State supreme court rejects Brewer's budget lawsuit - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

State supreme court rejects Brewer's budget lawsuit

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Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 4:09 pm | Updated: 1:12 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Arizona Supreme Court refused Tuesday to force legislative leaders to send Gov. Jan Brewer the budget they have approved.

State budget countdown: Brewer wins and loses at same time

The Arizona Supreme Court refused Tuesday to force legislative leaders to send Gov. Jan Brewer the budget they have approved.

In brief order, Chief Justice Ruth McGregor said she and her colleagues agree with the governor that lawmakers cannot pass legislation and then sit on it, whether for political or other purposes.

“After the Legislature finally passes a bill, the Legislature cannot delay presenting it to the governor,’’ McGregor wrote.

She said the only permissible delay is for the necessary clerical and procedural maneuvers.

McGregor said the budget that was adopted on June 4 was not sent — and has still not been sent — “within the time mandated by the Arizona Constitution.’’

McGregor said, though, that the court will not intercede in this particular fight and force Senate President Bob Burns to send Brewer the budget. She said there are “unique circumstances’’ involved.

One is the admission by David Cantelme, the attorney for Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams, that lawmakers must send her their spending plan for the coming fiscal year no later than June 30, which is the last day of the current budget year.

McGregor pointed out that June 30 is only a few business days from now.

Despite that decision, Brewer claimed victory.

In a prepared statement, the governor said the ruling reaffirms her contention that it is illegal for lawmakers to hang onto bills long after they have been approved by both the House and Senate.

“The Legislature should not continue to hold these bills hostage, and should instead transmit the bills immediately,’’ Brewer said.

Paul Senseman, her press aide, said the fact that the court won’t order Burns to let loose of the bills doesn’t alter the underlying court finding that the Arizona Constitution requires bills to be sent “immediately.’’

“Just because they didn’t order them to do that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t abide by the Constitution,’’ he said.

But House Speaker Kirk Adams had a one-word answer for Brewer’s latest demand: No. Adams said he and Burns intend to hang onto the bills while talks between them and Brewer continue.

In a joint statement issued through a press aide, Burns and Adams said: “The court took jurisdiction but denied relief to the governor, which means the Legislature does not have to transmit the bills immediately, but no later than June 30. From the beginning, we have said these bills will be transmitted in this session. We are pleased the court will not intervene in the present situation and we will continue to work with the governor to reach consensus on a budget.”

The decision by the justices not to force the issue undermines Brewer’s efforts to get a political advantage in the ongoing battle with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The governor has condemned the $8.2 billion spending plan, saying it will “decimate’’ education and services for the poor and the elderly. She instead wants a budget for the coming year with fewer spending cuts.

And she specifically wants lawmakers to put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to approve a temporary sales tax increase, if not to balance the fiscal year that begins July 1 then to balance the one that comes after that.

Brewer said she thinks Burns and Adams are trying to “trick’’ her, holding onto the budget until the fiscal year ends June 30.

She said that’s designed to force her to either accept their spending plan or risk the shutdown of state government.

Joe Kanefield, her legal counsel, repeated the same arguments to the high court during Tuesday’s hearing.

“It should not be discretionary on the part of the Legislature to hold the bills for what they believe to be, to give them political gain in negotiations with the governor regarding the budget,’’ he argued.

Cantelme did not dispute Brewer’s contention that his clients are hanging onto the budget bills in hopes of gaining political leverage over Brewer. But he told the justices that is legally irrelevant.

“They should be able to go out to the public and build support for their position,’’ Cantelme said.

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