Gov. Janet Napolitano is preparing her own plan to bring the state into compliance with a federal court order to boost funding for English instruction.
But a top Republican lawmaker said the governor’s interest now is irrelevant, as lawmakers don’t trust her.
The move is an about-face for Napolitano, who refused during the legislative session to suggest how the state should deal with the court order. In fact, Napolitano put no money into her own budget proposal for better English instruction.
What changed is that the governor vetoed a plan crafted by Republican lawmakers, calling their proposal unacceptable to her because it was unacceptable to legislative Democrats. GOP leaders responded that it is now her responsibility to come up with an alternative.
Napolitano told Capitol Media Services on Wednesday that she is doing just that. But she does not yet have any specifics.
"We’re meeting and talking with people now as to what makes sense," she said.
"I’m glad to see she’s engaged," said House Majority Leader Steve Tully, RPhoenix. But he called it "a little late," saying he doubts Republicans will deal with her.
Part of that, he said, stems from Napolitano’s veto of budget provisions that Republicans believe she agreed to sign, including tax credits for corporations that give to organizations providing scholarships for private and parochial schools. Tully said she needs to make good on those promises.
"You can’t negotiate with someone who doesn’t live up to their agreements," he said.
Napolitano, however, said Republicans didn’t deliver the bill they negotiated.
The school funding issue is pressing because a federal judge ordered the state to come up with additional funding by the end of the legislative session or face possible sanctions.
Napolitano’s veto of the GOP plan leaves the state out of compliance. But attorney Tim Hogan, who represents plaintiffs in that lawsuit, said he will give the state a few weeks before asking U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins to impose sanctions.
Tully said Republicans believe their plan complies with federal law.
It provided a flat amount of additional cash for each English learner this year, with schools then required to show their costs to get future funding.
Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, said Napolitano was wrong to veto a plan before Collins got to look at it.
The governor, however, said the state needs to comply not only with the court order but also determine "what really needs to be done for the English language learners."
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