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Department of Revenue puts layoff plan on hold

Gambling that Arizona lawmakers will approve its funding in time, the state tax collection agency is shelving plans to lay off more than half its staff early this month.

After Gov. Jan Brewer’s vetoed some of the Department of Revenue’s funding in September to kill an unrelated provision of the same bill, Director Gale Garriott said the department would probably have to lay off 450 of its 710 workers in November.

That would be on top of the estimated 300 jobs the department cut last spring to help close last fiscal year’s big gap between the state’s income and expenses. City officials called that move ill-advised because it means the state has fewer people to catch tax cheating and errors.

Garriott said in September that it would not be in the state’s best interest to continue operating with current staffing through January and then have to shut down in February if there’s no additional funding by then.

But spokesman Anthony Forschino said Nov. 2 that recent talks with legislators indicate that there is no controversy over the department’s funding and lawmakers are willing “to put that funding back.”

The department is “going forward hopeful there is going to be some resolution,” Forschino added.

However, there’s no indication yet on when that might happen, he acknowledged.

Brewer had urged lawmakers to promptly re-approve the Department of Revenue funding and other agencies’ budget provisions that died when she vetoed a budget bill Sept. 4 because it also repealed a state property tax.

The veto angered majority Republican legislators, however, putting them and the Republican governor at odds over what lawmakers should do next. Besides the property tax repeal, other points of contention include some lawmakers’ desires for additional spending cuts to begin closing the state’s midyear shortfall now estimated at $2 billion.

Some legislative aides have said a mid-November special session is possible, but Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce said late last week that the situation remains in flux.

Senate Republicans by and large are open to an initial special session to re-approve the agency legislation lost due to Brewer’s veto, followed by another one to tackle spending cuts, said Pierce

However, House Republicans have pushed to have just one special session, and Brewer hasn’t jumped one way or another, Pierce said.

“We’re prepared to jump and get it done and get it over quickly, but we’ve got to know what the guidelines are,” he said.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said it remains to be determined when lawmakers can report for a special session and what they’re willing to do.

“We haven’t narrowed down the scope of what the call might look like,” Senseman said. “Obviously there’s clearly the need for additional spending reductions as our revenues continue southward.”

He said Brewer still wants lawmakers to send her proposed temporary sales tax increase to a special election ballot. She wants additional revenue so that budget cuts don’t have to be as deep.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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