by Jim Nintzel
State Sen. Steve Farley is feeling downright ebullient about the state budget that made it through the Senate's Committee of the Whole after a marathon session today.
"It's an amazing day," the midtown Tucson Democrat told The Range in a phone interview after the COW session wrapped up. "I haven't felt this good about a budget since (former governor Janet) Napolitano left. … This is the type of budget that the people of Arizona have been waiting for for a really long time."
Among the highlights, from Farley's perspective:
• Gov. Jan Brewer's proposal to expand Medicaid to 133 percent of the federal poverty level is now in the budget.
• A GOP plan to eliminate school funding for soft capital—books, computer accessories, etc.—was blocked and for the first time in years, the soft capital is actually funded.
• Child Protective Services will get a funding boost.
• An elections omnibus bill that emerged from the Senate Appropriations Committee stalled before coming up for a vote in the Senate Rules Committee. "I have it on pretty good authority that it isn't going anywhere," Farley says.
• About $4 million a year in interest from the state's rainy-day fund will go to support state parks and arts organizations.
"We managed to come today across the partisan divide, which is not easy," Farley said. "We found the things we have in common."
The Senate bills still need a final vote in the Senate, which Farley hopes to see tonight. Next, it'll head to the House of Representatives, which is now scheduled to get back to work on Tuesday, May 21.
More to come as lawmakers react and the legislation advances.