Call it a cash giveaway or effective leadership, but the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars to members of the state Legislature was the prime reason for last week’s passage of a $17.8 billion state budget.
And threats to withhold the money if lawmakers voted against the spending also helped.
Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the budget Thursday night. She was one of the three principal negotiators of the plan, along with Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, both Republicans.
Together they agreed to divvy up $2.5 billion in surplus funds and let each party’s caucus, plus the executive branch, spend it as they saw fit, with the caveat that if lawmakers rebelled and voted against the budget plan, their “asks” would get stripped from the budget.
Part of the deal included the mandate that Sen. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, and Rep. Andrés Cano, D-Tucson, the Senate and House Democratic leaders, would vote “yes” on the budget-related bills, which they did, said Calli Jones, the spokesperson for Senate Democrats.
The budget passed with a majority of more than two-thirds of the House and Senate, with limited “no” votes by Democratic members who pointed their anger at Hobbs for approving the deal. Nearly $15 billion went to “baseline” spending to keep the same basic services the state needs year after year like health care, schools and government agencies.