State Senate Republicans Urge Democrats to Cooperate in Creating a Bipartisan State Budget for Arizonans

With the Legislative session winding down, one of the major tasks left for lawmakers to accomplish is creating a state budget, which needs to be in place before July, or a government shutdown could occur. However, Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) said State Democrats are inhibiting the process by not cooperating with budgeting requests.

“We are just weeks away from some government agencies running out of funding because legislative Democrats are stalling,” said Petersen. “I’m confident we would have already passed a budget had the Democrats spent the last seven weeks negotiating the budget with us, in good faith.”

As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, Senator John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent emails to both party caucuses of the Senate at the beginning of March, asking for their complete lists of budget desires, put in priority order with dollar amounts. While Republicans gave the list, Democrats were less forthcoming. Instead, Kavanaugh said he did not receive a response until March 16th.

Rather than providing the requested list, Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe) said a list would not be available until after the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) met in April. This meeting occurred on April 13th; however, Petersen’s statement noted that Democrats have yet to provide their list as requested.

Yet, a delay in creating a state budget creates more than an annoyance; as Petersen said, there are state agencies in immediate need of money, including the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona Department of Education K-12 (ADE), and the Arizona State Hospital System (AHS). A spokesperson for the Majority Caucus told The Sun Times via email that the AHCCCS is in the most need.

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, the system requested $3.3 billion to operate from April to June. Since then, HB 2624, sponsored by House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu), appropriated half of the needed amount AHCCCS needs, $1.65 billion, and was signed into law by Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) in March. However, the remaining funds are still required to continue AHCCCS operations throughout the year.

As for the ADE, the caucus spokesperson said that for FY 2023, the department is short by $180.6 million, which is needed by June. Currently, calculations for ASH needs are still being figured out by the caucus’s policy advisor.

However, Petersen stated that these agencies would not be in this situation had Hobbs not vetoed the original budget by Republicans. In February, GOP lawmakers pushed a “skinny budget,” which would have made the same provisions as the 2022 state budget with slight differences and adjustments for inflation. Republicans promised that once their budget got Hobbs’s signature, guaranteeing all state departments received funding and the government would not shut down, they would negotiate with Democrats on how to spend the $2.5 billion budget surplus. Nonetheless, Hobbs rejected the budget, calling it a “do nothing budget” that did not advance the state forward.

“A reasonable governor would have signed the budget and negotiated how to spend the surplus funds separately,” said Petersen. “A wise governor would have, at a minimum, line itemed everything except for the current year supplemental funding, ensuring that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s K-12 public schools, and the Arizona State Hospital system had enough money to make it through the next few months. Chalk it up to inexperience. Her senseless veto means all are at risk.”

Still, Petersen said he and House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) have been working with Hobbs to negotiate a state budget. Hobbs also said a budget is “very close.” A budget needs a simple majority in the Legislature and Hobbs’s signature to go into effect.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Warren Petersen” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Senator John Kavanaugh” by Arizona State Legislature. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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One Thought to “State Senate Republicans Urge Democrats to Cooperate in Creating a Bipartisan State Budget for Arizonans”

  1. Dave In Arizona

    State Senate Republicans Urge Democrats to Cooperate in Creating a Bipartisan State Budget for Arizonans

    Will they listen? Democrats listen? I doubt it.