Jan. 10, 2006
The House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to four bills that would resurrect a school-choice measure and three budget provisions that Napolitano killed last spring with vetoes that shocked Republican lawmakers and left many fuming.
Both the House and Senate are expected to hold formal votes on identical bills Wednesday, and send all four measures to Napolitano by week's end.
"It's a great way to clarify the integrity that exists or doesn't exist in the governor's office," said Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria.
Republicans last year excoriated Napolitano for the vetoes, with some GOP lawmakers going so far as to periodically don "SHE LIED" T-shirts.
House Majority Whip Gary Pierce, R-Mesa, used restrained language Tuesday.
"We're giving the governor an opportunity to correct what we think was a breakdown in her ability to keep the commitment that we thought she made at the end of last session," Pierce said in an interview.
Republicans were particularly angered that the Napolitano vetoes included a GOP-sponsored bill to create a new dollar-for-dollar income tax credit for business donations for private school tuition grants, and the measure's backers said Napolitano reneged on a deal that included spending that she wanted.
Napolitano said Republicans themselves nixed the 2005 budget deal by refusing to compromise with Democratic lawmakers on how to satisfy a court order for improving instruction for students learning the English language. The Republicans denied making such a promise.
Napolitano's veto letter also said she objected to the 2005 bill because it included a review after five years, not an automatic "sunset" termination that would end the tax credit unless renewed by the Legislature.
This year's version of the bill includes a sunset after five years. "We simply took her message and corrected to that," Pierce said, adding that he thinks Napolitano may sign the new version because it includes the change.
"And if she doesn't we move on, but we need to get this done and out of the way and move on," Pierce said.
Napolitano drew criticism last year from some allies for her initial acceptance of the tax credit, and she recently signaled that she doesn't feel beholden to accept this year's version.
Any new consideration of the tax credit will have to be part of negotiations yet to begin on the next state budget, she told The Associated Press in an interview.
The House gave preliminary approval to the new measures with minimal debate Tuesday as Republicans easily defeated a Democratic amendment to require scholarship groups and businesses using the tax credit to certify that all their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States.
House Minority Leader Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, said he proposed the amendment to signal Democrats' opposition to the tax credit and to protest Republicans' renewed push for it.
Republicans hope to use the veto issue for political gain, Lopes aid. "It's all part of the strategy of trying to make some traction for her election this November."
Besides the tax credit, the new bills would institute budget provisions dealing with federal funds, a deposit to the state's rainy day fund and state funding for the new Glendale football stadium.
On the Net:
Arizona Legislature: http://www.azleg.gov