Senate approves $13 billion budget, House goes home

House had to recess until Thursday because of the lack of a quorum. /Capitol Media Services photo from video

Information credit Arizona Capitol Times

The Senate unilaterally passed a $13 billion budget, complete with last-minute amendments tied to unfounded election fraud claims, following a marathon session that began yesterday and lasted until early Wednesday morning. 

Budget action – and all other business in the Legislature – is now on hold until Thursday, when House leaders expect all 31 Republicans back at the Capitol to ensure Democrats can’t prevent their vote by denying the chamber a quorum. House Democrats blocked the chamber from tackling the budget yesterday by not showing up. 

Senate Republicans spent the day adopting amendments crafted to bring Republicans on board, including a 195-page juggernaut that contained language from multiple controversial bills killed earlier in the session. 

Those votes were delayed by a Suns playoff game, which drew senators to their lounge where many of them were glued to the TV as the team fended off the Clippers.  

“I hope the Suns appreciate that we’re holding up the entire floor just for them.”

Senate President Karen Fann said. 

The budget, which passed the Senate with just over a week to spare before the government shuts down without a new spending plan in place, reflects a compromise on Gov. Doug Ducey’s ambitious tax cut proposal that will result in all but the wealthiest Arizonans paying a flat 2.5% income tax rate as early as 2024, provided the state receives at least $12.9 billion in revenue the preceding year.  

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler and one of the architects of the tax plan, said Arizona is now at a crossroads – it can continue to follow Republican policies and grow, or permit higher taxes and see people move away. He predicted higher future revenues and continued political success for the Republican party if the tax cuts passed.  

“When we have future surpluses as a result of this decision, let’s remember this moment when we were demonized for what we were doing,” Mesnard said.  

Beginning on their 2022 tax returns, Arizonans who make more than $250,000 (or $500,000 for a married couple) would pay just 1% of their taxable income to the state’s General Fund, and another 3.5% toward education as required by a voter-approved surcharge on the rich. Without these changes, those wealthy Arizonans would pay the 3.5% surcharge on top of their existing 4.5% tax rate. 

To court skeptical Republican Rep. David Cook of Globe and Sen. Paul Boyer of Glendale, amendments to the budget phased in the tax cuts over at least one additional year. If the House and Ducey approve the budget as advanced by the Senate, the state will have two tax brackets for the next two years. 

Democrats, including Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, criticized the tax plan for disproportionately benefiting wealthier Arizonans.  

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June 2021