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Hobbs, Republican lawmakers to start budget negotiations

Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs are scheduled to begin budget negotiations to figure out how to deal with a massive deficit. 

That comes as legislative analysts project the state’s budget deficit will reach $1.7 billion this year.

Lawmakers have advanced hundreds of bills at the Legislature this week, but very few dealt with the state budget or deficit, even though that is the only legislation they are required to pass every year by the state constitution. 

Hobbs told reporters this week that she is ready to start hammering out the budget with legislative leaders.

“It is still early. I released my budget in January — happy to start the conversation any time,” Hobbs said on Tuesday.

But Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) blamed the governor’s office for dragging its feet in budget negotiations. 

“We finally got an agreement from the governor to meet on the budget at this point, which should hopefully happen this week. ... So we’ve been ready to work for some time,” Toma said.

The proposal Hobbs presented in January includes a series of cuts to balance the budget, including shrinking the state’s school voucher program —  a non-starter with Republicans

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.