Mesa lawmaker can’t break House budget stalemate

House Speaker Rusty Bowers of Mesa tried unsuccessfully last week to broker a deal to end the stalemate in the Senate, where several Republicans are refusing to approve any new state budget. 

A bid by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to break the Republican gridlock over the budget has been rejected out of hand by the Phoenix Republican who it’s supposed to satisfy.

The Mesa legislative leader is proposing that HB 2476 give victims of sexual assault and abuse when they were minors until age 30 to file civil suits against their assailants.

That’s 12 more years than they have now under what is one of the shortest statute of limitations in the country for such victims.

But Sen. Paul Boyer, claiming Bowers has not bothered to contact him, said that won’t cut it.

He’s holding out for a law that would give victims seven years to file suit from the time they report the incident to a medical or mental health professional. Anything less, Boyer said, is largely meaningless.

“The one thing we know about sexual predators is they don’t stop until they’re caught or exposed,’’ he said.

Boyer has vowed to withhold his vote for the approximately $11.5 billion budget until his version gets a vote. He has the backing of Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek — leaving Senate GOP leadership without the 16 votes needed to adopt a spending plan.

That isn’t stopping Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, from saying they intend to unveil a spending plan on Monday, at least to their own members.

At that point they will count noses to see if they can get the necessary votes.

GOP leaders are coalescing around a plan that would cut income taxes in future years by more than doubling the standard deduction available to individuals and couples.

That, coupled with some additional tax credits for dependents, should make up for the “windfall’’ the state is getting due to changes in the federal tax code, changes that reduce deductions that can be taken by Arizona taxpayers.

Still, one potential sticking point is what to do with the extra dollars already being collected.

The latest figures from the state Department of Revenue show the income tax payments tallied so far this year were $652.9 million compared with $566 million for the same period last year.

Agency spokesman Ed Greenberg said the numbers — and that extra $87 million extra are preliminary as tax returns are still being processed. He said that there may be other factors that are affecting payments.

Meanwhile, legislative budget staffers are sticking with their estimate that the changes in federal tax law will result in a net $155 million extra flowing into the state treasury, though an update is planned for later this month.

Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed putting the extra cash into the state’s rainy day fund, money set aside in a reserve against future economic downturns. That, however, continues to draw sharp reaction from some Republicans.

On Thursday, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said he will not support having the state keep the extra money, what with an anticipated $1 billion surplus without it.

There are other problems for the GOP leadership in corralling the votes.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, has vowed to withhold her support until lawmakers repeal a $32-a-vehicle registration fee designed to fund the state Highway Patrol.

Lawmakers authorized the fee last year but left the amount up to John Halikowski, director of the state Department of Transportation after being told by budget analysts that it likely would be no more than $18.

It was only in December that Halikowski said the computation — and the list of who is and is not subject to the levy —came out higher.

And Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, has said she is holding out for more funding for social service programs and other priorities.

That doesn’t even account for the fact that there are just 31 Republicans in the 60-member House, meaning Bowers cannot afford to lose even one vote given. Democrats have shown no interest in supporting the GOP spending plan.

Bowers contends that adding at least 12 more years “will ensure that victims have greater access to justice and will bring Arizona’s law more in line with other states.’’

Boyer’s plan does include a seven-year statute of limitations, but only with the clock starting from the time someone realizes she or he has been victimized by reporting it to a medical professional.

“This will make Republicans look like the party that’s covering for sexual predators,’’ Boyer said. “That’s not the party I’ve been a part of since the age of 18.’’

 

(1) comment

TOPDOG1

John Giles. the most incompetent elected official in Arizona. How could anyone hold any credibility to anything such an inept official suggests. When one looks at the completely out-of-control law enforcement in Mesa his Mayor is just as guilty of the crimes and abuses of the citizens through negligence. He should not be allowed in any position of responsibility. Who but a complete idiot would vote for such a creature anyway? It is his job to place controls on one of the worst and abusive police departments in America. The citizens of Mesa should move this person out of public service. Half of the local business have already been blacklisted because of the Mesa police. As millions monitor Mesa police abuse, What? Is he home trembling beneath his bed?

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