Napolitano vetoes 4 GOP bills
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 19, 2006
Republicans cry foul over rejection of tax credits for tuition donations
Chip Scutari and Robbie Sherwood
Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano on Wednesday vetoed four Republican-backed
bills that were left over from last year's budget fight, igniting what could be
a long and divisive legislative session this year.
The veto prompting the most angst from the GOP involves a school choice measure
called corporate tuition tax credits that Republicans tweaked last week to quell
The creation of corporate-tax credits for businesses that donate to
private-school scholarship funds would have been capped at $5 million for the
next five years. Last year Napolitano wanted the tax credits to "sunset"
after five years, meaning they would be repealed and lawmakers would have to
submit a new bill if they wanted them to survive. That's what Republicans did,
but Napolitano said she wants any school-choice bills to be considered in the
context of this year's budget.
Napolitano said the bills should be dealt with along with the rest of the budget
and not "piecemeal." She also said she would not sign the bills without a
bipartisan agreement on a court-ordered bill to improve funding for English
language learners in public schools.
"I don't think (Republican leaders) anticipated any other action from me; that's
why they moved these bills through at a record pace," Napolitano said of her
vetoes. "I waited as long as I could to take action, and we're still not there
(on English language learner negotiations). There's nothing that prevents those
bills from coming back at a more appropriate time."
Republicans have consistently said the vetoes from last May poisoned the Capitol
atmosphere, prompting House Speaker Jim Weiers to hand out bumper stickers and
T-shirts that read: "SHE LIED."
Napolitano and her supporters have countered that the vetoes were justified
because Republicans were the first to break their word, not drafting the tuition
tax credit bill as originally promised. But Senate President Ken Bennett pointed
out that Republicans addressed Napolitano's problems with the new tuition tax
"It's very, very disappointing that she apparently cannot keep her word,"
said Bennett, R-Prescott. "She said she expected the (tuition tax credit) bill
to have a five-year hard sunset; we corrected that and she still vetoed it."
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the vetoes dashed hopes of a bipartisan solution for a
court-ordered English language learner bill. House and Senate leaders said it
would be very difficult to continue negotiations with Napolitano because they
once again believe she broke her word.
Republican leaders were in closed-door negotiations with Napolitano on Wednesday
afternoon when one of their staff members passed them a note informing them that
governor had vetoed their bills right before the meeting started. That prompted
House Majority Leader Steve Tully, R-Phoenix, to angrily walk out.
"She vetoed the bills so there's nothing to talk about now," Tully told
reporters who were waiting outside.
On Tuesday a federal judge will begin imposing fines of $500,000 a day until
lawmakers satisfy his court order in the Flores vs. Arizona class-action lawsuit
to improve instruction for immigrant school children who don't speak English.
Those fines could grow to $2 million a day if there's no action.
House and Senate Republicans will advance a bill that nearly mirrors a grant
program that Napolitano vetoed last year.
Senate Minority Leader Linda Aguirre called Republican anger at Napolitano's
vetoes a "manufactured uproar" to prevent a bipartisan solution to the looming
English learner problem.
"They didn't want their bills signed, they wanted them vetoed, otherwise they
would have waited," said Aguirre, D-Phoenix. "The governor never lied to them.
This was always a package deal. We're not anywhere near consensus on Flores, and
none of our ideas are being taken seriously."
The other bills Napolitano vetoed on Wednesday included:
• House Bill 2005, which would give lawmakers control over any federal money not
specifically allocated to state agencies. The governor now designates where
federal dollars go, giving lawmakers control over only a third of the
$23 billion total budget.
• House Bill 2006, which restores a $313.8 million deposit in the state's "rainy
day fund." Napolitano nixed the deposit, sending the money to the state's
General Fund and helping create a $1 billion surplus.
• House Bill 2007, which eliminates an automatic $1 million transfer of state
dollars from the General Fund to the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority when
the National Football League income tax falls below expectations. Napolitano's
veto last year sent $1.2 million to the authority and kept a $53 million stadium
bond issue on track.