GOP Lawmakers Point Fingers at Hobbs for Arizona Budget Stall

GOP Lawmakers Point Fingers at Hobbs for Arizona Budget Stall

As the fourth month of the legislative session approaches, Republican legislators and Democratic governor Katie Hobbs are still far apart on a state budget.

Hobbs was accused by Republican leaders in the Arizona Legislature of impeding budget talks.

House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) and Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) claimed that they have been working with Hobbs to work out the budget for months and that the governor’s administration has been continually postponing and canceling meetings.

“Nothing has changed,” Toma stated. “I can tell you that we’ve been ready for nearly two months now to have substantive conversations with the governor, and they keep asking for more time.”

Legislators have held preliminary talks with the governor’s staff, according to Senator Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe), the minority leader. The governor’s administration declined to comment.

Epstein stated that any discussions should wait until the parliamentary budget staff provides new predictions to lawmakers the following month. Although there is now a significant expected budget deficit in the state, the governor’s office and the legislature’s budget analysts disagree on how big of a shortfall there is.

“To be honest, we really need to know where we are in terms of revenue, and the April 11 [Finance Advisory Committee] meeting is critical to that,” Epstein stated.

She also took issue with recent Republican-led measures that extended the term of some state agencies to only two years.

Every eight to ten years, as part of a sunset review, state government agencies such as the Department of Economic Security or the Department of Health Services are usually audited.

However, Democrats claim GOP lawmakers are using the Legislature as a weapon to undermine Hobbs’ administration, and as a result, Republicans have chosen this session to approve shorter renewals for agencies that they believe require more supervision.

“We can’t plan a budget if we don’t know what our agencies are going to be,” Epstein stated.

Republicans, however, claimed that Hobbs is the one stifling talks.

“My goal was progress with her, meet with my caucus, progress with her, meet with my caucus,” Petersen stated. “We’ve had a little bit of that, but they’ve been canceling meetings, quite frankly.”

With most committee sessions concluded last week, the House and Senate are now going through the non-budget measures that are still pending in respective chambers.

Petersen stated that he might send senators home in April until he had fresh budgetary information to go over with his caucus, if they manage to pass those bills before meeting once more with Hobbs’ staff.

“Maybe a week at a time or whatever it takes to have progress with her, meet with our caucus, have progress with her, meet with our caucus,” Petersen stated. “I’ve been trying to do that since December.”