Arizona lawmakers begin budget debate

Posted: Updated:
Striking Arizona teachers, many with their children in tow, line up to enter the old state Capitol building in Phoenix, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Teachers are in the fifth day of a statewide strike. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie) Striking Arizona teachers, many with their children in tow, line up to enter the old state Capitol building in Phoenix, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Teachers are in the fifth day of a statewide strike. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie)
PHOENIX (AP) -

The Arizona Senate and House have begun debating a $10.4 billion state budget plan providing more than $300 million for raises for many of the state’s striking teachers.

The debate began after 8 p.m. Wednesday after a day of fits and starts as last-minute changes on the deal worked out between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Doug Ducey. Minority Democrats weren’t involved in the negotiations.

Debate is expected to last hours as the two chambers work their way through the 10 bills that make up the spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate moved in fits and starts all day as they worked on amendments to the budget deal leaders worked out with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. Those amendments were part of the usual last-minute changes and horse-trading that comes with a deal that needs 16 Republican votes in the Senate and 31 in the House to pass.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona schools in crisis]

Teachers who had hoped to go back to work Thursday essentially extended their strike by a day to ensure they could continue pressuring the Legislature. Many schools districts planning to re-open Thursday decided to remain closed.

Minority Democrats mainly oppose the spending plan, but may end up voting for it because it provides more than $400 million in new school funding.

[RELATED: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walkout]

Besides providing more than $4.5 billion for K-12 education, the budget envisions spending about $1.8 billion for the state’s Medicaid program, $1.1 billion for prisons, $725 million for public universities, about $630 million on social services and $388 million for the child safety department.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers may stay out again Thursday]

Freeing up the money for the added school funding required cuts and maneuvers across several parts of the budgets, including raids on special funds like one that helps clean up pollution from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. But much of the added cash comes from an unexpected boost in revenue that appeared in the first quarter of the year because the economy has finally heated up. As of March 31, the state had brought in more than $330 million more than expected in tax revenue.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

Senate President Steve Yarbrough said the pace was average and on par with last year’s budget. He said it was “goofy” to think that anyone was stalling the process.

“It’s just the nature of the beast,” he said. “It’s the legislative process.”

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.