How many Arizona legislators does it take to change a budget? All of them; as long as they're locked in a room together, not getting paid, and not allowed to go home until they do it.
The Arizona State Legislature unanimously passed a budget package Monday that would restore funding for healthcare and education programs, which were previously cut from prior proposals.
The agreement came after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decided to take hostages. Legislators were forced into a special session, not given a per diem, and not allowed to go back to their home districts until they found an alternative to their last budget proposal, which was vetoed by the governor last week.
"It seems to me they funded my top priorities," Brewer told the Arizona Republic Monday. "Certainly, we claim victory."
Brewer's line-item veto of the legislature's initial budget proposal was a result of cuts made to education and healthcare programs, which were restored in the new plan. Tuesday morning, after the deal was struck and legislators fled the Capitol as if it were on fire, there may as well have been tumbleweeds rolling through the State Legislature. Not a single car could be seen in the senate's parking lot, and at 11 a.m., one staffer claimed she hadn't seen any senators all day. But aren't lawmakers forgetting something, like that that pesky $2 billion deficit?
The governor is proposing a temporary 1 percent sales tax increase to help bridge the gap between red and black ink, a move that Senate President Bob Burns told the Arizona Republic he is willing to let the people decide at the ballot box this November.
Senior members of the House and Senate will meet Wednesday to set up a schedule for further negotiations. Back to work, folks.