By Nathan Brown and Camryn Sanchez | Arizona Capitol Times
After more than 15 hours of debate and delays and a deal late Wednesday to boost education funding to get Democratic support, the Arizona Legislature has passed a $18 billion budget with a week left in the fiscal year.
The House and Senate started work around midday Wednesday and, with numerous fits and starts, continued into Thursday morning. The House adjourned at 4:01 a.m. Thursday after passing the entire budget. The Senate adjourned at 5:24 am on Thursday.
“There are things we like, there are things we don’t like, there are things we love, and there are things, quite frankly, we hate,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen. “But weighed altogether, the good in this budget finally outweighs the bad. We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. At the end of the day, this is a significant step forward for Arizona families that have been looking to us for years.”
Assuming Gov. Doug Ducey signs the budget bills before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, the budget’s passage averts what could have been a damaging partial shutdown of state government.
Democratic and Republican leaders struck a deal Wednesday to make significant increases to school spending in exchange for Democratic support for the budget, including moving the base level amount up to $4,775.27 and establishing a new funding weight for students who meet free or reduced-price lunch eligibility requirements. Cumulatively, the changes will increase yearly ongoing school spending by about $526 million over what was in the budget introduced on Monday.
Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, said this is the first truly bipartisan state budget in years. After a tense year between Republicans holding a slim majority, and Democrats who often lamented that they were being treated with disrespect, the state lawmakers finally came to an agreement to accomplish the Legislature’s main constitutional duty.
“We came in this morning hopeful we still had a few things we needed resolved and we were able to lock it in by early afternoon,” Bowie said of Wednesday’s negotiations.