Gov. Jan Brewer wants her agency chiefs to figure out what state services will continue - and which will not - if there is no budget when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Under orders from the governor, Bill Bell, director of the Department of Administration, has instructed every state department to determine what services are "essential." The presumption is that, budget or not, these will continue to be funded.
"Certainly, as any governor always does, they prepare for a disaster," Brewer said Monday of her plans. And as of Monday, there is not only no state budget but talks between the governor and Republican legislative leaders had broken down.
Bell, in his memo to other agency directors, said there is a presumption that certain functions would continue, with or without legislative authority to spend money.
For example, he said the Arizona Constitution specifically requires the state to maintain a workers' compensation system. That ensures anyone who is injured in a work-related accident gets medical bills paid and a portion of lost salary.
Bell also said the state is required to comply with court orders, such as a mandate by a judge to take custody of someone sentenced for a crime. That likely would keep the prison system operating.
Along the same lines, Bell said there are federal constitutional requirements to provide health care for inmates.
Bell also said that voter-approved mandates also likely would qualify for continued funding.
That should protect the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which provides free care for anyone below the federal poverty level. But voters never approved some of the extra mandate, like the Kids Care program that provides nearly free care for the children of the working poor.
Less clear are the things that fall outside those categories but may be necessary to make them function.
For example, Alan Ecker, spokesman for the Department of Administration, said his agency is still studying whether to keep open the state Department of Revenue. That agency processes the sales tax payments collected by businesses as well as income taxes withheld from worker paychecks - money that would be needed for those mandated services.
And someone will be needed to process the paychecks for the employees still working at places like the prison system.
"It's a complex issue," Ecker said.
On top of that, Bell said the state will need to figure out which bills to pay. He has asked all agencies to detail all the contracts they have and list which are essential.