Legislative Republicans are gearing up to send a budget to Gov. Katie Hobbs soon, which will likely be met with a hasty veto.
Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, said on Monday Republican leadership was going to send a continuation of last year’s budget to keep the government from shutting down “very, very soon.”
“As for what the governor is going to do, that’s up to her,” Toma said Monday.
Staff at the governor’s office have indicated Hobbs will not entertain a continuation budget while Republicans have called Hobbs’ proposal “dead on arrival.” Josselyn Berry, a spokeswoman for Hobbs, took a shot at Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, for threatening to sue Hobbs over not promptly sending several new directors for Senate confirmation in a tweet.
“We’ll be sure to keep an eye out on Twitter for this newest ‘budget,’” Berry said to the Capitol Times.
Shortly after Hobbs’s staff unveiled the budget proposal to Republican leadership, Rep. Teresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande, said Republicans are “prepared for war” with Hobbs.
“The Republican legislature is not going to be an easy roll. We’re not just going to roll over and give her everything she wants. I don’t want to fight, but I’ll tell you what – I’m not afraid of one either,” Martinez said on Jan. 13.
Republicans have objected to several items in Hobbs’ budget proposal including the repeal of universal empowered scholarship accounts and a $40 million proposal for tuition assistance to students living here illegally, among other items.
The decision to send Hobbs a budget this early in the Legislative session is unprecedented. The House canceled its Rules Committee hearing on Monday but Toma said other House business will continue.
“It was a relatively light rules agenda anyways so in that sense it’s not a very big difference,” Toma said.
Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, said on Tuesday he expects to see budget bills appointed to House Appropriations sometime before the end of the month. Livingston is the chairman of the committee and said members are currently in the process of creating the first drafts of the budget bills, which will then be sent to committee staff for review.
Senate Pro Tempore T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, wrote in a text to the Capitol Times on Tuesday that he also expects to see budget bills next week.
Chuck Coughlin, a GOP consultant and the president and CEO of HighGround Public Affairs, said he thought it was smart that Republicans would send a budget proposal to Hobbs this early since the caucus was not fully on board with the majority proposal from last session.
Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, voted against a Republican skinny budget proposal when he was a state Representative in April 2022 during a House Appropriations hearing. Hoffman, the leader of the Arizona Freedom Caucus, said he preferred a budget that cut spending, and other Republicans felt a similar way. With only a one-member majority in both chambers in 2022, this led to Republican leadership seeking votes from Democrats on the budget in 2022.
Coughlin said the early budget proposal was a strategy to get the Republican caucus unified on a budget and avoid a situation from last year.
“You’ve got to give them their day on the floor and show it’s not going to work,” Coughlin said. “Then you can begin to have realistic discussion with your caucus about what another budget is going to look like,” he added.
Longtime lobbyist Barry Aarons said he couldn’t remember a budget proposal being sent to the governor this early in a session, and said the move was an attempt to establish Republicans’ parameters and negotiate from there — likely up until June 30, he said.
Aarons said it was possible Hobbs could call a special budget session sometime near the beginning of March like previous governors have.
“The problem is once she signs a budget, if there’s any remote possibility that she would sign something like this, it’s game over. Then the Legislature can just dally around. They don’t have to worry about getting something done by June 30,” Aarons said.
But there is value to the nearly guaranteed veto coming to the Republican budget from Hobbs, Coughlin said.
“She’s going to send a veto letter,” Coughlin said. “Hopefully if that letter is written well, there’ll be a lot of information in there.”