PHOENIX — House GOP leaders plan to put their spending plan and tax-cut package up for a vote Monday.
It’s unlikely, though, that they currently have the votes — a fact that they acknowledge.
But that appears to be part of the plan: Get everyone on record and then, if it goes down, figure out where to go from there.
The move comes more than a week after legislative leaders sent everyone home given the lack of progress. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said talks continued in the interim.
“We are consistently and diligently trying to make offers and communicate and work it all the way through,” he told Capitol Media Services.
But at some point, Bowers said, the plan needs to be put up for a vote to see if there are the necessary 31 House Republicans to adopt it.
“I’m hoping that it isn’t a ‘Hail Mary,’ he said. “But if it is, it is.”
There’s at least one key House GOP holdout: Rep. David Cook from Globe. He’s not happy with the idea of cutting $1.9 billion in income taxes.
Part of that, Cook told Capitol Media Services, is that he doesn’t believe the state is really rolling in that much cash that it can afford to forego that much on a permanent basis.
“I am convinced that federal COVID relief money has created a false economy,” he said. “And I believe it’s prudent to take some time to ensure we don’t send the state off of a fiscal cliff.”
Then there’s the issue of what happens to cities.
They currently get 15% of state income tax collections. That has gotten the attention of several GOP lawmakers who are hearing from their mayors about the effects of losing that much cash.
And there is sentiment to paying down the state’s debt.
At the same time, however, there are some legislators who think the $12.8 billion that is in the spending plan is too much.
Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, called it “pork-laden.”
“That’s exactly the part that’s difficult,” said House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria. “How do we balance it out without losing one side or the other?”
Toma said there has been a “good-faith attempt” to put together a plan that manages to hold all 31 House Republicans.
They cannot afford to lose even one as it takes 31 votes in the 60-member chamber to approve anything. And so far the 29 Democrats have seen little in the plan to convince them to lend their support.
Toma said that putting it up for a vote becomes a moment of truth for GOP lawmakers: Are they willing to torpedo the entire plan because they didn’t get everything they want.
“If there are members that are holdouts they’re going to have to explain why they’re holdouts on the floor,” he said.
It all comes down to the art of the politically possible.
“Members can go, ‘Well, I didn’t get everything I wanted, I’m still a no,’ or ‘I got almost everything I wanted and I’m kind of OK with this,’ “ he said. And Toma said that he hopes, at some point, people realize that the package just isn’t going to get any better.
“The budget every year, at least for me — and I assume most legislators would probably say the same thing — is always a certain exercise of holding your nose and voting because there’s enough in it that you like that offsets what you don’t like,” he said. “This year is no different.”
Bowers agreed that the best move at this point is just to push ahead.
“Put it on the (voting) board and let us see really where we’re at,” he said. Bowers said that identifies who isn’t going to go along, putting the onus on them to bring an offer to leadership.
The problem is not just in the House.
“As of right now we still do not have the needed 16 votes,” said Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott. “We are still working with the members.”
One of those is Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Peoria. He, like some of his colleagues, worries over the effect of such a huge state income tax cut on cities.
But Boyer also questions the assumptions built into the idea that the state can afford to cut that much permanently in taxes given not just the artificial infusion of federal COVID dollars but also the cyclical nature of the Arizona economy. He is more receptive to a one-time rebate of dollars to taxpayers.
So far, though, GOP leaders appear unmoved to alter that part of the package — at least not now.
“At this point, the plan is the plan,” said Toma.
He said there will be “some changes” to what originally was trotted out last month. But the tax package remains unaltered.
The main provision alters current law which imposes a 2.59% rate on taxable income of up to $53,000 for married couples, with increasing rates up to 4.5% on amounts above $318,000. That would be replaced by a single 2.5% rate on all taxable income.
Lawmakers cannot repeal the 3.5% tax rate voters approved in November on incomes above $500,000 to help fund education. But the plan calls for blunting the effect of having an absolute 4.5% cap on all income taxes, a move that effectively means affected taxpayers will be paying just 1% on their regular income.
Gov. Doug Ducey apparently is holding out hope the plan holds.
“We’re convinced we have a solid budget on the table,” said press aide C.J. Karamargin.
He also is defending the governor’s decision more than a week ago to veto 22 bills — most of them sponsored by Republicans — after lawmakers failed to send him a budget plan of his liking.
“If these negotiations result in a budget that we believe is in the best interests of Arizona, you will see what we accomplished,” Karamargin said.
CASA GRANDE -- Sunday is the 77th anniversary of D-Day. For World War II veteran and Casa Grande resident De Wayne Buckley, the day is a reminder of the role he played in shaping world history.
