- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Senate gave final approval to a $9.2 billion spending plan for the coming budget year late Thursday, potentially setting the stage for an early close to the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Senate President Andy Biggs said he believes the changes adopted by the Senate will get Gov. Jan Brewer and the House of Representatives on board. Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said, however, that no deal had been finalized.

Brewer’s chief of staff, Scott Smith, said there was still one major sticking point and several smaller ones keeping her from fully supporting the plan.

“I think what they have put together reflects the vast majority of our priorities,” Smith said. “However, there are still some outstanding and we are working to get them addressed.”

“But we’re very, very close,” he added.

Smith declined to detail the governor’s concerns. But budgets contain not only spending details but some policy law as well, so the sticking points may not be financial.

It also remained unclear if leaders in the House of Representatives fully supported the plan.

But Biggs said not only had he added all the items requested by House leaders, but he also made changes to get Brewer to sign off.

“The amendments you saw on the Republican side, many of them were to facilitate the governor feeling comfortable with the budget,” Biggs said. “I don’t want to speak for her, but we negotiated this out and I am very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic that she’s going to sign this.”

The budget was written by Republicans who control the Senate, without Democratic input.

“Unfortunately this budget falls way, way short of what the state can do to help families to help kids,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

The package of nine bills passed on 16-13 party line votes and now heads to the House, which could begin action on the plan Monday.

Biggs, R-Gilbert, sponsored amendments adopted Thursday allowing an extra $15 million to create a new child welfare agency, bringing the total to $20 million - just $5 million less than the governor wanted. He also added $8 million for a new student assessment test opposed by conservatives who don’t like the state’s new Common Core standards, although $3 million of that will go to maintain the old test.

A host of other smaller changes were also proposed, including more money for adult protective services, community college technical education, and state and university building repairs.

Republicans who control the Senate rebuffed numerous amendments proposed by minority Democrats, including more money for the state’s child welfare system and implementing the Common Core education standards.

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