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Increased Revenue Has Some Lawmakers Eyeing Budget Changes

PHOENIX — Increased state revenue since Arizona’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year was approved in March has some lawmakers saying they want to use the extra cash to scale back unpopular cuts that they made in funding for education and other services.

Unlike early this year when lawmakers faced low revenue projections as they worked on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, state revenue recently has been exceeding projections by $300 million, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Several members of the Republican majority said that, if the Legislature has a special session for redistricting or other topics, they want Gov. Doug Ducey’s agenda for the session to include budget changes to reflect increased revenues.

Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, voiced support for reducing cuts to higher education and for spending money to limit cuts for small-enrollment charter schools with multiple sites. “That, as far as I’m concerned, has to be fixed. We’ve worked on school choice for 25 years and, all of a sudden, we tell these small school operators who are doing wonderful things, ‘tough luck,'” he said.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said he’d like to use some of the increased revenue to reduce some budget cuts before they go into effect in July, especially those for higher education, and the cost shifts onto rural counties.

Thorpe said he plans to talk to legislative leaders and Ducey about the idea to “test the waters,” but he wasn’t sure they’d be receptive.

Indeed, Ducey said the increased income doesn’t mean the state should start spending the money. “Let’s wait for more than one month’s revenue and let’s get a steady stream and get a good idea of the trajectory of the revenue. And then we can make decisions in this upcoming session,” the Republican governor said.

Similarly, House Appropriations Chairman Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said any thought of spending the unforeseen revenue is premature, given the state’s outstanding structural deficit and possible liabilities because of several pending lawsuits, including one on inflation funding for K-12 schools.

“Until that’s all resolved, I think it’s inaccurate to even characterize the additional revenue as somehow available to be spent,” he said.

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