Legislature breaks for weekend; budget deal looms

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- With a budget deal near but not yet sealed, Arizona legislators temporarily wrapped up talks on Thursday and will likely not meet again until next week.

The weeks-long discord between the Senate and House came to a halt after Senate President Andy Biggs declined to assign senators to a joint committee to agree on a state budget.

The House has assigned representatives John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, and Speaker Andy Tobin to the committee.

Biggs says he is awaiting actual amendments to the budget from the House to decide whether the Senate wants to move forward. He has also asked that Tobin show he has the votes to pass a budget. Tobin says he has assured Biggs he has the votes and that the House is working on amendment language.

The Senate and House have disagreed on a number of major issues, including funding for the state's new child welfare agency and for district charter schools, which the Senate wants to abolish while the House is pushing to continue funding for one more year.

The Senate passed a budget two weeks ago that set state spending for the coming budget year at $9.18 billion. It included a retroactive ban on school district charter-school conversions and shorted Gov. Jan Brewer's planned child welfare overhaul plan.

The House revised the plan last week, extending charter-school funding for another year and adding money for universities and child welfare.

A deal seemed near on Thursday when House Speaker pro-tem J.D. Mesnard told members to stick around through the day in case a compromise was reached and a vote brought forward.

But the House and Senate later adjourned until Monday afternoon.

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