Legislature puts back schools money, more to do - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Legislature puts back schools money, more to do

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Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 11:00 pm

In special session Monday, Arizona legislators voted to ensure continued funding for public education, but still face a deficit of at least $2.1 billion for the current year.

Gov. Jan Brewer called the special session last week after she used her veto pen to reject numerous parts of the budget package approved by the legislature, including its funding plan for K-12 education. That prompted the special session, and further negotiation.

In bipartisan voting, legislators voted to restore the public schools' $3.2 billion budget, and adding funding that keeps Arizona eligible for federal stimulus money.

Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-26, voted for the education spending plan Monday.

"I think it's a good start for unraveling the problems we are in, and it fixes our federal stimulus compliance issues for K-12 education and health and welfare," Young Wright said Tuesday. "Now we are waiting to see if the governor will sign it."

Rep. Vic Williams, R-26, was on a long-planned family vacation in New Mexico. He had planned to be back Tuesday morning, and was not in Phoenix to vote on Monday. He was one of 13 representatives who were away Monday.

"Friday, I was told nothing of significance would be happening on Monday," Williams said. "By Monday morning, I learn there's a deal in the works. It's frustrating when there's very little vetting of these bills, and very little opportunity for members to review and analyze what they need to vote for."

Williams said the bill "re-established education spending, or it reduced the cuts that would have been made by the budget that was passed some weeks past. That's a great thing, except this bill doesn't express or show how we're going to fund that spending."

Williams has struggled throughout his first session in the Legislature with a lack of identified revenue, and with little public discussion of a budget.

"I believe there's been little to no transparency," Williams said of the process. "I believe that does not work in the best interests of Arizona. The whole budget process has been driven by a handful of people, and it makes it difficult to represent your district under those circumstances.

"It's a shame. It's a shame," he continued. "I do the best I can under the circumstances. It's just difficult to plan under those circumstances, and I wish we had a little more notice we were going to be hearing what I consider very important bills.

"If we had a greater degree of transparency, a greater degree of openness in the budget process, this would not be an issue."

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