Republican lawmaker halts bid to pass Arizona budget due to ‘bad policy’
PHOENIX — A Republican lawmaker who sank the Arizona House’s bid to pass the state budget on Monday criticized the process as a reason to oppose the passage of vital parts of the $12.8 billion budget.
“I think it’s bad policy,” Rep. David Cook told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.
Cook was upset leadership forced a decision on the budget when they knew they lacked the votes, with the lawmaker coming to Phoenix from his ranch near Globe that is currently under an evacuation notice because of a nearby wildfire.
He said he didn’t have the opportunity to read, process and question contents of amendments to the budget, adding the chairwoman of appropriations also refused to answer questions on the floor during the committee of the whole.
“The committee of the whole is where legislators are supposed to debate the bill,” Cook said.
“We had the largest historic tax policy of this state’s history, and that was put in an amendment on a bill that no one would answer questions on. That’s not the way I see that as a legislator, and a citizen legislator from rural Arizona, that the process is supposed to work.
“What the rules of the House say is that the floor amendments are put on a member’s desk with adequate time for review, that was not done according to the rules in my opinion.”
The massive tax cut package would have cut more than 25% of state income tax revenue after being fully phased in over the next two years. Democrats say the tax cut favors the rich, especially since a provision caps taxes on the wealthy at 4.5% as a workaround to a new tax surcharge on high-earning Arizonans that was approved by voters in November to fund education.
While Cook pointed to a consistent record of voting for tax cuts, he believes paying down the state’s debt is a bigger priority and was against the bailout for wealthy taxpayers.
House leaders changed the negotiated plan and trimmed some spending for roads while also including multiple policy issues conservatives wanted that either failed as separate bills or never were proposed in legislation, which Cook had concerns about.
Policy issues included a ban on “critical race theory” training by government agencies or by schoolteachers, a ban on school districts requiring students to wear face masks as well as a ban on any government entity from requiring “vaccine passports.”
He said the budget is meant to decide what gets funded and spent for the next fiscal year and to move the government forward.
“That’s not what was put in that bill or is being put in these budget bills,” Cook said. “They are putting policy in these bills.
“When you have historic-making policy being put in amendments and being put in budget bills, the question I have as a legislator is if this is such good policy, then why aren’t they individual bills that go through multiple committees over the legislative session?”
Following the defeat of the two bills containing the tax cuts, the House was adjourned until Thursday when the Senate is set to return.
Lawmakers must pass a budget before the end of June to keep the state government operating when the new budget year starts on July 1, but Cook isn’t worried.
“We can easily run a bill to keep the government going and all that stuff, that’s not the problem,” Cook said. “Making sure we have the right policy long-term for the state of Arizona and the people, that’s what we need to make sure we are doing here.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Debra Dale and The Associated Press contributed to this report.