Monday, July 6, 2009

Ariz. lawmakers reach bipartisan budget agreement, preserve federal stimulus

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Democratic and Republican lawmakers came together Monday in a bipartisan budget deal to restore education funding and preserve $2.7 billion in federal stimulus money for Arizona.

The bipartisan agreement is a victory for education after a nearly six-month budget battle, during which Democrats had requested bipartisan talks.

“Democrats are happy that our Republican colleagues agreed to negotiate with us and pass a budget that protects education, jobs, children and middle-class families in Arizona,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Today is a long overdue victory for school children, teachers, parents and all of Arizona.”

Gov. Jan Brewer had vetoed on Wednesday the part of the 2010 budget that funds education, which would leave schools without funding after July 15. Her action also violated the federal stimulus act, potentially causing Arizona to lose $1 billion in federal stimulus funding for education.

With bipartisan support, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced legislation Monday to ensure school districts and charter schools can proceed with adopting their budgets and the state is back in compliance with requirements to receive federal stimulus dollars.

“We look forward to continuing to move forward in a bipartisan manner to address the Arizona’s budget,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jorge Luis Garcia. “The bills voted on and passed today were much needed budget fixes to make certain that education and stimulus dollars would not be jeopardized.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers remain open to working together to create a comprehensive bipartisan solution to Brewer’s vetoed legislation.

Education legislation will:
Provide a budget for K-12 education for the full year. The budget would be based on the baseline budget the schools received after the 2009 budget changes made in January but including their 2 percent voter-mandated inflation funding. Passage of this bill will allow school districts some budget certainty for the next year so that they can set budgets and know how many teachers they can hire, what their class sizes will be, etc.

Ensure that charter schools also will receive funding for this year. Charter schools do not have the authority to borrow or go into debt like school districts do so, without a July 15 payment, they would have had no funding at all

Enact the statutory provisions needed to ensure that Arizona's law and funding distribution is in compliance with the provisions of the federal stimulus act. Brewer’s veto of HB 2650, the health and welfare budget bill, had the effect of violating the federal stimulus act, putting $1.7 billion in federal stimulus funding for Medicaid (via FMAP dollars) and $1 billion of fiscal stabilization stimulus money at risk.

Prevent the larger per diem pay amounts to lawmakers allowed during the special session from taking effect. While leadership and key members of the Senate and House Appropriations committee members are meeting in Phoenix to hammer out the skeleton of a revised budget proposal, this bill will limit the amount of per diem paid to legislators.

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democrats, 602-926-4477,
Sarah Muench, Public Information Officer, House Democrats, 602-926-5848,

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