In a year of political upheaval with Arizona Senate Republicans focused on looking back, not forward, while Democrats nip at the heels of the GOP majority in the Legislature, this might not have been the best time for Gov. Ducey to attempt a legacy-defining coup de grace on taxes.
With less than three weeks remaining until the constitutionally mandated deadline for Arizona lawmakers to adopt a budget, the prospect that the governor will accomplish what he has campaigned for are dwindling.
Monday, one GOP Representative in the House, David Cook of Globe, cast the lone dissenting vote among his Republican colleagues and killed Gov. Ducey’s budget proposal. Lawmakers are expected to return to the capital Thursday to resume work on the spending plan.
Even if Rep. Cook’s concerns are addressed and House Republicans manage to push through the budget, the proposal is certain to run into opposition in the Senate, where Sen. Paul Boyer, a Glendale Republican, has promised to vote against the plan unless his concerns are addressed.
Taking Gov. Ducey’s budget “hostage” would not be a problem for Republicans if not for two significant factors.
First, the GOP lacks a significant majority in both chambers of the Legislature. One “nay” vote by Rep. Cook in the House left the final vote a tie, with 29 Democrats and Cook casting “no” votes on the budget and 30 Republicans, including our own Reps. Gail Griffin and Becky Nutt, voting in favor. In the Senate, the single “nay” vote by Sen. Boyer would cause a similar outcome. Despite 15 votes in favor of the budget by Republicans, if Sen. Boyer decides to vote with Democrats, it will kill the spending plan on a tie vote.
Since 2018 Democrats have gradually gained ground or maintained their seats in the Legislature as conservative Republicans have allowed their majority to dwindle by espousing opinions and initiatives that are increasingly distasteful to the growing population in Phoenix. Instead of working to modify their rhetoric and embrace diversity, Arizona Republicans have decided to “eat their young” and fight among themselves about who among them is a “real conservative” and deserving of accolades as the truest Trumpian. Even Gov. Ducey, a nationally prominent and deft politician, was censured by Arizona Republicans for his failure to drink the Trump Kool aid.
Secondly, Senate Republicans have spent almost the entire first session of the 55th Legislature looking backward. Instead of trying to make a difference with innovate initiatives aimed at improving education, addressing critical water issues or helping businesses survive the pandemic, the GOP majority in the Senate put party ahead of people and focused on auditing the Nov. 3, 2020, election. The effort has turned Arizona into a national laughing stock, embarrassing the state and threatening the integrity of our election process.
The consequence of putting party politics ahead of honest public service may be Gov. Ducey’s budget plan, which would position Arizona for economic expansion and dramatically simplify the state’s tax code.
Ironically, those are ideals that Republicans have traditionally supported.