PHOENIX - State senators approved their version of a new $8.8 billion budget Thursday - but not before adding millions of dollars in spending to the original Republican plan.
Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, succeeded in tacking on $9 million in additional funding for Child Protective Services. That includes an extra $4 million for caseworkers and $1 million to help underwrite the cost of grandparents who agree to care for their own grandchildren.
Another amendment increases the amount of money to be divided up between Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University from $10 million to $15.3 million. There also is an extra $4 million for the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, succeeded in restoring the $5 million a year for performance incentives for all three universities, with the extra cash available if they meet certain standards for graduations and numbers of degrees.
And Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, scored an extra $5.1 million a year for the Translational Genomics Research Institute.
But one of the biggest changes pushed through, over the objections of the Senate president and some other GOP lawmakers, actually has no financial cost - at least not now.
As approved earlier this week, the new budget permanently froze in place current funding levels for education, reflecting drastic cuts due to the budget shortfall.
Crandall argued, and the majority agreed, it would be wrong to abolish school funding formulas and take away any promise the money will be restored as Arizona's finances improve. So he urged colleagues to leave the formulas in place even if there is no additional money. The successful additions came as a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans united to provide each of the changes the necessary 16 votes. But that did not mean every proposal was approved.
Lawmakers rejected a proposal by Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, to take money from a special fund to help clean up underground fuel tank leaks and instead use it to help repair roads. They also rejected a bid by Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, to eliminate $2.4 million from the budget that is designed to set up a new performance funding system for public schools to reward schools with high achievement or academic improvement with additional state aid.
The House has yet to review or debate the Senate spending plan.