Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding speaks during the state budget debate on June 24, 2021 at the Capitol in Phoenix. (Arizona House of Representatives screenshot)
PHOENIX (AP) – Angered that House Democrats did not show up for work earlier in the week to vote on a state budget, Republicans limited debate on Thursday as they prepared to pass a Senate-approved plan that cuts income taxes and contains a conservative wishlist of policy changes.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers announced that the majority party would change the rules and allow only 30 minutes of debate on each of the 11 budget bills. Such debate usually takes hours on each bill.
âIt was clear, was clear then, by the absence of an entire caucusâ¦ that obstruction and procedural delays were instituted instead of civility,â Bowers said. “So we are by this motion allowing a clear opportunity to present the pros and cons on collective and individual decisions and issues, but not the abuse of health issues and time constraints that could put people at risk. .
âIt was clear, was clear then, by the absence of an entire caucusâ¦ that obstruction and procedural delays were instituted instead of civility,â Bowers said.
The rule change still allows “a clear opportunity to present the pros and cons,” he said.
With the changed rules, the House accelerated, debated and passed the first bill at 1 p.m., a tax cut of $ 1.9 billion depending on the party.
Republicans say the state is overflowing with cash and the tax cut is necessary to keep Arizona competitive and prevent the tax increase contained in Proposition 208, which adds a new tax of $ 3, 5% on high income Arizona residents. They argued that it would help businesses create jobs and that it would help the middle class.
“I think we have a historic tax cut here that will have a significant positive impact on everyone, everyone in the state,” said Peoria representative Ben Toma, the majority leader and the one of the main architects of tax cuts. âIt’s a tax cut that helps small businesses and helps us be more competitive as a state compared to our neighbors.
Democrats vehemently oppose the plan, saying without it, the state could finally fully fund schools and social programs that were never fully restored after the Great Recession.
“Now is the time to make meaningful investments in the future of our state instead of this massive giveaway to people who really aren’t struggling,” said Democratic Representative Kelli Butler of Paradise Valley. “And there are a lot of people in Arizona who are really struggling.”
When fully implemented, the plan would reduce tax rates for most taxpayers to 2.5%, from a range of 2.59% to 4.5%. Wealthy taxpayers would, in effect, be spared from the tax hike approved by voters last year to pay for schools.
According to Legislative Budget analysts, an average taxpayer earning between $ 75,000 and $ 100,000 will save $ 231 per year in state income taxes, while a taxpayer earning between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million $ per year will save over $ 12,000.
The new rules eliminate most of the usual debate, questions and forced roll-call votes on amendments that can take hours. Holding 29 of the 60 seats, the Democrats’ only power is to slow the movement of bills through full debate.
Democrats were furious, saying they did not show up on Tuesday because Republicans introduced a slew of last-minute amendments to the $ 12.8 billion budget plan that they didn’t have time to to examine, and noted that it was the absent Republicans who prevented the quorum.
Representative Charlene Fernandez de Yuma said Republicans lost 26 session days as they tried to convince their own members of the budget deal they negotiated with GOP Governor Doug Ducey.
âIt’s absolutely ridiculous to limit ourselves,â Fernandez said, âOur audience is asking us to explain our votes. Our audience is asking us to explain to them what these bills mean.
Gilbert’s Rep. Travis Grantham, GOP pro tem chairman, said he had worked with other leaders to craft the rule changes.
“We are not preventing members from debating,” Grantham said. “What we are preventing today is an endless obstruction that would ultimately shut down the state of Arizona.”
Lawmakers face a June 30 deadline to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Senate has packed the budget with conservative political priorities, including a big expansion of the state’s private school voucher program, a ban on teaching so-called “critical race theory” in K schools -12, and a multitude of articles aimed at enforcing restrictions on coronaviruses.
He also embraces the unfounded theory that former President Donald Trump lost in Arizona to voter fraud, creating a $ 12 million election integrity fund to pay for election security updates and elections. future manual recounts and defines a series of new electoral security procedures.
While Republicans appear to have the votes to pass the overall budget, some of the items added by the Senate could end up being dropped by the House.