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Ninth Floor: Pierce, Tobin backtracked on negotiations

Senate President Steve Pierce, Gov. Jan Brewer and House Speaker Andy Tobin. (File photos)

Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to not sign any new bills until she gets a budget came only after Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin backtracked on agreements they made with the governor on a handful of spending items, according to a Brewer spokesman.

Matthew Benson said Pierce and Tobin had agreed to several of Brewer’s key spending proposals, including new funding for K-12 education, public safety and the Department of Economic Security. But the two chamber leaders informed her during an April 17 meeting that they were reverting to legislative Republicans’ earlier budget proposal that ignored many of Brewer’s spending priories.

In response, Brewer said she would veto any bill that reached her desk before an acceptable budget was passed, Benson said.

“The governor and legislative leaders weren’t far off at all at the end of last week, and that changed significantly as of the beginning of this week – and not due to anything that the governor did. … That was due to a change in position from legislative leadership,” Benson said. “I think that solidified in the governor’s mind the idea that they’ve got a lot of work to do on reaching a budget agreement. And after 100 plus days of the session, it’s time to focus on getting a spending plan for the state.”

Pierce, R-Prescott, denied changing his position on the budget. He said Brewer’s decision was simply meant to force the Legislature to get the budget done.

“I did not back out of anything. That’s wrong,” Pierce said.

Tobin spokesman Rey Torres would not comment on Benson’s statement, saying the speaker is not negotiating the budget in the media.

Some of Brewer’s key spending priorities in her proposed budget include $100 million for K-12 school building renewal projects and another $100 million for school equipment; $42 million to DES to offset federal funding cuts for Child Protective Services, elderly care and adoption services; $50 million for a 500-bed maximum security prison; and nearly $10 million to hire new correctional officers.

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