Republican legislative leaders, Gov. Doug Ducey reach deal on budget proposal

Republican leaders in the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey have hammered out an agreement on a budget plan that cuts more money from universities than the governor initially proposed.

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The deal also eliminates the only major revenue increase in Ducey's proposal after it faced stiff opposition from conservative GOP legislative leaders.

On Wednesday, House Speaker David Gowan and Senate President Andy Biggs are expected to unveil more details of the changes to Ducey's budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The governor's plan slashed $75 million from state university funding, but pressure was mounting from some in the Legislature for cuts larger than his 10 percent.

The deal puts those cuts at $103 million — larger than the governor's proposal but less than feared by university backers, according to a lawmaker briefed on the plan who would speak only on condition of anonymity because the speaker and president had not yet publicly announced the details.

Community colleges in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties would lose all state funding instead of the half Ducey proposed.

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Changes also have been made to Ducey's proposal to add 3,000 private prison beds over the next three years. The emerging plan would delay those beds for a year and allow counties to bid to provide them.

Also cut from Ducey's original proposal is an increase in the state vehicle license fee that was expected to raise $30 million. That faced stiff opposition from conservatives who oppose any tax increases.

Left untouched is Ducey's plan to increase K-12 classroom funding by $134 million while forcing schools to cut non-classroom spending by $123 million — leaving them with just an $11 million boost this year.

The governor's proposal included overall general fund spending for the 2016 budget year of $9.1 billion, a decrease from last year's nearly $9.3 billion plan.

Senate appropriations committee chairman Don Shooter said he expects the funding plan to move swiftly through the Legislature.

"I'm sure there will be adjustments, but we think we have the votes to get this done," Shooter said. "It's our intention to proceed as quickly as possible to get this to the governor's desk."

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scapinato confirmed the agreement.