PHOENIX — After a week off, the Arizona House of Representatives will reconvene on Monday, June 7, with the hope of passing a $12.6 billion budget bill. The Arizona Senate will return a few days later.
Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, both the Arizona House and Senate were unable to secure enough votes to pass the budget. Senate Democrats were unanimously against the budget, which means every Republican vote is needed to pass, and not all Republicans were on board for varying reasons.
There are still "no" votes among Republicans, but there is no time to waste, Republican leaders have said, because the state's fiscal year ends at the end of June.
While quiet at the legislature in downtown Phoenix, behind the scenes there have been negotiations happening to hopefully jump-start a vote on the budget.
A spokesperson for Governor Doug Ducey said "negotiations have been constructive" and that a "good budget is on the table."
Last week in an effort to put pressure on the legislature, Gov. Ducey vetoed 22 bills and vowed not to consider any others until a budget had been put to a vote and passed.
Rep. David Cook, a Republican that represents Globe, District 8, has been one of the most outspoken people against the budget.
“I’m not voting for this budget until I get my questions answered," he said last week.
Friday, he said he was still waiting to hear from House leaders.
“I am hopeful that changes can be made to address my concerns including the negative impact to cities and towns, ongoing debt, unfunded pension liabilities, capital improvement needs, and investment in water infrastructure for future expected Arizona growth,” he said.
He's also concerned that the federal COVID-19 relief funds created a false economy in Arizona.
Then there is the proposed flat tax, a 2.5% tax that would largely benefit Arizona's highest earners and would remove $1.9 billion in state revenues.
Rep. Cook is against the idea. Gov. Ducey said it would help create 550,000 new jobs.
In an email, state Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican that represents District 20, said, "I still believe the scope and permanence of the Flat Tax proposal isn’t sustainable.” He's concerned about the impact it could have on cities and towns. He said it will cost towns 10% of their budget.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the city would lose $84 million in revenue.
Part of the negotiations between the Governor's Office and Republican leaders includes raising the number of money cities and towns receive from the state to offset the impact of the flat tax.
“This is a unique time to have Republicans actively and vocally stand strongly against a proposal, which shows just how bad this budget is,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, (D) Phoenix-District 27, who marks his seventh budget battle at the legislature.
He said it is the first time, however, that he views some Republicans as potential allies.
“I’ve heard from a number of Republicans who’ve indicated this budget isn’t right for Arizona for a number of reasons, whether it’s a flat tax or whether it’s other proposals. They don’t believe there is enough investment,” he said.
But, he knows the moment of truth for those Republicans has not arrived yet.
“When the budget is up for voting, we’ll see if that’s the reality,” Bolding said.
Republican leaders want to see it as well because they believe at the end of the day their members will get in line.