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Arizona legislative leaders cite budget progress

PHOENIX — Top Republican legislative leaders on Monday reported progress in their work to close a $3 billion shortfall in the next state budget and said the next move is up to rank-and-file colleagues.

Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, said legislative leaders have agreed on a tentative budget proposal to present to fellow GOP lawmakers, including how to close the final $500 million of the $3 billion gap.

House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, later said the leaders will present several options for the $500 million.

A March version of the Republicans’ $3 billion plan that was roughly $500 million short included spending cuts, raids on special-purpose funds and use of stimulus money.

Burns declined to outline the new budget approach, saying it could change. “We’re not locked in at this point,” he said.

However, Burns said a tax increase and securitization — selling off a future revenue stream in exchange for an upfront cash payment — weren’t tabbed for use in completing the next budget.

Adams confirmed that, but said lawmakers decided to save securitization for possible use in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010.

Securitization has been proposed for some Arizona Lottery revenue and for the payments that the state receives under a lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies.

Gov. Jan Brewer has called for a temporary tax increase to help balance the next several budgets.

Other ideas floated by various lawmakers include allowing off-reservation gambling, selling state assets and sweeping dollars from school districts’ reserve accounts.

Adams said legislative leaders have not discussed the gambling expansion proposed by one of their own, House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, R-Paulden.

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