Republicans struggle to agree on Arizona state budget

PHOENIX — With the election just months away, you’d think lawmakers would have more incentive to strike a budget deal. Call it a session, then go home to campaign. But if you thought that, you would be wrong.

When Governor Ducey and Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers crossed paths Thursday at an event celebrating charter schools on the Senate lawn, there was no rush to get back to business.

Neither chamber was in session.

For most lawmakers, with no budget to consider, it was still a short week of work.

“The governor we know wants a lot of things. We’re okay with a lot of the things he wants. So we’ll meet again on Monday and we’ll get to work,” Speaker Bowers said.

More than 100 days into the session, there are still not enough Republican votes in the House or Senate to pass Governor Ducey’s $14 billion budget proposal.

“It’s our 8and year. We have seen this before. We will do it,” the governor said.

Since the governor released his budget in January, an additional $5 billion in tax revenue has been collected. A breathtaking surplus that pushes Democrats and some Republicans to demand more spending.

“We know those dollars need to be invested in our schools and invested in homelessness and housing,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding.

The governor’s budget devotes nearly $6 billion to public education. An increase of $323 million over 2022 spending.

Republican state senator Paul Boyer doesn’t think that’s enough. He wants another $900 million for K-12.

Other Republicans want to return the surplus to taxpayers. Republicans’ inability to reach a consensus puts the state in the rarest of possibilities, with Republicans negotiating with Democrats for a budget deal.

“60 votes minus 31. There are 29 left. If I lose one, I have to find another. So I can do my calculations,” President Bowers said.