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Arizona budget fight pulls legislative session to 121st day

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PHOENIX – The battle in the Arizona State Legislature over the budget has dragged the session well past its original 100-day schedule and it is not getting any easier to reach an agreement, said a legislator.

“I’m super frustrated and I don’t really see any end in sight,” Sen. J.D. Mesnard told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday of the session that convened Jan. 14 and was scheduled to adjourn April 23.

This year’s session entered Day 121 on Tuesday.

The Chandler Republican was House speaker a year ago, when the session lasted 114 days, ending May 4.

He said he had hoped Gov. Doug Ducey would call a special session in November or December “so we could avoid this very scenario. Obviously, he didn’t decide to do that, so here we sit in the middle of May.”

The proposed budget wasn’t going anywhere before because lawmakers and Ducey are in disagreement about revenue generated by income tax conformity to federal changes.

The governor vetoed a bill in February that would have cut tax rates to offset higher taxpayer bills. Ducey wants the money to go into a rainy day fund.

Legislators would rather spend the money on infrastructure and more current needs, Mesnard said.

Now, Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix) said he won’t vote for the proposed budget unless his bill giving survivors of child sex abuse more time to sue their attackers advances.

Sens. Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek) and Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) have said they supported Boyer.

The longest legislative session in state history ran for 173 days in 1988.

The 2013 session lasted 151 days, another fight between lawmakers and the governor, this one over expanding Medicaid.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed related bills until she got her way June 14, after a bipartisan expansion plan passed.

“That type of thing happens every year, whether it’s an individual legislature member holding the budget hostage or the governor holding the budget hostage,” Mesnard said.

“Now this is an instance where the issue does not directly relate to the budget … but is just a part of the dealmaking. I’m not praising or condemning what (Boyer) is doing.”

“I imagine there are some very long hours ahead of us,” Mesnard said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report.

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