Lawmakers discuss more budget cuts, including layoffs, in special session

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PHOENIX -- The Arizona state budget is said to be $2 billion in the red this fiscal year. So Tuesday Gov. Jan Brewer called the Legislature into special session to try to balance the budget. The effects of the spending reduction package now before lawmakers will be felt in the classroom and among those who Brewer has called the most vulnerable in our society.

A $160 million cut to public education and a $140 million reduction to the Department of Economic Security -- those are the two departments hardest hit by the spending reduction package that in all likelihood will be passed by the state legislature.

“It’s gonna be just a belt-tightening,” said Sen. Steve Pierce (R). “And there are good programs that have been created over the past 30 years and some of them we just can’t afford and we don’t have money for them.”

Lawmakers hope to shave $300 million from the $2 billion deficit.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this economic crisis,” countered Rep. David Lujan (D). “So Democrats will not support the cuts unless we’re having a comprehensive approach to the overall problem.”

Which means raising more revenue, probably by raising taxes. That in all likelihood will be discussed during the next special session which will probably be held next month.

“So I foresee that if we do get called back into session in December, as legislators we should plan to stay from December through probably June or July of next year,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios (D).

That would allow a comprehensive look at the state’s fiscal position.

Meanwhile Sen. Pierce says there in all likelihood will be more cuts, including layoffs.

“There can’t be any guarantees. You know, everybody’s taking cuts -- we’ve had cuts here in the Senate, in the Legislature there’s been cuts. There are cuts everywhere,” he said. “The fact is I say ‘cuts’ but there just isn’t any money.”