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GOP lawmakers turn to Dems; joint proposal in works

After budget negotiations with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer disintegrated last week when she vetoed a series of budget bills and line-item vetoed other approved spending, Republican legislative leaders are inviting their Democratic colleagues to the table in the hopes of hammering out a deal.

House Assistant Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema said GOP and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would work on developing “a joint proposal” to bridge a more than $3 billion deficit.

She said there are no specific items on the table required to win Democratic votes, but did say any agreement with the Republicans would have to address revenues, spending cuts and policy changes.

“I don’t think it’ll be easy to get a deal, but there’s a shared commitment,” Sinema said. “There has to be. That’s the only way we’ll get out of here.”

Rep. John Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican, also announced the planned talks during the House Appropriations Committee June 6. The panel, which he chairs, was meeting to consider four emergency budget bills designed to address the vetoes to education and health funding in order to allow the state to qualify for federal stimulus funding.

But negotiating with the Democrats may water down the provisions of a budget that had the support of fiscal conservatives when it was approved June 30.

“Bipartisanship is always great, until you have to compromise your core values,” said Rep. Sam Crump, an Anthem Republican who has been outspoken against raising taxes and advocated for large spending cuts.

He also noted that the Democrats may be willing to deal with Republicans in order to tarnish Brewer heading into next year’s gubernatorial elections.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Crump said. “The question (for Democrats) is, who’s the biggest enemy?”

But Sinema said Democrats did reach out to Brewer and offered to negotiate a deal with her.

“She said no. She said, ‘I welcome your support,’ which is code for, ‘Vote for what I want,'” Sinema said.

The House Appropriations Committee voted to pass all four bills late July 6. Leadership negotiations will begin July 8.

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