AZ PBS – Arizona Lawmakers at Loggerheads Over Budget
The Legislature is supposed to finish its work in 100 days but that mark on the calendar has come and gone.
The big issue: lawmakers have billions of extra dollars to work with this year in crafting the state’s next budget.
Last week, Republican lawmakers introduced a budget in the state House of Representatives that was essentially last year’s budget with less than $1 billion in additional spending for population growth and inflation.
What some called the skinny budget failed amid bipartisan in the House Appropriations Committee.
But House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, told The Buzz “skinny budget” is a misnomer.
“It is a continuation of our last year’s budget, which is the most robust budget the state has ever had,” he said.
Toma argued the Legislature needs to address several other major issues — such as water and school choice — before the rest of the budget can fall in place.
Rep. Kelli Butler, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, called it a continuation of an “austerity budget” that would ignore the surplus — and needs like more funding for education.
“We should be looking at this as a huge opportunity to find common ground and invest in things we know will grow our economy and help strengthen our state,” she said.
But economist Jim Rounds warns that state lawmakers should prepare for a recession in the coming years.
“We have to be careful because it appears we have billions of dollars in extra dollars. But keep in mind if you go through a recession and it’s a very mild recession, it costs about $2.5 billion to get through that recession without having to do dramatic cuts,” he said.