Arizona lawmakers working to pass budget, school, work fixes

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona lawmakers on Thursday were set to begin debating a basic state budget plan to tide government over until the health crisis caused by the coronavirus passes.

They also were eyeing major fixes for shuttered schools and workers who lose their jobs because of the virus.

A plan put together by Republicans who lead the House and Senate faced pushback from Democrats who are trying to get more relief for workers who suffer financial losses in addition to ensuring basic state operations can continue.

“We care about unemployment insurance, but we also care about TANF and SNAP and food banks,” House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez said, using acronyms for welfare payments and food stamps. “We’ve got to make sure that people are taken care of – we just can’t cut and run.”

House Speaker Rusty Bowers has introduced a basic budget plan that doesn’t include Democratic demands and said he expects a long day filled with contentious debate.

LIVE: Interactive Coronavirus case data and map

“That’s what I anticipate – long,” Bowers said. “Long with lots of commentary.”

The Senate, meanwhile, had been working to get minority Democrats on board in the absence of two Republicans who declined to return to work this week over concerns about being exposed to the virus. Both were in the Senate on Thursday, but Democratic Minority Leader Sen. David Bradley said he hopes to get some of his members’ priorities into a final budget package.

Both the Senate and House hope to send a stripped-down budget package to Gov. Doug Ducey, possibly by the end of the day. They then hope to adjourn until the crisis passes.

Also on the agenda is a major proposal that would give schools that were ordered closed by Ducey to move to online or other alternative classes and free them from rules requiring testing and a minimum number of classroom days, among other provisions designed to give K-12 public schools flexibility.

The House unanimously approved the measure at midday. Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel said she had concerns it contained no funding to help schools but said she supported the bill anyway.

“It seems like it does cover many emergency situations we’re facing as a result of this unprecedented health crisis,” Engel said.

The Senate has an identical measure on its agenda.

Both chambers have a second emergency measure that will ease rules for workers who are sick or out of a job.

Bowers has said the basic budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will keep government running during the crisis. It been stripped of new spending priorities — including full restoration of some previous education cuts — and the tax cuts many Republicans and Ducey were seeking. It spends $11.8 billion, about $500 million less than Ducey’s January plan.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Continuing Coverage

FOX 10 is working to keep you up to date with local and national developments on COVID-19. Every weekday on FOX News Now, our live coverage begins at 7 a.m. MST reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.

You can watch live in your FOX 10 News app or on the FOX 10 Facebook page.

You can also get the latest coronavirus news from around the country at