PHOENIX — Saying the plan shorts child safety and education, six dissident House Republicans said Wednesday that talks have broken down with their own party leaders, leaving a proposed $9.2 billion state budget in limbo.
Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, said he and his colleagues were willing to try to work out a deal with House GOP leaders. And he said they have been involved in closed-door talks since Monday.
“But when they’re not negotiating in good faith, then negotiations are over until they come back in good faith,” he said. Dial accused the House leaders of “playing games.”
That contention drew an angry reaction from House Majority Whip Rick Gray, R-Sun City. “We’ve spent hours, hours talking with them over several days,” he said.
“They may not like what we’ve been talking about,” Gray continued. “But to say we haven’t been doing it in good faith is unfair.”
And House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said it’s not like he has the power to simply decide to accede to the demands.
“I don’t have 25 other votes in my pocket to say, ‘OK, we’re in,’” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Without the six Republican holdouts, Tobin lacks sufficient votes among the 36 House Republicans to get the necessary votes to adopt a spending plan. So, for the moment, there is an impasse until someone gives.
Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, said that won’t occur on his side, at least not without some key adjustments to the nearly $9.2 billion spending plan already approved by the Republican-controlled Senate. He said that budget ignores key priorities. And he said what’s been offered so far by the House leadership is little better.
No one among the dissidents who sought out reporters late Wednesday would discuss the dollar size of the gap between their demands and what House leaders were offering. Instead, they said it was a question of priorities.
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said there has to be more money to ensure that the new Division of Child Safety has the money it needs to fulfill its legal goal of protecting victims of abuse and neglect. She is intimately familiar with the problem, having co-chaired a special task force that looked at the failures of the old Child Protective Services to do its job.