Allies of ousted senator Russell Pearce aren’t giving up on the idea of reimbursing him for campaign expenses related to his November recall election.
Some Republicans had pushed for the reimbursement of about $260,000 to be included in the state budget.
But the state’s spending plan was adopted Tuesday without such a provision.
Now some lawmakers are considering pushing the legislation in the final days of the 2012 legislative session.
“The big question is, you know, where we put it,” said Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa. “We’re constitutionally bound to do it.”
The Arizona Constitution requires the Legislature to enact laws to govern recalls, “including provision for payment by the public treasury of the reasonable special election campaign expenses of such officer.”
However, the state law that allowed reimbursements for recalls was repealed by the Legislature in 1973.
Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, another ally of Pearce, said there is no statutory framework to govern recall elections as the constitution mandates.
He said he’s “exploring” how lawmakers can satisfy this requirement.
“When the Legislature has a constitutional requirement, then I take that seriously and we need to figure out what it means and try to respond accordingly,” the majority leader said.
Earlier, House Speaker Pro Tem Steve Montenegro circulated a letter calling for Pearce’s reimbursement.
“There’s a lot of legislators that have raised the issue,” the Litchfield Park Republican said. “Some members have spoken out, and it’s our constitutional duty.”
But some aren’t sure Pearce deserves to be reimbursed, since none of the money he spent in the recall election was actually his.
“If it came out of Russell’s personal pocket – you know, he and his wife took out a second mortgage (or) something like that – then the conversation is open. But a refund of campaign contributions from groups across the country, from lobbyists and things like that? Absolutely not,” said Sen. Rich Crandall, a Mesa Republican.
Crandall often butted heads with Pearce when the two served together in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Rather than challenge Pearce this year, Crandall announced that he would move to a neighboring district.
But even Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, one of Pearce’s ideological allies, said he’s not “keen on giving away taxpayer money.”
“I’m not going to vote for it,” he said. “It’s taxpayer money. I don’t give taxpayer money away to anybody. I don’t want to give taxpayer money to half of the things that we give now.”
Pearce is running again for the Senate this year in the new Legislative District 25. His opponent in the Republican primary is Bob Worsley, the founder of SkyMall.
Until 1973, state law included provisions to reimburse recalled officials: maximums of $500 for statewide officers, $200 for legislators and $150 for municipal officers. However, that law was repealed as part of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s initiative, referendum and recall statutes.
In the historic 2011 recall election, Pearce’s campaign spent $260,302 attempting to retain the Senate seat he had been elected to a year earlier. None of the money was his: Of the $261,000 he raised, more than $180,000 came from individual contributors and another $81,000 came from political action committees.
He was defeated by Republican Jerry Lewis, who spent $84,979. The election was the first time in state history a legislator was successfully recalled.
Pearce told the ~Arizona Capitol Times~ last week that he would give “serious consideration” to accepting the money. He said the Legislature has a duty to offer the money, but he would not say definitively whether he would actually accept it.