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Updated Jun 11, 2013 - 7:13 pm

Jan Brewer demands state lawmakers finish budget

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer flexed her executive muscle Tuesday and demanded
that lawmakers return to work and finish the state budget, signaling that her
patience with the Legislature’s extended battle over her proposed Medicaid
expansion had run out.

Brewer issued a proclamation calling for a special session hours after the
Legislature had ended the day and House leaders announced they would delay the
fiscal debate until Thursday. Under the special session, Brewer’s supporters in
the House are expected to force a first reading of the state budget and Medicaid
expansion bills when lawmakers reconvene late Tuesday.

“Obviously, they will be coming back to the Capitol as quickly as they can
come back to the Capitol,” said Matt Benson, Brewer’s spokesman. “The governor
made her call for Medicaid restoration five months ago. She has been
extraordinarily patient in working with both the leadership of the House and the
Senate, but it has gone on long enough.”

A group of moderate Republicans are expected to join all 24 House Democrats to
pass the Medicaid expansion in the House. If that happens, the Senate and House
could pass a budget and call a formal end to the session by Thursday in a
significant victory for Brewer and minority Democrats who usually have little
influence in the Legislature.

“It definitely feels goods to win on this issue,” said Democratic Rep. Martin
Quezada, of Phoenix.

Brewer’s staff secretly met throughout the day with Democratic lawmakers to
discuss strategy and ensure they would still be available to force a vote late
Tuesday. The Legislature’s Republican leaders had little notice of the special
session, Benson said.

“This is the desire of the majority of members of the House and the Senate,”
he said. “We’ve been waiting five months to complete work on Medicaid and the
budget and it’s time to move forward. No more game playing, no more stall
tactics, no more gimmicks.”

Moderate Republicans said they would suspend normal rules that require
committee hearings and bring a new set of budget bills, including the Medicaid
plan, to a vote.

Rep. Jeff Dial, a Chandler Republican who supports Medicaid expansion, said the
new budget will be more fiscally sound than the one House Republicans were
slated to take up Thursday.

“The governor provided the leadership to get this done,” he said.

Opponents of the Medicaid expansion plan were incensed, with many already home
with their families when the call to return came in.

“In my experience, never has the governor called us into special session in
this fashion, in such a disrespectful way,” said Republican Rep. Carl Seel, of
Phoenix. “Most of my colleagues feel the same way I do, quite offended that she
did this.”

Seel said he was making his sons’ dinner and had changed into casual clothes
when he started getting text messages from other members about the special
session.

“It was like, `What the heck is going on?”’ Seel said. “I expect more from
my governor.”

The announcement marks Brewer’s latest power play in the ongoing battle over
her proposal to expand Medicaid to 300,000 more low-income Arizonans.
Conservative Republicans oppose the expansion and have maneuvered to stall floor
debate on it, though Brewer has enough votes in the House to pass it. The
Arizona Senate passed a budget that included the measure last month after Senate
President Andy Biggs had vowed to block it. In recent weeks, Brewer has refused
to sign any bills until a favorable budget is passed.

The House had been expected to take up Brewer’s Medicaid expansion proposal
early Tuesday, but Speaker Andy Tobin opted to instead delay that and other
budget-related votes until Thursday. A House committee dominated by conservative
Republicans rejected the Senate-passed budget bill that contained the Medicaid
provision on Monday.

Brewer shocked many by announcing she was embracing a signature part of the
Affordable Care act in January. She has support from the business community,
hospitals, health care workers and patients, but tea party groups that once
rallied behind Brewer’s candidacy have since labeled her a traitor.

The plan would cover people making between 100 percent and 138 percent of the
federal poverty level and restore coverage to more than 100,000 childless adults
who lost Medicaid coverage because of a state budget crunch. About 1.3 million
Arizonans already are covered by the state’s plan, called the Arizona Health
Care Cost Containment System.

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