With both the Arizona State Senate and House under Republican control, leadership from both branches announced Thursday that one of their priorities to kick off the new session is to create a continuation budget for 2023 and 2024.

“In order to continue state programs without fear of an irresponsible fiscal cliff, the Legislature seeks to provide certainty that at a minimum, we have a fiscal year 2023-2024 budget in place,” according to a joint statement from the State House Republican leadership team. “We intend to build on last session’s successes and craft a budget that continues to champion fiscal responsibility, funding for key services, and relief for Arizonans.”

This proposed continuation budget would build upon the state budget the legislation passed in 2022 under former Gov. Doug Ducey to ensure the systems being funded keep up with rising prices. The Fiscal Year 2023 Budget for Arizona includes massive spending for border security, water, wildfire management, education, and much more.

Some State Senate Republican leaders also weighed in on a continuation budget, mirroring the House’s sentiment that this legislation is necessary to maintain funding for services across the state and create a “financially stable bedrock” for the state.

Specifically, the legislators addressed education and the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL), which sets a cap on how much public schools in the state can spend in a year. With a massive $1 billion pumped into the school’s system in the 2023 budget, some schools may have to make budget cuts to comply with the limit unless the AEL is lifted before March 1st. Senate President Pro Tem T.J. Shope (R-Florence) said the Senate would ensure these cuts do not happen.

However, the Republican-led legislature may have trouble pursuing this budget under Governor Katie Hobbs (D). Josselyn Berry, a spokesperson for Hobbs, told The Arizona Sun Times a continuation budget is not doing enough.

“The government cannot kick the can down the road on the serious issues our state is dealing with. A continuation of the skinny budget would be exactly that. Arizonans are demanding that we do better. The Governor has been clear with the members of the Legislature — If you are willing to work in good faith to find common ground, then her door is open,” Berry said in an email statement.

Yet, the House Republicans have already anticipated a debate with Hobbs over how the budget should look going forward.

“We anticipate a legitimate and spirited debate with the Governor’s office on new spending, but that debate should not happen with a loaded weapon pointed at essential services,” according to the House’s joint statement.

As reported by AZ Central, Hobbs planned to unveil her budget proposal detailing her objectives for the first year she spends in the office on Friday. The state currently has a $2.5 billion surplus for spending.

Moreover, the Senate caucus stated it would work with the entirety of the legislature to determine how to spend excess funds, but only after a continuation budget is established.

“We look forward to collaborating with all members on their requests and needs in the coming months to come up with a consensus for how to deal with the surplus funds, whether it’s through tax relief, infrastructure, water or other priorities determined by a majority of the members,” said Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert).

Both the House and Senate said this continuation budget would be produced within the coming weeks.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Arizona Capitol” by cmh2315fl. CC BY-NC 2.0.