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Arizona GOP shuts Democrats out of budget process

Passing a budget is becoming more and more necessary as the state ticks down to the end of the fiscal year on June 20.
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 6:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Democrats are home this week while Republican lawmakers are working on the state’s $13 billion budget.

It’s not that the Democrats don’t want to be part of the process but the Republicans told the Democrats they are not needed.

“They do not want the Democrats in the building while they try to hammer out the budget,” said District 10 State Sen. Victoria Steele, who has spent a decade at the legislature. “This is crazy, this is because they don’t want to work with Democrats. Period. End of story.”

It’s not unusual for the GOP to work out their own budget without input from the opposition party but this year is different.

“I think there will be no consensus among the majority party if they continue and don’t wake up to the reality the clock is ticking,” said District 3 Rep. Andres Cano, a Democrat.

Both Cano and Steele believe infighting among the GOP is hampering its efforts. The party has a thin one-vote margin in both the House and Senate meaning one defection and the budget won’t get passed.

“The Republicans don’t have the votes to pass a budget on their own,” Cano said. “And since Day One I’ve advocated us coming together, setting our differences aside and passing a budget.”

Steele also advocates for bipartisanship.

“Every day they shut out the Democrats is another day wasted,” she said “We could be putting together a bipartisan budget but they don’t even want us in the building.”

And passing the budget is becoming more and more necessary as the state ticks down to the end of the fiscal year on June 20.

Cities, towns, counties and school districts rely on the state to set their budgets based on shared revenues.

“It absolutely impacts us because we’re waiting to see what it is that we’re going to be funded,” said Tucson Unified School District Board Chair Adelita Grijalva. “It prolongs a lot of decisions that we’re making.’

And one of the biggest decisions right now is teacher salaries especially because it’s the best way to retain teachers when the state is facing a teacher shortage.

“We have very tight deadlines on when we have to submit our budgets,” Grijalva said. “So here we are sort of at the 11th hour waiting for the state to let us know what that funding is going to look like.”

Some smaller districts have already felt the pinch, according to Steele.

“The schools are right now handing out their teacher contracts with the salary line blank,” she said. “Because they are not sure if the state legislature is going to agree to give them an investment this year in the state budget.”

Bigger districts like TUSD and Sunnyside can rely on federal dollars until the state budget is approved but smaller districts don’t have that flexibility.

The solution is an approved budget, and soon.

“It’s a terrible slap in the face to Arizonans who elected a near evenly split legislature to say on June second we’ve got no budget,” Cano said.

The state legislature is in its 145th day now, 45 days beyond their goal of 100 days.

Some believe the GOP lawmakers spent so much time relitigating the 2020 election, other items got shoved to the side causing delays.

“It’s a philosophical debate, it’s bonkers right,” Cano said. “From election security to relitigating an election that was more than two years ago, at this point it’s baloney. It’s nonsense.”

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