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Sources: Senate looking to pass budget this week

The Senate leadership is pushing to officially introduce and pass a budget proposal this week, multiple sources told the Arizona Capitol Times on Monday.

The plan is to vote on the budget package as early as Wednesday, those who are privy to the budget discussions said. Some of those sources agreed to share information on background so they could freely discuss the plan.

Presumably, the budget legislation will be introduced on Tuesday. The package will then be heard in committee, debated and third-read on Wednesday.

The big question, of course, is whether the budget plan has enough support to pass. That’s not to mention the logistical nightmare of actually drafting budget the bills, printing them, and producing fact sheets and spreadsheets in a day or two, among other things.

Some lawmakers said they believe the budget package has enough votes to pass, although one of the sources said some colleagues feel the proposed cuts to K-12 education are too severe.

But the same sources also said the Senate is still working to get the House’s buy-in.

The House’s support for a budget plan is crucial if legislative leaders from both chambers want to present a united front, which would put them in a strong position to negotiate a final budget plan with Gov. Jan Brewer.

Brewer has said she’s committed to her budget plan, which holds K-12 schools relatively harmless.

A decision by Senate leaders to pass a budget this week could give them momentum in their effort to hammer out an agreement with the House.

But it could also backfire.

If it turns out that the House and the Senate have competing budget plans, Brewer could exploit the tug-and-pull between the two chambers and shape the final budget closer to her liking.

Senate Republicans have prepared a budget draft that would cut more money from K-12 education, the universities and several other major agencies than what Brewer is proposing.

The Senate plan also eliminates Brewer’s proposal to defer payment to school districts and to take out a $330 million loan from First Things First, according to several sources.

All told, the Senate plan contains less new spending and cuts at least $368 million more than the governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2012. It also removes nearly $275 million in spending increases in some areas of the budget that Brewer proposed.

The breakdown is as follows:

*Additional cuts to K-12–$235 million
*Additional cuts to the Department of Economic Security–$50 million
*Additional cuts to Department of Health Services–$20 million
*Additional cuts to universities–$40 million.
*A statewide lump reduction–$40 million

The Senate plan also contains about $50 million more in funds transfers than Brewer’s budget, and it proposes $150 million in “local contributions,” which would come from counties and municipalities.

Finally, the plan calls for paying off $200 million in debt.

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