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Steve Pierce: Keeping GOP out of the news was biggest challenge (access required)

Extraordinary events put Steve Pierce at the helm of the Arizona Senate — and those same events made the job of leading the chamber, which is already difficult by itself, even more challenging.

The Prescott rancher was elected as Senate president following the ouster of Russell Pearce, who lost a November recall election to a rival Republican. While some of Pearce’s colleagues had no love lost for the former senator, others remained loyal to him.

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GOP lawmakers approve $8.6B spending plan (updated) (access required)

Republican leaders quickly consolidated support behind an $8.6 billion budget plan and gave it final approval today, less than a week after finally reaching a deal with Gov. Jan Brewer.

The spending plan is a product of a session-long negotiation between Brewer and legislative leaders, and the give-and-take between the two sides is palpable throughout the budget document.

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Budget doc reveals money stashed for ‘rainy days’ ahead

Lawmakers and the governor plan to set aside $450 million to offset anticipated deficits in the state budget in two years.

That’s money that won’t be available for critical needs now, but depositing it in the state’s “rainy day” fund reaffirms a fiscally conservative outlook that has dominated the Capitol following the fiscal crisis that led to several years of incessant budget slashing.

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GOP compromise budget gives $450M to rainy day fund, $7M to tourism (access required)

As Republican lawmakers begin to receive briefings on the budget deal that GOP leaders and the Governor’s Office agreed to in principle April 25, details are beginning to emerge.

The major sticking point between the two sides has been revenue projections — not just for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, but also for the following two years. Though Gov. Jan Brewer had been unwilling to adopt the Legislature’s more cautious revenue estimates, it appears she had a change of mind.

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