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Medicaid standoff leads to budget delay, lawmaker pay cuts

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PHOENIX -

This year's legislative session has now stretched into 120 days, and with no budget agreement in sight, lawmakers are now having their pay cut.

Their daily expense payments are being cut in half while lawmakers battle over the state budget. But it's not just lawmakers who are affected by the stalemate.

Lawmakers earn $24,000 a year. Most of the legislators will tell you they don't do this for the money, so it probably won't force them to hash out a budget quickly.

The longer it takes, the more uncertainty for the agencies that depend on it.

"It is not unusual to not have a budget deal by early to mid-May. But to not even see a proposal by this point, that is unusual," says Minority Leader Chad Campbell.

Campbell says the fact so many Republicans are split on the governor's plan to expand Medicaid to 300,000 people, its delaying everything. The budget won't come until all that is sorted out and it will likely be more bipartisan.

"Ultimately you are going to have a more common sense budget. Something that is funding our schools again. Funding CPS. Funding all the things that Arizonans want to fund."

Legislators receive a daily allowance. Because this session has taken so long, that daily allowance of $35 to $60 will be slashed more than half.

But their pay cut pales in comparison to what others are going through as this session drags on.

"We have got districts that are actually considering the closure of some schools. We have districts that are ready to issue layoff notices, the RIF notices for 150 employees," says Andrew Morrill, Arizona Education Association.

State schools are just one of many entities awaiting a budget.

"There are school districts where that summer break is pretty short. We are going to be right back at school. Administrators are already doing the planning, trying to lay out the budgets for what the next school year looks like and without a state budget that is pretty difficult to do."

"My biggest fear is that we are going to see a budget released in the middle of the night and then rammed through in a matter of two days and have no public debate around. And that is the last thing we should be doing around here. Something rushed and in secret," says Campbell.

We reached out to both the governor's office and house republicans and we were told the same thing: it not unusual to not have a budget by mid-May. The new fiscal year doesn't begin until July 1st.


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