Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 6, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  • Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times reports on the latest from the state capitol.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Yesterday the house appropriations committee passed 10 budget bills on a party line vote. The plan will plug a $2.8 billion budget deficit predicted for next year. It will use 500 million in federal stimulus money to close the current year budget deficit and nearly a billion dollars in federal stimulus cash for next year. In addition there are $650 million in cuts to state agencies, including $220 million from k through 12 education. Here to talk about that and more is Arizona Capitol Time’s reporter Jim Small. Jim, as always, good to see you.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
Ok. We've got -- let's get -- nothing really surprising in this plan. Pretty much what the proposals talked about a while back?

Jim Small:
Yes, very similar to a proposal that came out about a week ago which was in turn based off of a proposal that leaked out to the media a month prior to that. There have been some modifications obviously, some cuts are fewer in this plan than they were looking at a month ago, couple hundred million dollars. But by and large you're seeing a lot of the same things and a lot of these items are things that have been on the table and been discussed since January, when the Republican leaders put out basically a big giant book listing every option that they were looking at for the two years in budget problems.

Ted Simons:
The two big controversies apparently remain here, and that's the idea of taking money from school districts and taking money from cities and towns. But they're calling it voluntary now. What's that all about?

Jim Small:
Yeah, and that's for the cities and towns issue. Basically the idea is that cities and towns collect impact fees from developers. When new homes get built and new commercial projects get built and this money is generally set aside to be used for things like roads, sewer connections, police and fire coverage, libraries, parks, that sort of thing. There's a belief that there's a lot of this money that's been collected but hasn't been spent yet. And the idea would be that if the city volunteered to give back part of the state shared revenue they get every month from the state, that they could go ahead and they can dip into this impact fee pot and use that money for their general government operations instead of using it for infrastructure.

Ted Simons:
That doesn't sound like cities and towns would be too excited about that.

Jim Small:
They certainly didn't seem too excited at the appropriations meeting yesterday. The director of the league of Arizona cities and towns didn't think the $210 million estimate was anywhere realistic. He guessed there would be hardly any response from cities on this.

Ted Simons:
As far as taking the reserve money out of school districts, that sounds like it could be headed for a legal challenge. Could the cities and towns be headed for a legal challenge as well?

Jim Small:
Absolutely. I think the league of cities and towns said as much. They got a legal opinion not based on the specific language, was based on the concept. But I'm sure now that they actually have language to look at they'll be exploring the idea further and there's, you know, they showed last year they were very pro active in defending money that they felt was theirs, they sued the state over provision in the budget that the Governor Napolitano supported last year to take about $17 million.

Ted Simons:
The party line vote obviously here, Democrats throwing amendments up, nothing sticking.

Jim Small:
One amendment from a Democrat stuck, freshman Tucson legislator Matt Hines was able to get an amendment on there that had to do with unclaimed property and setting the term and when the state could seize it and basically resulted in I think like $40 million, $50 million worth of more revenue.

Ted Simons:
Is this the real deal or is this more of a trial balloon?

Jim Small:
I think at this point it's -- you probably have to throw it in the trial balloon category. It's a budget that clearly does not have 31 votes in the house. Republicans made no bones about it during the meeting yesterday. They voted on all these bills and on every bill there was a couple people who would say I'm going to vote for it. We need to move it out, we need to get it to the floor and keep this discussion going, but unless this particular area, you know, problem a, b, or c gets fixed to my liking, don't count on my vote.

Ted Simons:
What about the senate, regards it what the house is doing?

Jim Small:
Not exactly. The whispers, a lot of Republicans in the senate view the house budget as being far too liberal. The budget that they're working on over there and trying to get members to buy onto I think takes some firmer stances with regards to spending cuts and some of the tax provisions. But again they don't have support in their caucus either for theirs. They don't have the 16 votes they need and they've continually scheduled meetings and canceled them. They did it for yesterday; they were supposed to have one they cancel. They've got another scheduled for tomorrow. We'll see if it actually takes place.

Ted Simons:
Very good, Jim thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

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