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Democratic leader won’t rule out voting for GOP budget

Jorge Luis Garcia (Photo by Josh Coddington)

Jorge Luis Garcia (Photo by Josh Coddington)

In all probability, Republican legislative leadership and the governor will need Democratic votes in the Senate to pass a referral to increase the state sales tax. If bipartisan talks take place, the job of negotiating the terms will fall on Jorge Luis Garcia, the Democratic minority leader from Tucson.

Garcia is known as a pragmatist. He also has an independent streak; for instance, he was the only Democrat to vote for one of the Republican budgets last year, and he is prepared to let his caucus know he may vote for one again this year if he is offered something

New year, same problem. What’s going to be the Democratic strategy this session?

The same as last year – increase revenues.

Well, last year your ideas didn’t really go anywhere.

You got it.

So what are you going to do different this time around?

Pray a little bit harder.

Will you vote again for a Republican budget, like you did last year, if you think it’s the right option, even if you didn’t have a hand in crafting it?

Oh definitely.

And you don’t see any conflict in voting for such a budget with your position as a caucus leader?

As long as I tell my caucus what I’m doing upfront.

But, as caucus leader, aren’t you are supposed to represent the caucus, in addition to your district and constituents? And that means you take the caucus stand and represent it and vote with the caucus, especially on a critical issue such as the budget.

In general, I would tend to agree with you. But on specific items, I would disagree. We are still elected and we still have to decide how we are going to vote. If I had been told that leadership was, basically you forget your individual needs and how you want to vote, I would never have been leader.

On at least two occasions last year, Republicans negotiated with Democrats and then dropped the discussion. If they asked you to negotiate again, why do it given what happened on those two occasions?

Well, you know, you could see it that way and I have no problem with you looking at it that way. But let us take Senator (Albert) Hale’s issue. Obviously, the devil is in the details, and when we talked conceptually about negotiations of what we were willing to do, etc., it is not until we get it into the language that we actually see what it means. And that’s what we were working on. And, you know, Senator Hale hadn’t been available the previous week so that we could look at the language and all that.

Senator (Thayer) Verschoor got what he wanted, and I know that Senate President (Bob) Burns had come to me and said that he had talked to Senator Hale and had offered him the same offer that was on the table before- Which Senator Hale- Didn’t accept and they were going to continue to look at it, etc.

And the other one, I think you know, it wasn’t that we were dropped.

It was basically we didn’t finish the negotiations. If he (Burns) found a better suitor, OK, so be it.

Yeah, you feel jilted. But, hey, if I wanted to get invited to the prom, until I find a better suitor, (the current date is) fine with me.

Are there indications Republicans will negotiate with Democrats this year?

I mean every indication from President Burns is that we have to work together and find a common solution.

If Republicans won’t negotiate with Democrats, there are procedural maneuvers and tactics, if you will, that you can employ to delay them. Would you be willing to use such tactics on the budget this year?

I don’t think I would personally. I can’t talk for my other 11 caucus members, but I think the only one that really would even motivate me to play any of those delaying tactics, say filibuster, would be the dumping of 370,000 members, I think it was, from (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System). I think that’s the one that would really motivate me to do something like that.

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