Arizona State Senator Says He Hasn’t Received ‘Necessary Responses’ from Democrats to Work on State Budget

Arizona State Senator John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Arizona Sun Times Friday that attempts to work with Democrats on a state budget have not received necessary responses.

“This year, nobody is going to be able to claim that we shut them out,” Kavanaugh said in a phone interview.

According to the state senator, he sent an email to Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe) on March 2nd asking for a complete list of the Senate Minority Caucus’s budget desires, prioritized and with a dollar amount. Senate Republicans would do the same, and the two sides would use these lists to work out a budget both aisles could live with. Kim Quintero, the spokeswoman for the majority caucus, told the press that a response was due by March 10th, which did not happen.

Kavanaugh told The Sun Times he continued communicating with Epstein and eventually received a response on Thursday evening. However, instead of a list with prices, as he initially requested, he was given a letter stating that it is premature for the minority caucus to provide specific dollar amounts for Democrat wants.

According to the response Quintero shared with The Sun Times, Kavanaugh was told to view the 2023 Senate Democrat Blue Print to see where the party’s priorities lie but was not given specific items or amounts as requested. For specific budget desires, Epstein told Kavanaugh those would have to wait until after the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting scheduled for April 13th. The FAC is a 12-member panel of private and public sector economists whose views help the Joint Legislative Budget Committee make revenue forecasts.

However, Kavanaugh said mid-April is too long to wait on this budget and that “the train is leaving,” but he hoped Democrats would still get on before it is too late. Specifically, Kavanaugh said he hopes the legislature and Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) can collaborate over the week of the 20th to work out a budget and seal the deal.

The Sun Times contacted the Senate Minority Caucus for additional information but did not hear back before publishing time.

As for what this budget may contain, it starts with a baseline presented by nonpartisan legislative staff. This baseline includes all the ongoing spending for state programs from the previous budget passed in 2022, with adjustments for inflation. From there, lawmakers can budget the remaining state money. According to Kavanaugh, Arizona has $1.8 billion in one-time spending available to be allocated in a new budget.

“We’re [the Majority Caucus] hoping to have the Democrats allocate a share of that and the Republicans allocate a share of that. We’d like to make it pretty much equal, but if they’re not going to give us their dollar asks, then what can we do,” Kavanaugh told The Sun Times.

Furthermore, as reported by The Sun Times, Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Mesa) and House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) sent a letter to Hobbs on March 2nd, requesting to meet with her about the state budget. This came after Hobbs vetoed the Republican’s first attempt at a budget in February. The legislature and Hobbs must agree on a budget before July 1st, or there will be a government shutdown.

Quintero told The Sun Times a meeting between the legislators and Hobbs is tentatively scheduled for the week of March 20th.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Kavanagh” by John Kavanagh.


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