Arizona’s Gop Politicians Say Hobbs Is To Blame For The Slow Budget Talks. Democrats Say They Need To See Forecasts First


GOP lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs are still not close to agreeing on a state budget, even though the session is about to end for the fourth month.

Leaders of the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature said Hobbs was holding up budget talks.

House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) and Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) said they have been trying to work out the budget with Hobbs for months. They said the governor’s office kept canceling meetings and slowing down the process.

“Nothing has changed,” Declared Toma. “I can say that we’ve been ready to talk with the governor about important things for almost two months now, but they keep asking for more time.”

The governor’s office wouldn’t say anything, but Senator Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe) said that members have met with the governor’s staff informally.

Epstein said that more talks shouldn’t happen until next month, when lawmakers get new figures from the legislative budget staff. The state’s budget is expected to be short by a lot, but budget analysts from the governor’s office and the lawmakers have different ideas about how bad the shortfall is.

“To be honest, we need to know where we stand with our income,” Epstein said. “The April 11 [Finance Advisory Committee] meeting is very important for that.”

She also said she didn’t agree with the recent votes by Republicans to limit the renewal of some state offices to two years.

A “sunset review” is when state government departments like the Department of Health Services or the Department of Economic Security are checked out every eight to ten years. But this session, Republicans have chosen shorter renewals for agencies they say need more control. This has made Democrats angry, who say GOP lawmakers are using the Legislature as a weapon to hurt Hobbs’ administration.

Epstein said, “We can’t make a budget if we don’t know what our units will be.”

But Republicans said that Hobbs was making it hard to negotiate.

Petersen said, “My goal was to make progress with her and meet with my caucus.” “We’ve had some of that, but to be honest, they’ve been canceling meetings.”

After the end of most committee meetings last week, the House and Senate are now making their way through the non-budget bills that are still in their hands.

If they get those bills passed before meeting with Hobbs’ staff again, Petersen said he could send senators home in April until he has new budget information to share with his group.

“Maybe one week at a time, or however long it takes to make progress with her and meet with our caucus,” Petersen said. He said, “I’ve been trying to do that since December.”

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