Arizona House makes budget progress, Senate stalls

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona House lawmakers worked into the early morning Friday to pass several bills that are part of the $11.8 billion state budget package before calling it a night while the Senate took the night off because it lacked the votes to enact budget legislation.

House and Senate members plan to return late Friday morning to continue working on the budget that has solid majority Republican support in the House but falls far short of enough GOP backing for the Senate to act. Minority Democrats do not support the GOP plan.

Republican holdouts who forced a delay in Senate action Thursday sparked anger among GOP House members that was caught on an open microphone during a closed evening caucus meeting. Reps. Ben Toma and Kelly Townsend threatened to retaliate against two GOP senators who do not support the budget, with Toma saying he would not hear bills by Reps. Paul Boyer or Heather Carter in the next session.

The House worked until about 2 a.m. Friday, passing budget legislation on criminal justice, environment and health and human services.

Republican Rep. T.J. Shope told reporters the House decided to adjourn until Friday morning just after 2 a.m. because the GOP caucus had shown it was solidly united on the budget plan negotiated between Senate and House leaders and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Republicans control the House by a 31-29 margin and all three budget bills passed without Democratic support.

All eyes now turn to the Senate, where Carter and Boyer and Sen. J.D. Mesnard remain solid holdouts among Republicans who have a 17-13 majority. Mesnard wants a different tax cut plan than the one that spreads about $325 million in cuts among all tax brackets and says others back his plan.

Carter and Boyer are demanding changes to laws that limit lawsuits by child sex assault victims, and Carter also objects to the lack of funding for several of her key funding priorities that received broad support earlier but are not included in the final budget deal.

As of late Thursday, there was no sign of a deal to get their support.