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Ducey wants budget deal before more bills are signed

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is increasing the pressure on the Legislature to reach a budget deal by sending word to lawmakers that he doesn’t want to see more bills until a state spending plan hits his desk.

A spokesman for Senate President Andy Biggs confirmed Friday that the governor’s office told legislative leaders not to send him more legislation until he sees a budget. Spokesman Mike Philipsen said that’s not causing the Senate to delay its work on other legislation making its way through the process.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato confirmed to The Associated Press that the governor asked for a halt in other legislation being sent to him but stopped short of issuing a specific veto threat.

“The governor believes it’s very important that we prioritize the budget before other issues move forward,” Scarpinato said. “So he wants to get to work on the budget and make that the priority.”

The governor released a proposed $9.5 billion budget proposal in January, but Senate and House leaders have been slow in making headway on negotiations. Some House lawmakers have said they want to see more spending to make up for cuts last year, when a budget was rushed through in March.

Ducey’s proposal called for only a modest spending increase in the coming year despite a flush treasury, adding spending above what’s required to K-12 schools, boosting cash for the Department of Child Safety and adding $31 million for his new border strike force.

The bottom-line budget under the proposal released in January increased spending about $300 million, from $9.2 billion this budget year to $9. 5 billion in the year beginning July 1. The Republican governor wants the Legislature to approve $105 million in additional spending in the current year, with more money for school buildings, child safety, health services and a small amount for universities and prisons.

A governor putting in place a bill-signing moratorium is not a new tactic. In 2013, then-Gov. Jan Brewer explicitly threatened to veto any legislation that hit her desk before a budget to jump-start negotiations. Biggs and then-House Speaker Andy Tobin decided to test her resolve and sent her five bills. She promptly vetoed them all. She issued a similar veto threat the next year when budget negotiations dragged on.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said Ducey’s efforts aren’t quite as hard-ball as Brewer’s were.

“I don’t think that it was the hard and fast rule that we saw with Brewer,” Yarbrough said. “He is asking to see the budget. He’d prefer to see the budget done soon.”

House majority whip David Livingston, a Peoria Republican, seemed prepared to test the governor’s resolve. Asked about the moratorium by the AP, he noted that the governor was still signing bills. When it was pointed out that no more legislation is on Ducey’s desk, he quipped: “Well, I guess next week we should send him some more bills to sign.”

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