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Updated Mar 21, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Arizona House to debate $9.2 billion budget Monday

PHOENIX — The Arizona House of Representatives has scheduled a debate and
final vote on a $9.2 billion spending plan for the coming budget year next week,
a move signaling Republican leaders believe they have the votes to approve the

The House Appropriations Committee has set hearings for Monday morning, and the
full House will debate and is set to vote on the budget package in the

The rapid-fire action comes after the Senate passed the budget late Thursday
just four days after the nine-bill package was introduced. Senate President Andy
Biggs said he’s confident it will win support from Gov. Jan Brewer.

But Brewer’s chief of staff said late Thursday she still has issues preventing
her from fully embracing the budget plan.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills,
said he believes the chances are good the bills can win approval.

“We feel pretty confident,” Kavanagh said. “I personally haven’t polled
every member. But the fact that it has enough votes in the Senate, the governor
likes it, seems to bode well for a productive Monday.”

The House is substituting all but two of its own budget bills with the ones
passed by the Senate. One of the two that remains is identical to the Senate
version, and the other tracks projected revenue. That implies the only
amendments the House plans are on those two bills, and the Senate would only
have to re-vote on those two for the whole package to head to Brewer’s desk.

The Senate-passed budget spends about $175 million less than Brewer wanted,
with cuts to her school-performance funding plan, school broadband and
child-welfare spending plans, among other changes.

Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said Friday that there are still issues with the
budget. Chief of Staff Scott Smith said late Thursday that the Legislature and
governor were very close to an agreement that would get Brewer fully on board.
But he said one major issue and several smaller ones were preventing her from
giving the plan her complete support. Smith would not specify the issues.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said he made changes in his proposal to
get both the House and the governor on board, and Kavanagh said Friday he wasn’t
aware of any major sticking points.

Passing a budget is the main responsibility of the Legislature each year, and
once it is adopted lawmakers typically rush to finish other bills and adjourn.

The one major outstanding issue is the legal creation of a stand-alone child
welfare agency Brewer wants. She ordered Child Protective Services pulled from
its parent agency in January and created a Cabinet-level post to oversee it
after more than 6,500 uninvestigated abuse and neglect reports were revealed in

A group of lawmakers and others are working with Brewer’s staff to write
legislation to make that executive order permanent and expect to release it by
May 1, although it could come earlier. Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin said
this week that they could adjourn and come back for a special session to pass
legislation creating the new department if needed to avoid unnecessarily
dragging out the regular session.


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