Ariz. House OKs borrowing to help balance budget

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona House on Tuesday narrowly approved a bill for borrowing to close roughly half of the state's current budget gap.

The House's vote was a cliffhanger at 31-27, the bare majority needed for passage by the 60-member chamber, with members of both parties split between the sides. Several representatives repeatedly switched their votes as the electronic roll call neared its conclusion.

The bill, one of several already passed by the Senate during a special session on the state's budget troubles mostly resulting from plunging revenues, would have the state borrow $750 million. That would be done through bonding against future Arizona Lottery revenue and through new sale-leaseback deals for state properties.

The measure now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer.

The $750 million of borrowing - equal to $112 per Arizonan - would close just over half of the projected shortfall of up to $1.5 billion on spending of $8.4 billion for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Supporters said the borrowing is a regrettable necessity to help keep the state in the black.

"There are some times, and I believe this is one of them, when we simply must borrow to get us over this terrible condition that we are in," said Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City.

Opponents called the borrowing irresponsible.

"This is way out of hand," said Republican Rep. Bill Konopnicki of Safford. "I wouldn't run my business this way. I wouldn't run my personal life this way."

The House is expected Wednesday to consider the final special session bill, a Senate-passed measure for $450 million of short-term borrowing through delays of school aid payments into the next fiscal year. Midyear spending cuts beyond those approved last December also are expected to be used to close the budget gap.

In the special session that began last week, both chambers already have approved legislation for a May 18 special election on Gov. Jan Brewer's temporary sales tax increase. But the three-year, one-cent increase, if approved, would provide additional budgets for only future budgets, not the current one.

In the fiscal year beginning July 1, Arizona faces a projected shortfall of at least $2.6 billion on spending of $9.5 billion.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.