Legislative leaders, governor reach agreement on special session

Luige del Puerto//November 3, 2009

Legislative leaders, governor reach agreement on special session

Luige del Puerto//November 3, 2009

Legislative leaders and the governor have reached an agreement on the framework of a special session later this month.

The plan is to fix the budget problems of several agencies that resulted from Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of a budget bill that had contained funding mechanisms for the agencies.

Additional spending cuts will be part of the special session, but it’s not clear exactly how much money the cuts will save or where the reductions will be made.

The state has an estimated $2 billion deficit.

“We have talked and agreed to try to move a plan forward, and so now we need to shop that with our membership and see how it goes,” said Senate President Bob Burns.

Burns emphasized that the deal was reached among himself, House Kirk Adams and Gov. Jan Brewer. It still has to be agreed upon by rank-and-file members.

Burns said they are looking to push through with the special session before Thanksgiving. Others with knowledge of the special session said it will begin on Nov. 16.

Senate leadership initially wanted to fix the agencies’ budget woes first, but some lawmakers wanted to address the overall budget deficit by implementing cuts that were vetoed by Brewer in September.

Burns said staffers from the House, Senate and the Governor’s Office are working out the details of the spending reductions.

One of the things policymakers have to consider is a maintenance-of-effort requirement under the federal stimulus plan. Arizona, like other states who receive fiscal stabilization funds, is required to use the money for specific programs and maintain certain funding levels.

Arizona is one of 16 states being audited by the Governmental Accountability Office on its use of federal stimulus dollars.

But before the special session can take place, leadership will have to do several things, according to Burns.

First, leadership will have to get majority members’ feedback about the plan. They will probably need to get feedback from the minority as well to see how they will vote. Once the votes are lined up, leadership will have to find out if members will be available.

The governor has said she wants an agreement with the Legislature before calling for the year’s fourth special session.