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 Napolitano's concerns.

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after five years, meaning they would be repealed and lawmakers would have to submit a new bill if they wanted them to survive.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 credit bill.

"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.