Legislative leaders said Thursday they have agreed on a tentative $10.6 billion state budget, but are remaining quiet about many of the details.
Lawmakers involved in negotiations said they have to tie up the loose ends of a deal that’s expected to include modest tax cuts, a method to address photo enforcement on state highways and additional money for road construction.
“It’s been very effective in the past to meet with members privately instead of going to the press,” said Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, when asked to offer details.
However, he did say the state will not borrow money for school construction, which was one of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s legislative priorities this year. In addition, Rep. Russell Pearce, R- Mesa, complained there was no money to help local governments and law enforcement agencies police illegal immigration.
“It’s very disappointing because this was a major priority of our (Republican) legislative program when we started this year,” Pearce said.
The agreement is the result of weeks of private meetings between the House, Senate and the governor’s office. The three sides reached an agreement in the late hours of Wednesday night, according to those at the negotiating table.
The type and amount of tax cuts were among the major sticking points holding up a budget agreement. And this time, the fight wasn’t drawn along party lines – it was between Republicans who control the House and Senate.
The Senate appears to have won the battle. Senators wanted a $7 million tax cut, primarily for business property. The agreement outlines a roughly $10 million tax-cut package.
Members of the House had proposed more robust tax cuts that included a $28 million reduction in corporate income taxes and $10 million tax incentive to encourage parents to save for their children’s college education. The total amount of the House’s tax cuts was $62 million.
House Majority Whip John McComish, R-Ahwatukee, who was been directly involved in negotiations, said he missed Wednesday night’s meeting and could not offer details. He did say he was familiar with the broad concepts of the proposal.
For example, when asked about a proposal to ban photo enforcement on state highways, McComish said, “I’d say you could probably keep the pedal to the metal.” The House had proposed to prohibit the use of cameras to nab speeders on state highways, with the exception of a stretch of the Loop 101 the cuts through Scottsdale.
Senate Minority Leader Marsha Arzberger, D-Willcox, characterized the budget as a fair bi-partisan effort. Now, Republican and Democrat leaders need to convince a majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate to vote for the deal. And unhappy lawmakers such as Pearce could be a tough hurdle.
“I probably won’t vote for this,” he said. Pearce said he needs assurances that there will be more money available to help local and state law enforcement agencies crack down on illegal immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, said the plan is to vote on the budget as early as Monday and finish up the rest of the state’s business by the end of the week.
“I’m very optimistic that we can finish this thing up and go home very soon,” he said.