- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - An anticipated special session of the Arizona Legislature to boost funding for K-12 schools appears at least several weeks away as proposals between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Doug Ducey continues to be in flux.

Senate President Andy Biggs held a series of meetings with members of his Republican caucus Monday, but several senators said there’s no deal yet at hand. Biggs declined to comment.

Ducey wants to tap the state’s permanent land trust fund to add about $320 million a year to current spending, which would require a legislative referral to voters. Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan have their own plan to use land trust cash, tobacco tax money and surplus cash. He’s also just floated a plan to ask voters to eliminate required yearly inflations adjustments that are part of a proposition approved in 2000 that boosted sales taxes, bringing the total value of his plan to $5 billion over 10 years.

Using tobacco tax money, changing Proposition 301 and the trust land raid all require voter approval, and Ducey has publically backed only the land trust plan he floated in June.

Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, said after his closed-door meeting with Biggs that he wants to refer all three proposals to voters during a special session. And he agreed with Biggs that boosting school funding by 2 percent a year as required by Proposition 301 is impossible without a tax increase - which Ducey and Republican legislative leaders consider a non-starter.

“The problem is I don’t know how you increase expenditures and not increase revenue,” Shooter said. “That’s just math.”

House Republicans will attend closed-door briefings with their leaders Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ducey originally planned to bring his proposal to lawmakers when they return in January, but pressure from underfunded schools has led to the special session talk. Adding to the pressure, negotiations to settle a lawsuit brought by schools over the Legislature’s failure to make required inflation increases broke down last month. A judge ordered more than $330 million in new yearly funding, but the Legislature is appealing.

On Tuesday, Senate and House Democrats plan to roll out their proposal to deal with the school funding crisis.

Senate minority leader Katie Hobbs said there appears to be more problems than immediately evident with the proposals being kicked around in recent weeks - primarily a lack of GOP votes for Ducey’s plan. And Democrats are holding out for a lawsuit settlement to get their support.

“I think if they could we’d be in special session right now,” Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat said. “I don’t think (Ducey) wants to deal with anything else, not the Republican proposal, not the inflation lawsuit. So I think if he had the votes, we’d be in session right now.”

Shooter said a special session likely won’t come until Ducey returns from a trip to Israel in mid-October.

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