PHOENIX — Upset with what he sees as lack of progress, Gov. Doug Ducey vowed Friday to veto any legislation that reaches his desk until he gets a budget.
He’s making that threat retroactive, killing 22 measures that were awaiting his action before the ultimatum.
“This weekend marks one month until the end of the fiscal year, and Arizonans are counting on us to work together and pass a budget that provides certainty to taxpayers and citizens,’’ the governor said in a prepared statement announcing his decision.
The list of now-dead items ranges from the use of public dollars for “critical race theory’’ and changes in election laws to registration of sex offenders and ensuring that women at state prisons get free access to feminine hygiene products.
Less clear is what has to be in the spending and tax-cut plan to get Ducey to relent.
Press aide C.J. Karamargin told Capitol Media Services the governor’s threat is not tied to adoption of his specific $12.8 billion spending plan and $1.9 billion in permanent tax cuts. But Ducey, in his statement, suggested that’s pretty much what he wants.
“On the table is a budget agreement that makes responsible and significant investments in K-12 education, higher education, infrastructure and local communities, all while delivering historic tax relief to working families and small businesses,’’ he wrote. Ducey, in his letter to Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers, said he looks forward to partnering with them “to focus on what matters and pass a budget.’’
Bowers, a Mesa Republican, said that if Ducey is unhappy with progress on the budget then perhaps he needs to look into a mirror.
“It takes 31-16-1 to be successful here,’’ referencing a majority of the House, the Senate and the governor. “Sometimes we forget about the one.’’
Fann, reportedly traveling out of town, could not be reached for comment.
Her decision — and similar ones by other legislators — may have spurred Ducey’s decision Friday to go on a veto spree.
Legislative leaders were working earlier this week to line up the votes among Republican lawmakers. But when a consensus could not be reached, they decided to send everyone home until June 10.
That allowed lawmakers, who had presumed the session would be over in late April as scheduled, to pursue their travel and vacation plans.
Those decisions did not sit well with Ducey.
“The governor believes the Arizona Legislature should do its job,’’ Karamargin said.
“There is no more important job at this time and the budget. And the next fiscal year is a month away.”
The governor, in a separate Twitter post, said his vetoes should not be seen as commenting on the merits of any of the bills.
“Some are good policy, but with one month left until the end of the fiscal year, we need to focus on passing a budget,’’ he wrote.
“That should be Priority One,’’ Ducey continued. “The other stuff can wait.’’
Nothing keeps lawmakers from sending the same proposals back to Ducey later this year — assuming they do it after there is a budget and he dissolves his veto threat.
But there is no procedure in the Arizona Constitution to “un-veto’’ a bill. That means legislators will have to start over again from scratch, either with entirely new bills — and public hearings — or find ways to insert their provisions into the budget package.
Ducey’s move, while unusual, is not without precedent.
In 2013, Republican Jan Brewer announced she would not sign any measures until there was resolution of a new state budget. The then-governor wanted the Republican-controlled legislature to include her plan to expand Medicaid.
Lawmakers were not happy then, with Andy Biggs, then the Senate president, calling it “extortion or blackmail.’’ But Brewer eventually got what she wanted.
Ducey took a page from Brewer’s playbook in 2018 when he vetoed 10 bills on his desk because lawmakers had yet to give him a budget with his proposed 20% raise for teachers. He relented after he got what he wanted.
Efforts by GOP leaders to enact a spending and tax cut plan have been hampered by the fact that Republicans have just a bare majority in both the House and Senate.
That means they need everyone on board if they are to approve a package of Republican priorities. But that also allows any one legislator to hold up the process until she or he either gets more projects added or tries to have some removed.
The problem with that is one person’s “pork’’ in the budget is on another person’s going-home list.
One particular sticking point is the $1.9 billion reduction in revenue that would occur if Arizona enacts a flat income tax structure and alters other income tax laws to shield wealthier residents from a voter-approved income tax surcharge to help fund K-12 education.
Several legislators, citing the cyclical nature of the Arizona economy, question the wisdom of a permanent tax cut. That’s because while it takes only a simple majority to reduce tax rates, it would take a two-thirds vote to raise them if the need arose.
The situation is complicated by the fact Arizona cities get 15% of what the state collects in income taxes.
House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, has argued that the stimulus effect of a cut in tax rates ultimately will generate more dollars overall.
The package, however, does include what’s been billed a “hold-harmless’’ provision for cities, ensuring no reduction in revenues. Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, said he has yet to be convinced there will not be a long-term hit.