Buckley was 18 and excited to be a part of the war effort when he joined the Army in 1943.
“A lot of us couldn’t wait to join the Army and do our part,” he said.
At the time, Buckley had never traveled more than 100 miles from his home in Norfolk, Nebraska (also the hometown of comedian Johnny Carson, with whom Buckley attended school).
A few months later, on June 6, 1944, he was a radio operator with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division when they landed on Utah Beach in Normandy as part of the Allied forces’ D-Day mission to free Western Europe from Nazi occupation.
D-Day was a turning point in WWII and has been referred to as the beginning of the end of the war.
Buckley spent months in battle and later returned from Europe with two Purple Heart Medals.
“From the time I entered boot camp, everything happened real fast and we didn’t always know what was happening or where we were going,” he said. “They told us very little.”
Soon after boot camp, Buckley was sent to England.
A few months after arriving in England, Buckley and his fellow soldiers were awoken around midnight and told to pack. They were then loaded into trucks and driven to a barbed-wire enclosed military encampment on the southern coast of England. Once there, the troops were told they were to become part of the invasion of France.
“We were warned not to talk about it,” Buckley said. “They gave us training and told us what to do if we were captured.”
On June 6, Allied airborne troops parachuted into northern France while 5,000 ships carried ground troops to five French beaches — codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The campaign began months of fighting.
Buckley was hit in the knee with shrapnel from a mortar round but at the time, he didn’t realize the cause of the injury.
“I thought I just hit my knee going over a wall,” he said. “It hurt, but I went on.”
A fellow service member had also been hit in the torso with shrapnel and Buckley stopped to help.
“He had a big piece of shrapnel in his side,” he said.
Medics were busy attending to other soldiers who had lost limbs and instructed Buckley, a radio operator, to pull the shrapnel out of the soldier he was helping.
“I had never done anything like that. The piece of shrapnel was four or five inches long and not smooth. He hollered when I pulled it out,” Buckley said. “He survived, but I never saw him again.”
Later, it was discovered Buckley had been hit in the knee with shrapnel that couldn’t be removed. He was put on an ambulance and sent to a hospital in England for six weeks.
His actions that day earned him his first Purple Heart of the war.
After his recuperation ended, he was back on the battlefield.
He earned his second Purple Heart of the war a few months later when he and three others were in the vicinity of a mortar attack. One member of the group, a sergeant, died in the incident, Buckley said.
He said he remembers seeing a flash, then waking up in a hospital in England. He was still suffering from a back injury and bandaged when he was sent back to the battlefield.
“I couldn’t even lift my bag. Another soldier had to help me,” he said.
In December 1944 he was in Belgium, about 40 to 50 miles away from where the Battle of the Bulge took place.
“I had never done fighting like that before,” he said.
Buckley became so frost-bitten during fighting that his feet turned blue.
“It was 20 degrees below zero and all we had were boots. My feet turned completely blue,” Buckley said. “I was sent to England and that was the end of the war for me.”
When he was recovering in the hospital, a nurse gave him a needle and thread and suggested he learn needlepoint during his recuperation. He went on to make a needlepoint American flag, which he still has today. It’s framed in a shadow box along with the various medals he earned from the war.
His recuperation also led him to meet Doris, his wife of 58 years. After returning to the United States, Buckley was sent to a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado. The woman who became his wife was working there as a secretary. The two married in 1945. She died in 2003.
Buckley suffers a few lingering reminders of the war. His knee, where the shrapnel hit, aches sometimes and he says he has trouble with his once frost-bitten feet.
Although he doesn’t talk often about his experience in the war, Buckley’s daughter Donna Buckley said he is proud of the contributions his generation made.
“I think the lesson from World War II is that the Allies came together and the whole U.S. pulled together to win the war,” she said.
Buckley moved to Casa Grande with his wife in 1993. The couple lived in Fiesta Grande RV Resort but earlier this year, following a fall, he moved into Caliche Senior Living facility.
CASA GRANDE — Iiken is a popular pup.
A retired military working dog, he’s often seen throughout Pinal County with his owners, Sharon and Palmer Miller, at various events and parades in support of veterans causes.
And now, Iiken (pronouced eye-ken) is a semifinalist, vying for the title of 2021 American Humane Hero Dog.
“I entered him in the contest because I want to reduce the stigma that often surrounds retired working dogs,” said Sharon Miller. “People often think of them as aggressive and unfriendly. But they’re not that way at all. They just want love.”
