Arizona Legislature fails to reach budget accord

2014-03-26T00:00:00Z 2014-03-26T00:14:50Z Arizona Legislature fails to reach budget accordBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — House Republicans failed for a second day Tuesday to reach an accord on a budget even as state senators continued to find new ways to spend money.

Dissident Republicans met off and on all day behind closed doors in their bid to have the nearly $9.2 billion spending plan approved last week by the Senate expanded to deal with their own priorities. At least part of that includes additional spending for the new Division of Child Welfare, created by Gov. Jan Brewer to replace the troubled Child Protective Services.

Other issues also remain, including whether the state will eliminate the ability of school districts to create their own charter schools. That provision was inserted into the Senate version of the budget but is opposed by many House members.

But Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, one of the holdouts, said late Tuesday that she remains optimistic that a deal will be reached.

Talks are set to continue today.

The stalemate in the House did not keep members of the Senate Appropriations Committee from approving several measures Tuesday that actually would add to the spending plan.

Potentially the most costly would end the practice of funding much of the operating costs of the state Department of Public Safety with Highway User Revenue Funds, which are made up largely of gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. That practice has drawn fire especially from cities and counties that share in those revenues.

HB 2692 would require that DPS funding to come from the general fund — to the tune of adding nearly $120 million to what has to be paid for to run DPS from the state budget.

Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities, said using HURF funds for the DPS has left Arizona communities short of the money they would otherwise use for road construction and repairs.

On a separate matter, the same committee approved extra funds to give raises to DPS officers.

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