The Arizona Senate has begun a final sprint to adjournment by debating 10 bills that provide $8.8 billion to fund education, health and welfare and every other state function for the coming budget year.
In just four hours Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee gave initial approval to budget bills introduced just the day before. Most passed on 6-3 party-line votes.
The bills do not include Gov. Jan Brewer's top priority - expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover 300,000 additional poor Arizonans. The expansion is expected to be offered as an amendment in Thursday's floor debate amid signs that enough Republicans will vote for it to provide a majority with the 13-member Democratic bloc.
Minority Democrats are pushing for more money for education and for Child Protective Services. The Republican-written budget includes less than half the extra money Brewer wanted for emergency child housing and freezes a child health care insurance plan.
It also falls short of the funding Brewer sought for beginning a shift of how the state funds education.She wants $54 million for the first year of performance-based funding, but the Senate education bill provides $2.4 million. Another $82 million in K-12 spending was included in the Senate version.
The full Senate will take up the budget Thursday in what spokesmen for Senate leaders said will be a lengthy and contentious session that could go past midnight.
The overall Senate spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1 is about $100 million less than initially requested by Brewer.