Arizona Capitol complex || Michael Chow/Arizona Republic
A budget deal brokered between Republican leadership and Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs made its way out of the Arizona Senate in the early morning hours Wednesday.
The $18 billion budget has been an on-going point of contention between Hobbs and her own caucus and public school advocates who claim it falls short of earlier promises made by the governor to reign in the expansion of the universal expansion of the school voucher program championed by her predecessor, Doug Ducey.
Hobbs praised the budget vote for its historic investment in housing and its increased spending in education, infrastructure and children’s health insurance.
“Today we showed Arizonans we can reach across the aisle, compromise and make government work,” she said in a written statement.
Despite earlier party line votes by Senate Democrats in the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier Tuesday on the budget bills, the bills largely passed with more than 25 votes with between 5 to 8 Democrats dissenting on each bill. The Senate consists of 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
However, attempts by Democratic lawmakers to amend any of the bills failed and Democratic lawmakers continued to accuse Republicans of attempting to speed through the budgeting process late Tuesday and into Wednesday morning.
“It is so important in a democracy that everybody has the time they need to figure out how they are voting,” Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, quipped at Senate President Warren Petersen when he said he would invoke a Senate rule to make those who did not respond to his second request to vote on a bill to verbally explain their vote instead.
Petersen responded to Epstein by saying that lawmakers were given “several hours” to look at the bills and “some a day,” invoking laughter from those in the Senate gallery.
Most of the budget bills passed without amendments or any debate, though the K-12 education bill featured amendments that took aim directly at the school voucher issues that had been a major sticking point for Democratic lawmakers.