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CEBV Weekly: May 8, 2023
“If you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; whereas death is certain if you cling to your corner.” (Sun-Tzu)
The House has 31 Republicans again, and right on cue, the House Rules Committee is meeting Monday at 1 PM. Its sole agenda item is to seek “permission for late introduction of measures sponsored by Speaker Toma relating to the budget” — in other words, they’re introducing budget bills.
Republican legislative leaders are bullish on this budget’s prospects. “From my understanding, we should be hopefully seeing the white smoke of a completed budget by the end of next week,” Senate President Pro Tempore TJ Shope (R-16) told KJZZ on Thursday. But some Democrats are already vowing not to vote for it, even though it’s ostensibly been negotiated on their behalf by a Democratic governor.
What’s going on? As veteran Capitol reporter Mary Jo Pitzl notes, the negotiating rooms have been kept purposely small, and most lawmakers haven’t known much up until now. We’re told non-leadership lawmakers of both parties only started receiving briefings on budget documents on Friday.
Moving fast on a budget is the norm for Arizona. Leadership usually fears that lawmakers will change their minds, and giving them additional time to “think about” the backroom deal can result in hiccups. But explaining the plan to the rank and file and then pushing bills through the literal next business day is something entirely different: it likely means that leadership knows their plan won't be popular.
It’s not just Democrats who may be off this budget. The Republican caucuses include roughly a dozen hard-liners who have been dragging the governor and Democrats so hard they’ve effectively opted themselves out of good-faith negotiations with them. We’ve collected some public examples of this behavior: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and our personal favorite, here.
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The nature of divided government is compromise — and so, each belligerent lawmaker who chooses to become irrelevant to negotiations decreases the chances of a budget passing along party lines. The lawmakers who are left must work together to create a budget that Hobbs is willing to sign. Simple math dictates, then, that any budget bill with a chance of becoming law has to include some Democrats.
Even if you don’t count the handful of Democrats who’ve shown a willingness to work against their own party’s leadership, Democrats are the largest unified voting bloc at the state Capitol. Regardless of whether it was negotiated on their behalf, this budget may not have the votes to pass. From what we’ve heard of it, that’s probably a good thing. Our sources say it contains no plan to scale back the wildly irresponsible universal ESA vouchers that threaten to bankrupt our state — even though Gov. Hobbs campaigned on doing just that, even though she made universal repeal a central promise of her executive budget, and even though the vast majority of Arizonans agree it needs to be done.
Remember these three points:
As one op-ed argues, “Rather than constantly retreating — which demoralizes their base — Democrats should learn to fight, heeding both Bitecofer and Shenker-Osorio's advice.” Democrats must resist the urge to reflexively lay down and die, and instead must wield their power to truly move Arizona forward.
With 55 days to go until budget deadline, one thing’s for certain: This budget is not it. Keep trying, Legislature. Your next one will be better.
⏰ If you have 15 minutes: Please contact your own senator and representatives on our impending state budget. Make it clear that you expect them to cap or roll back wildly irresponsible universal ESA vouchers, and tap some new sources of revenue to keep our state running. If you’ve already done this, please do it again. Save Our Schools Arizona’s one-click email form makes it easy.
⏰⏰ If you have 30 minutes: Yes, you can RTS on the budget! Watch for our second “midweek Substack,” which we’ll send on Monday afternoon (once we have budget bill numbers and have given the content a once-over). Make yourself a reminder to use RTS.
⏰⏰⏰ If you have 45 minutes: Also contact the governor’s office and House and Senate leaders on our impending state budget.
⏰⏰⏰⏰ If you have 60 minutes: Join us on Zoom at 4pm on Sunday for our next CEBV Happy Hour. This week, we’re featuring freshman lawmakers Eva Burch and Stacey Travers.
2023 Session Timeline
Legislative majority leadership can change bill deadlines at any point. The budget deadline, however, is set in stone because it is tied to the state’s fiscal year.
Friday, 5/12 120th Day of Session (lawmakers' per diem gets cut in half) Friday, 6/30 Last day to pass a budget before the government shuts down
Use Request to Speak. Our elected officials need to know what we think!
Attend our Happy Hours. At this week’s Zoom RTS Happy Hour, we’re featuring freshman lawmakers Eva Burch and Stacey Travers. As always, we’ll also have legislative info and Q&A with Melinda. We’ll meet every Sunday at 4 PM through the end of session; sign up in advance here.
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