konopnicki, a Safford Republican, called it “absurd” that lawmakers were looking to borrow $750 million – and pay back the loans for 20 years – to fund programs only for this year.

“I know we’re out of options, but this is absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said.

The bill would borrow $450 million against future Lottery revenues and $300 million by selling state properties, then leasing them back. This comes on top of $735 million in sale-leasebacks already made in the current budget.

The House still has one special session bill to consider. That one, which Tobin said may be voted on tomorrow, would delay $450 million in payments to school districts and state universities.

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