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Ariz. Appropriations Bill Deemed Unconstitutional

(CN) - The Arizona Supreme Court overturned a general appropriations bill requiring towns and cities to pay more than $18 million to the state's general fund, saying the measure is unconstitutional.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns challenged the bill, passed in 2008, claiming it fails to meet the definition of an appropriation. Under state law, "The general appropriation bill shall embrace nothing but appropriations for the different departments of the state, for state institutions, for public schools, and for interest on the public debt.

The state high court agreed that the bill does not qualify as a targeted appropriation.

"The Legislature did not expressly attach the assessed amount to any public revenue that it had previously set aside for the cities and towns," Justice Berch wrote.

The court rejected the governor's claim that by waiting to bring its lawsuit until November, the league "prevented prompt judicial resolution of the matter and exacerbated the already precarious budget situation," the ruling states.

The court concluded that it's not too late, as nearly five months remain before the plaintiff's payments are due under the new bill.

"Thus, while we recognize the complexities associated with balancing the budget during the course of the fiscal year," Berch wrote, "in this case, adequate time remains for the Legislature to make adjustments."

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