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Lawmakers want control of federal money

A Senate panel has approved a bill that would allow the Legislature to decide how to spend federal money that is controlled by the Governor’s Office.

If passed, SCR1022, would appear on the ballot in November.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill by a party-line vote. Republicans voted for it, Democrats voted against it.

Generally, there are two categories of federal money that the state receives: custodial, and non-custodial. The bill addresses the authority to appropriate non-custodial money, which the governor has some discretion over how it’s spent.

The state has no discretion on spending custodial money, which is designated for specific purposes. Custodial money includes university research grants, Social Security payments and Medicare benefits.

In most states, non-custodial money is controlled by the Legislature. Arizona is one of five states that allow the governor to decide how to spend it.
Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican who sponsored the measure, said the state gets about $18 billion total from the federal government, and the Legislature should be able to decide how to spend the discretionary money.

“Especially in these difficult budgetary times that we are in, it strikes me that it is the right thing to do,” Melvin said. “It gives the Legislature more control over the process, and I think that the end product will be better if this passes.”

Democrats said the governor would make better decisions with the money than the Legislature.

“I have faith – whether this governor is of my party or not of my party – that they have, in many ways, the better interest of the state in heart,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, a Democrat from Tucson.

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