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Republican leaders want conservative approach to budget

Sen. Andy Biggs

Sen. Andy Biggs (Photo by Luige del Puerto/Arizona Capitol Times)

After receiving a briefing on the governor’s $8.9 billion budget proposal, Republican leaders said they want a final spending plan that hews to the conservative approach they have adopted during the past few years.

In a joint statement, Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin offered a compelling argument for budgeting conservatively. They hinted they didn’t think the governor’s spending plan for fiscal 2014 is as conservative as in previous years.

The previous balanced budgets offered a “wise and responsible framework” for economic growth and should be replicated, they said.

They said those budgets, which legislators negotiated with the governor, reduced the size of government while increasing spending in critical areas, such as education, money for the mentally ill and restoring assistance to low-income families.

Tobin and Biggs also noted the money they have set aside in a rainy day account.

“Our hope is that the final enacted budget will replicate the success we have implemented thus far. There is clear evidence that the conservative approach to state funding is the proper way to bring our state back to full economic recovery,” they said.

They said the House and the Senate look forward to working with Brewer to “resume the continued success these measures have had for the people of our great state.”

Tobin told the Arizona Capitol Times that legislators are open to additional spending.

“But it’s also important that we look where the priority pieces are,” he said. “Just because we’re open to additional spending doesn’t meant everybody across the board gets additional spending.”

Lawmakers will be approaching the budget talks with the governor using revenue projections that anticipate a $70 million shortfall by fiscal 2016.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee today released its projections showing modest revenue growths – an average of 5.7 percent – over three years.

That will produce just enough to cover the expected revenue losses in the next few years, the Legislature’s budget research arm reported.

The JLBC said after the statutory spending is satisfied, “effectively no money remains for discretionary spending without increasing out?year shortfall.”

Money in the state’s rainy day account – about $452 million – will offset the shortfall, JLBC said.

Here are the ending balances that JLBC anticipates ending balances of :

FY13 – $651 million in fiscal 2013; $310 million in fiscal 2014; $25 million in fiscal 2015; and a negative $70 million in fiscal 2016.

Those projections don’t yet include the impact of a court ruling that mandates the state to fund all the inflationary provisions for education as mandated by voters through a proposition more than a decade ago.

That would add another $80 million a year to the spending, the budget arm said.

If that’s funded, it would result in a deficit of $223 million in fiscal 2015 and $346 million in fiscal 2016, the JLBC reported.

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