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Senate GOP releases list of ‘ideas’ to solve budget crisis

Senate Republicans released a list of 197 ideas culled from various people who offered suggestions to solve the state’s budget deficit.
The ideas contained in the 12-page document released March 25 are pretty raw, preliminary and are not to be seen as official in any way, said one GOP leader.
“If there is anything that came from anywhere in this country that might save the state some money, I want to make sure that it’s looked at — anything to avoid a tax increase, basically,” said Sen. Pamela Gorman, the majority whip.
Gorman compiled the ideas from notes she scribbled during committee hearings, floor speeches, caucuses, conversations with lawmakers and from phone calls, e-mails, letters from the public and discussions with constituents. She also pulled things from Democratic caucus notes, and some of the ideas actually came from former Gov. Janet Napolitano before she left the state.
She had written the ideas down on sticky notes and on the back of business cards, she said, adding that she decided to put them all in one place.
The Senate GOP initially did not want to release the document, which contains scores of suggestions, including, eliminating certain boards and commissions, doing away with domestic-partner benefits, suspending tenure for professors and getting rid of the Board of Regents.
Gorman said she handed the list to Sen. Russell Pearce, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to look over.
The idea is for Pearce to see which ideas he thinks are plausible and which can get enough support to pass, and then ask budget staff to crunch the numbers. The next step would be to ask a senator to act as a point person to do the legwork, such as meeting with stakeholders, on the identified idea.
Some of the ideas are already being considered by lawmakers, such as scrapping all-day kindergarten, privatizing the state’s mental hospital, and moving the staffing ratio at the Department of Corrections to the national average. 
Others are quite specific.
“State Parks department be put under Arizona Game and Fish Department,” wrote one.
“Scrap Healthy Families — their mission is handled by First Things First,” said another.
Another one suggested “moving prisons to Mexico.”
But many are probably non-starters, such as getting rid of the Board of Regents.
To emphasize the rawness of the material, Gorman said, “I don’t agree with a lot of these ideas. I wouldn’t vote for some of these, but I’m putting them on the list.”
Democrats balked at some of the recommendations.
Sen. Rebecca Rios, the assistant minority leader, pointed to one.
That suggestion reads: “Cities — take anything we can.”
Democrats also said they couldn’t find on the list any of the alternatives they submitted to the Senate leadership a few weeks ago. The Democrats’ proposal included securitizing the State Lottery proceeds and its prisons.
But Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia dismissed the list as “just an exercise of jotting down ideas.”
“I don’t think that list was very serious,” he said.

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