Arizona Senate president touts ‘most conservative budget we’ve had in over a decade’

Jun 17, 2024, 10:55 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm

PHOENIX – Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen said Monday the state budget approved over the weekend shrinks spending more than any budget in years.

“In spite of divided government, this is, as far as shrinking government, this is the most conservative budget we’ve had in over a decade,” Petersen, a Republican, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Monday.

Budget negotiators were forced to curb spending to erase a $1.4 billion shortfall. The budget passed Saturday night includes $16.1 billion in spending for the 2024 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Last year’s budget, the first under Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, included $17.8 billion in spending. That was down from the $18.1 billion budget signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, in his last year in office.

While the GOP-led Legislature beat the June 30 deadline to pass a budget for the upcoming year, the vote was far from unanimous. Multiple lawmakers from each party in both chambers opposed the package, which Hobbs’ office negotiated with Republican legislative leaders.

“But I know we still have more work to do,” Hobbs said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “While this bipartisan budget delivers reforms to ESAs, they are not enough. I stand committed to bringing much needed accountability and transparency to the unsustainable ESA program.”

How did Arizona lawmakers come up with budget that shrinks spending?

Petersen said the 2024 budget reduces state government spending by 10% without cutting essential services.

“We held harmless K-12 [education], we held harmless public safety, and we protected infrastructure,” he said, “So, really those core things that people depend on for the state government, we were able to protect, and then we were able to trim the fat.”

Petersen said Hobbs was presented with a list of potential cuts that went beyond the amount needed to make up the shortfall.

“It wasn’t difficult for me because I enjoy shrinking government and cutting spending, but it was really just going through those items [and] finding consensus with her [about] where could we find an agreement,” he said.

Petersen said the 2023 fiscal year budget shortfall was the result of inaccurate revenue projections. However, he said he expects the economy to improve over the next year and for the state to be balanced or have a surplus under the new budget.

“We’ve just done so many things that have been pro-business … and we’ve drawn so many businesses here to Arizona,” he said. “Our policies are bringing 200 people here to Arizona every single day. All of those things bode for a good economy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Senate president touts ‘most conservative budget we’ve had in over a decade’