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Arizona Senate President Unhappy With Republican Opposition To Unemployment Benefits Hike

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, June 14, 2021 - 8:12am
Updated: Monday, June 14, 2021 - 12:24pm

Senate President Karen Fann
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann on May 8, 2020.

With only a couple weeks left before the start of the new fiscal year, Arizona legislators are running into more budget roadblocks. 

Republican Senate President Karen Fann (Prescott) advocated for language in one of the packages of bills to enact the budget that would raise the state’s unemployment benefits cap from $240 to $320 a week. But it has met Republican opposition in the House, and she is not happy. 

"I am a 'no' on the budget without it. I rarely ever, ever say anything like that. But that unemployment bill is the right thing to do. And [I'm] quite surprised that it is not unanimous. It should be," Fann said.

The House got first whack at the legislation on June 7, which led to the effort by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), who has been in the legislature since January, to strip it out of HB 2900.

In a floor speech, Hoffman called it "welfare.'' And he cited employers who are having trouble finding people willing to work for them.

"Taxing small business to pay potential employees more money to not work is just bad policy, plain and simple,'' Hoffman said.

The maneuver, which failed, angered Fann.

"The brand-new freshmen that have come on board somehow haven't figured out that there is protocol that we follow down here, there is a decorum,'' Fann said. "One of those thing is, you have to remember you have to work with the Senate next year and you have to work with the Senate president next year.''

Fann warns that she has the power to decide which future legislation gets called for a vote. 

Hoffman declined multiple requests to talk about the issue and his efforts. Instead, he provided a prepared statement about his views on the overall spending plan and the proposed tax cut. Hoffman, who claims the support of "nearly 30% of the Republican caucus in the House,'' says he is working for a budget that reflects "the conservative principles that every Republican legislator promised to their voters.''

Talks resume this coming week to come up with a plan. If the benefits hike passes, it would lift Arizona from the second lowest cap in the country to the middle of the pack.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to clarify that Arizona currently has the second lowest cap on unemployment benefits.

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