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Arizona lawmakers and the governor are nowhere close to a budget deal. Here's why

By Mark Brodie
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 12:40pm
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2024 - 7:29am

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Committee work is pretty much done at the Arizona Capitol — at least until budget bills are introduced. 

As it inches closer to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, there’s talk of lawmakers taking a break until they have an actual budget proposal to consider.

Camryn Sanchez from KJZZ’s Politics Desk joined The Show to talk about it.

Interview highlights

So what is left to do?

SANCHEZ: Well, surprisingly, a lot of stuff. You know, we've been in session for about three months now. But in terms of what's actually been signed by the governor into law, there's really very little. She's vetoed a couple of things, but there's a lot still going through the process. So I will say what's dead was what's dead pretty much every year — which is all the Democrat stuff. The Democrats introduce a bunch of stuff at the beginning of the year, like everybody else. But, you know, a lot of the Democrat stuff just never makes it even to a hearing. And as you noted, the committee meetings are just about done except for, of course, the budget meetings will come in later. That's usually the last or second to last thing to happen. There's an expression at the Capitol that nothing is dead until sine die.

With committee work being done, there's no more opportunity for a strike-everything amendment, for example, where lawmakers will take a bill and basically gut it and put something unrelated on it. You can't do that once committee meetings are over, you can only do that in committees. So does that sort of winnow down the universe of bills that could potentially come back?

SANCHEZ: Yes, it does.

So you mentioned there's a lot left to do. One of those things is continuing state agencies. We've heard a lot about, for example, the Arizona Commerce Authority, we've heard a lot about ADOT. Where do those stand right now?

SANCHEZ: When I first started covering the Capitol, this whole agency continuation thing was more of a routine processing issue and not as big of a deal. Basically, all the agencies have to go through these continuation processes of the Legislature. It's usually those agencies are not actually in any danger. Like ADOT, for example, we kind of expect that we're going to have a department of transportation. But they get reviewed along the way. And in this case, this year, in particular, there's been more questioning pushback against agencies. The one that's gotten the most, I think drama around it is the Arizona Commerce Authority, where some of the Republicans have straight up said they want to just destroy it completely. And there's been an effort to do that.

There's also a ticking clock because, you know, if agencies don't get to continue, then they will just dissolve on their own. They have to be continued actively by the Legislature. And then in some cases, they've been offered a, a continuation, but it's a shorter continuation than they would normally get. Ir it's a continuation. But some, something's being changed at the agency. In the case of the Industrial Commission, for example, they want to extend it. But there's an amendment on the original bill right now that says, you know, it would, it would block certain Biden policies from ever going into effect over there.

So where do those stand? Are we in danger of not having a Transportation Department come July 1 — or a Commerce Authority or an Industrial Commission?

SANCHEZ: I think if anything's in danger, it's the Commerce Authority. But the other ones I expect are here to stay. It just might be in a shorter form or in an altered form.

How big of a fight do you think those issues might be between now and the end of the fiscal year?

SANCHEZ: Big fight. I expect a big fight. Yes.

Where are we with the budget?

SANCHEZ: My colleague Wayne and I did a story that ran yesterday about the budget and how basically we haven't gotten anywhere so far. So the governor had some preliminary meetings. I know staff were involved with basically Republican leadership and checked in with the Democrats, but in terms of actually making progress on a plan, nothing so far. So the Republicans say they're ready to negotiate. The Cemocratic lawmakers like they did last year, want to wait for a little bit until this report comes out in April ... [the Finance Advisory Committee. And so they want to get that information and go from there. The Republicans say, well, we don't have to wait until all of that should just start working on the budget. So we're, we're not close at all.

Is there agreement on, for example, how much money the state has or the size of the deficit? Some of those baseline numbers that are the foundation of building up a budget.

SANCHEZ: Nope. No, not really. I mean, everyone agrees to a degree, you know, that there is a deficit and that this is not going to be the banner year for everyone to get everything that they want.

And what is the governor's office saying? Are they also waiting for the April Finance Advisory Committee meeting?

SANCHEZ: So they had no updates for us. But I believe we're going to be talking to Gov. [Katie] Hobbs today, and I assume that we will be pestering her about that.

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