Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Herding Cats? House planning to go to the wire before dealing with state budget?

There are, no doubt, some dynamics I have yet to become aware of in the yearly drama of legislative adoption of the state budget. But some things are already known.

It has now been two weeks since the Senate passed a budget. That budget included Medicaid restoration which is one of Gov. Brewer's top priorities. The Senate proceedings included plenty of drama.  And we know that there are twice as many members in the House as in the Senate.

Many observers have been waiting with excited anticipation, knowing the House will have significantly more drama.

We know that Speaker Andy Tobin has said he does not want to proceed with the Medicaid restoration unless at least half of his caucus supports the idea. We also know that House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh will put a lot of effort into subverting the governor's plan. As will many of the other stridently hard-right leaning House Republicans.

What I've seen nobody speculate about in writing, however, is the reason Tobin wants that much Republican support. It occurs to me that one possible reason is that he does not want to have to face the possibility of being replaced as Speaker at this stage (or at any point, for that matter).

Analysis of the 36-member Republican caucus indicates that it is possible for Tobin to wrangle those 18 GOP votes. But there's no question the Kavanagh's, Steve Smith's and other tea party leaning members will also be trying to twist arms in the other direction.

Anyway, one source inside the House tells me s/he heard it will be another three weeks before they get down to seriously working on the budget. If they then make any changes at all to the Senate bills, the budget will have to go back to the Senate. Which then adds another opportunity for Senate President Andy Biggs to throw a wrench in the works.

If the Senate does not concur with House changes, we're looking at possible state government shutdown come July 1. The federal government faces this kind of thing a lot too. But the excuse in Washington is that Congress and the executive branch (president) are not all controlled by the same political party. So, will Arizona just claim the dog ate the budget bills?

This does make one wonder just what the purpose of a bicameral legislature is.

Ten years ago Phoenix New Times writer Robert Nelson suggested Arizona could benefit from the experience in Nebraska and eliminate one chamber of the legislature.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the first regular session of the 51st Arizona Legislature is not going to end anytime soon.

I hope Brewer's got more up her sleeve for leverage than simply putting the veto stamp on a few more bills.

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