A reliable source familiar with what is going on in the Arizona Senate has informed the Arizona Eagletarian that some underhanded dealings are likely in the works regarding the state's fiscal year 2014 budget. The dubious machinations may be revealed as early as tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday this week.
Here's the scenario as it was set forth to me earlier this evening:
Senate President Andy Biggs, who has been declaring all along that he is dead set against the Medicaid expansion, will tomorrow (or Wednesday) have a budget bill (or bills) for members to vote on. The budget will likely look very much like a Tea Party austerity budget with notable exceptions.
There are apparently as many as five Republican state senators not playing ball with Mr. Biggs.
Without those five votes, Biggs has to come up with Democrats to support his budget bill(s).
Scuttlebutt has it that Biggs has been meeting with Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor (D-South Phoenix) and Assistant Minority Leader Linda Lopez (D-Tucson) and a handful of other Democrats to do some wheeling and dealing to peel off enough of the opposition to get his bills passed.
There IS speculation as to whom those other Democratic votes might be. Right now, I don't know enough to name them, but traditionally, legislative Republicans have been able to obtain support from members from Northeast Arizona in exchange for appropriations to build special projects on the Navajo and/or Hopi Reservations. I do NOT know who Biggs is trying to buy right now, so, I am not calling out Senator Jackson.
This is only an example. In the 1990s, I saw it work like this, when I served as an accountant with the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The special appropriations were funneled through that agency in several fiscal years.
However, it should not be difficult for any political reporter to recognize how this kind of thing can easily take place, in any Democratic legislative district.
There are possibly as many as six Democratic votes in the Senate that Biggs will target for this clandestine operation. But the two top Dems in the Senate are pretty much a lock as to with whom Biggs is working to make deals.
It may be worth noting that overall, the Arizona Senate has 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Biggs needs 16 votes to send any Senate bill to the House or House bill to the Governor. Seventeen minus five is twelve. So, Biggs has to pick up at least four Democratic votes to make his plan work.
Oh, and as to Medicaid expansion, everyone outside the legislature expects Biggs to oppose it. He has said so on several occasions. However, the scenario described to me had Biggs including Medicaid expansion in his budget bill(s) with the very strong expectation that it would be stripped out in the House.
Despite House Speaker Andy Tobin reportedly being open to passing the expansion, my source says that's not a lock and there are several ways he can justify withdrawing any support people might expect him to be ready to offer at this stage.
Now, I realize this is speculation. But this scenario should provide fodder for reporters and other Capitol watchers to ask pointed questions to verify to what degree this matches what Biggs has in the works.
And it should be fair warning to those concerned about late night deals -- done without public scrutiny, right before the regular legislative session ends -- that put Arizona taxpayers at risk for major financial trouble. Think Alt-Fuels debacle.
I direct your attention to the poignant explanation of the three financial scenarios the General Fund now faces regarding Medicaid expansion.
Which option do you think would be best for Arizona?
The main phone number for the Arizona Senate is (602) 926-3559 or toll-free (800) 352-8404.
Craig McDermott at Random Musings has additional insight as well as an indication the Senate Rules committee will meet this afternoon to consider authorizing late introduction of budget and medicaid expansion related bills. The most important insight in Craig's post may be:
Based on what I've seen of the Senate Ds, however, they don't want any sort of "aiding and abetting" of the tea-publicans' attack on society to be part of their legislative legacy.
Especially those who will be involved in a primary next year, whether for a return to the Senate or for another office.
Especially2 when there are doubts about whether any deals that individual Senate Democrats work out will survive in the House.
While there may be some individual senators who feel the tug of temptation, when the smoke from this clears, the caucus will be standing united in their support of the Democratic values of families, education, healthcare.
Some will just have gritted teeth.