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Without a state budget, Arizona lawmakers may only work 1 day per week

Republican leaders at the Arizona Legislature could shorten the workweek for lawmakers if budget talks don’t pick up with Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. 

House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu) said Republican leaders are considering a plan to have lawmakers work only one day per week until budget talks progress, a move that would allow members facing election challenges to knock on doors and fundraise. 

But Biasiucci said that plan, and when it could go into effect, is contingent on how quickly lawmakers can finish voting on the remaining non-budget bills.

“We’re trying to get as much as we can done this week, as many bills as we can, but we don’t have a for sure yet,” he said.

Biasiucci said that later this week, leaders should have a clearer picture of what the schedule will look like moving forward after they see how many bills are left on the docket.

“The main thing is we don’t want to come down here if there’s not a lot moving,” he said. “The main thing is the budget at this point.”

That echoes comments made by Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) last week. He said he could send lawmakers home on a week-to-week basis if he doesn’t have new budget information to present to members of his caucus. 

“We don’t have a plan to take a break until we’re done with our work,” Petersen said. “So we’re going to keep working, and when we’re done with everything, then I’m not going to have members come in here and just do nothing.” 

That move would not be unprecedented. Lawmakers took multiple long breaks last year as they hashed out their differences on several high-profile measures, including a ballot referral allowing Maricopa County residents to vote to extend a transportation sales tax

This year, the Legislature and governor still have to pass a budget and have yet to resolve disagreements over an extension to Prop. 123, a measure passed by voters in 2016 that increased the allocation of money from the state land trust that goes toward K-12 education

A spokesman for Senate Republicans said Petersen’s calendar currently has lawmakers coming in every day next week.

Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) blamed budget delays on Hobbs’ office for repeatedly canceling meetings after a few early discussions.

But the governor told a different story, saying she is “not aware of canceled meetings.” 

“Well, I unveiled my budget back in January, so we’re waiting on a Republican budget, and I’m looking forward to negotiating on a budget that works for Arizona,” Hobbs said.

Petersen, for his part, said Republicans have had a budget proposal ready since December.

Hobbs did say she agrees with Democratic leaders at the Legislature, who say budget talks should wait until they receive updated revenue projections from legislative budget staff later this month.

“I certainly think that those projections will help us have a better picture of where the revenue is, because I think that’s one of the biggest places of contention right now — the disagreement between [the Joint Legislative Budget Committee] and [the Governor's Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting] on where we are,” Hobbs said.

That disagreement was highlighted in January when the governor’s office presented Hobbs’ budget proposal, which included better revenue projections and a smaller deficit than those produced by legislative budget analysts.

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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.