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Republicans float partial Arizona budget proposal

PHOENIX — Republican legislative leaders on Thursday floated a partial budget-balancing plan to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, proposing extensive use of federal stimulus money and new spending cuts affecting public schools and other programs funded by state government.

The partial plan, which House Republican leaders discussed with other lawmakers in small groups, represents “rough ideas” that will be used to help shape a final budget proposal, a key lawmaker said.

According to a summary of the 32-page plan for the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, its elements add up to $2.4 billion.

The big elements: nearly $1.3 billion of federal stimulus money, roughly $740 million in new spending cuts and approximately $360 million in transfers from special-purpose funds.

Of the reductions, $330 million would come from K-12 schools, with $257 million of that coming from a lump-sum reduction imposed on school districts.

Larger specific K-12 cuts that had been discussed, such as elimination of all-day kindergarten and suspending “soft capital” funding for computers and other equipment, aren’t included in the partial plan.

According to the summary, the K-12 cuts would represent 7.6 percent of the state’s general-fund aid for schools and 3.2 percent of total spending once other sources are included.

House Appropriations Chairman Jon Kavanagh said the partial plan is a work in progress likely to be changed on the basis of input from fellow lawmakers and still-developing federal guidelines on use of stimulus money.

“That’s on the high side,” Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said of the plan’s K-12 spending cut. “I don’t expect the education numbers to be that big.”

Regarding stimulus money, Kavanagh said: “We still have a lot of question marks.”

Under the partial plan, universities would see a $40 million cut, or 4.6 percent of general fund spending and 2.6 percent of total spending.

The partial plan’s $2.4 billion running total is well short of the $2.8 billion shortfall identified for the next fiscal year even after repeating roughly $600 million of spending cuts approved in January to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall in the then-$9.9 billion state budget.

Republican leaders have said they’re are considering selling off some state assets to raise cash and want to hear other ideas for closing the rest of the shortfall.

The partial plan does not include revenue from a temporary tax increase proposed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She has suggested closing the next fiscal year’s budget with a roughly even split of spending cuts, stimulus money and the unspecified tax increase.

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