The Miller family adopted Iiken in 2016, when the canine was retired from his career with the U.S. military.
Born and bred into the military working dog program, Iiken was trained to search for explosives. He was assigned to the Army in 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan with an Army Special Forces unit.
He was wounded in Afghanistan, along with his handler, when a vehicle he was riding in was hit by an IED.
“He had to have surgery and rehab,” Miller said.
After rehabilitation, he was reassigned to the Marine Corps and later deployed to Korea and the Philippines.
Miller met Iiken after her son, Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a military police officer in the Marines and a dog handler, was assigned the dog while stationed in Japan.
“We visited our son in Okinawa (Japan) and Iiken was there,” Miller said. “We thought he was so cute and just an amazing dog. My son had taught him to low-crawl and keep his head down. He loves to play and will jump right into my son’s arms.”
A few years later, when Iiken was retired and became available for adoption, the Millers were eager to bring him home to Arizona. They applied to adopt him and brought him to Casa Grande, where he immediately settled in.
“He’s now a couch potato,” Miller said. “He’s spoiled.”
When he first arrived in Casa Grande, the veterans support organization Honoring, Hiring, Helping our Heroes of Pinal County gave him a retirement party.
Wearing a tactical vest with specialty patches, Iiken often attends various events throughout Pinal County, including the annual stand down event hosted by HOHP.
He has also been in Casa Grande’s Veterans Day parades and has participated in Ride for the Warrior and other events. He has also appeared in an issue of Veterans Magazine.
“When he puts on his vest, he knows it’s time to go and meet people,” Miller said. “He is a true American hero.”
At 15, Iiken is healthy and happy, but he does have some medical issues from his days as a working dog. To keep him healthy, he requires prescription eye drops and allergy medication, which can be expensive, Miller said.
“Once military dogs retire, there is no financial help for their post-retirement care,” Miller said.
Miller hopes that by taking part in the 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards, Iiken can bring attention to the fact that retired military dogs often require expensive medical care.
“There is a bill in Congress now that, if it passes, would provide grants to help cover the costs of the medical care these dogs can have,” Miller said. “Because they are worked so hard, military dogs usually have short lives and can develop medical problems.”
She also hopes to highlight that his actions and service to the military have saved lives.
“He saved countless lives in his lifetime,” Miller said. “He deserves to be recognized and it is an honor to have him live in my home and be part of my family.”
The American Humane Hero Dog Awards is an annual nationwide competition that aims to recognize canines who do extraordinary things.
Dogs compete in seven categories — military, therapy, guide, hearing, law enforcement, search and rescue, service and shelter dog.
Iiken, who is competing in the military category, is one of 21 canines from a field of 400 dogs nationwide, selected to advance to the second round of the competition.
The public can help Iiken move to the third round by voting for him online. The current round of voting ends on July 15.
People may vote for one dog each day. There is no cost to vote.
Seven dogs will continue to the third round of competition. Voting for the third round begins July 29 and ends Sept. 7.
Voters must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old and can only use one email address to vote.
“If Iiken is the winner of the last round, he will possibly need to travel to a place that is yet to be determined and will also be honored on the Hallmark Channel this fall,” Miller said.
To vote, go online to herodogawards.org.
CASA GRANDE — The City Council on Monday will consider a contract with Shums Coda Associates for building plan review and consulting associated with the construction of Phase 2 of the Lucid Motors plant.
According to the agenda, SCA was selected as the most qualified firm, based primarily on its experience as the building plan review consultants on Phase 1 of the Lucid plant as well as its involvement with the initial design process that is underway for Phase 2.
During the meeting, the mayor and council may authorize the city manager to execute a contract with Combs Construction Company for construction of upgraded traffic signal equipment and intersection improvements.
Mayor Craig McFarland may also recommend the appointment of Celeste Garza to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The term would expire in November 2023.
The council will consider the appointment of Mindi McWherter-Dawkins, Darlene Moberly and Michael Cruz to the Board of Adjustment.
During the meeting, the council may adopt a resolution canvassing the results from the city’s special election held on May 18 for the city’s General Plan 2030.
The council may also consider and discuss the adoption of the FY2022 tentative budget totaling $281,496,256, excluding fund transfers.
The council in a study session at 5:30 p.m. will hear a presentation from Jerry Stabley relating to the Achieve Pinal-AARP third grade reading program. Additionally, there will be a presentation and discussion relating to a Public Safety Personnel Retirement System bond proposal.
Monday’s City Council meeting will be the first since the start of COVID-19 that public comments will be back on the agenda. The regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall’s council chambers and will be streamed online on the city’s Channel 11.