With a handful of Republicans absent, Arizona Democrats used their numbers to force a shutdown of an expected House vote on budget bills in what they called a protest over Republicans crafting the annual spending plans without the minority party’s input.
Lawmakers have seven days to send Gov. Doug Ducey a budget before the new fiscal year on July 1.
Previously gridlocked Republican lawmakers appeared to have come to a compromise with the few dissenting party members and were prepared to move forward with their budget that would include a flattening of the state’s progressive income tax.
Democrats, seeing that some Republicans weren’t in attendance, pulled all but a few of their members from the chambers, preventing the quorum required to pass legislation. In a statement, they said it was in protest of the partisan budget that ignores half of the state population’s representative legislators.
“You can’t simultaneously ignore the wishes of half the state and then take us for granted and pass a partisan budget,” said Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen. “The public and our members need more time to analyze the Republican measures negotiated in secret and stuffed into their budget plan, and what the long-term implications will be for our state before we debate this.”
Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, expressed his displeasure with their decision.
“After June 30, the State of Arizona will not be able to enter into or pay any obligation,” Bowers said. “I would ask us all, it may really be tough, but could we contemplate growing up and shouldering the responsibility together and think of together more than individual and pass a budget?”
Bowers also said services like inmate visitation would not occur, and local budgets would have no guidance on how much they’re getting from the state’s tax distributive fund.
The House adjourned until Thursday morning.
The Republican plan, endorsed by Gov. Doug Ducey, would cut taxes by what Democrats estimate to be $1.7 billion by gradually removing brackets from the state’s progressive income tax and leaving a 2.5% rate. It would also cap the maximum rate at 4.5%, which would shield the state’s wealthy and pass-through businesses from a potential 8% top rate after voters passed Prop. 208 last November to fund public education. The measure adds a 3.5% surcharge to income over $250,000 for single filers.