Legislature OKs Republicans'
Mar. 18, 2005 08:40 AM
The Republican-led Legislature early Friday approved an $8.2 billion state
budget that includes a new school-choice initiative and business tax cuts which
supporters say will help economic development.
The Senate finished action on the budget at 12:52 a.m., passing the main
appropriation bill (SB1408) on a party-line vote. The House followed, approving
the last budget bill at 4:14 a.m.
According to legislative staff figures, the approved 2005-2006 budget's proposed
spending is approximately 6½ percent higher than spending from the current
fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Unlike the last two years when Republicans splintered and some joined Democrats
on decisive budget issues, GOP lawmakers demonstrated unity in approving the
However, the budget's fate is uncertain because many provisions run counter to
budget priorities of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. She vetoed numerous
elements of the budget approved two years ago but erased only two provisions in
a compromise package she helped negotiate last year.
Republicans said their 2005-2006 budget responsibly keeps the state within its
fiscal means while providing tax relief and more money for education, health
care and other priorities.
Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, said he wants to meet with Napolitano
to try to sell her on the budget but also to consider ways to work out any
"Some have assumed that we have passed a budget that will automatically be
vetoed," Bennett said. "I hope that is not the case. I don't believe that is the
Senate Minority Leader Linda Aguirre, D-Phoenix, flatly predicted Napolitano
would veto the budget, setting the stage for bipartisan talks.
"They claimed to be able to get a budget out in 65 days," Aguirre said. "They
got it but it's not going to get signed so it's worthless."
The budget includes a new corporate income tax credit for companies which make
donations to organizations for private school scholarships. The state already
has a similar tax break for individuals' donations.
Tax cuts given preliminary approval by the Senate included one to reduce
property taxes on commercial property. Another phased-in reduction would provide
income-tax savings for manufacturers and other companies which do business in
The Senate rejected Democratic amendments to increase funding for all-day
kindergarten, add dollars for instruction of English-learning students, restore
funding for the Navajo Nation's community college and start building a
University of Arizona branch medical school campus in Phoenix.
Democratic amendments for more spending on social services - including child
care subsidies for low-income families and continued General Assistance welfare
funding for disabled adults - also failed.
The all-day kindergarten expansion, the child care subsidies and the medical
school branch campus are budget priorities of Napolitano.
"There's a lot not to like in what
we've seen so far," Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said Thursday when
asked whether the governor would veto the budget.
During a Thursday evening floor session in the Senate, Republicans Toni Hellon
of Tucson and Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale sided with Democrats in unsuccessfully
seeking more money for all-day kindergarten.
Allen and Hellon also sided with Democrats in voting against the bill (HB2379)
for the new tax credit for corporate donations for private school tuition.
Earlier Thursday, Senate Republicans set aside a late-emerging proposal promoted
as an alternative to Napolitano's call for more state funding for all-day
The alternative would use a new tax credit to encourage corporate donations to
pay for new all-day cash grants for kindergartners attending either public or
The bill would keep the initial $25 million funding approved last year for
all-day kindergarten for approximately 10,000 students in districts with the
highest percentages of low-income families.
The budget doesn't include money that Napolitano wants for the second year of
the five-year phase-in.