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List of ideas for Arizona budget crisis released

PHOENIX — A Senate Republican leader opened what amounts to a suggestion box Wednesday, releasing a 12-page list of ideas big and small for Arizona legislators to consider as they try to solve the state’s budget crisis.

The ideas came from within the ranks of Senate Republicans as well as from other lawmakers, advocacy groups and the public, said Majority Whip Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem. She stressed that the ideas don’t constitute a plan or proposal.

While some are being studied by Republican senators and aides for feasibility, possible cost savings and political appeal, others would never pass muster, she said.

“It’s just a working document. It’s just a place to start a discussion. It’s really not anything, but it got such a big deal made out of it,” Gorman said, referring to buzz created when she discussed the list during a Monday news conference.

At the time, she said Republicans were looking for ideas to allow them to find the last $500 million of savings or other changes needed to complete a plan to close a roughly $3 billion shortfall projected for the budget year that begins on July 1.

Listed ideas range from selling state assets such as prisons and the state mental hospital to instituting efficiencies in how government works on a daily basis. None are identified by source and most with few details or indications of potential savings.

The ideas include providing early retirement incentives, relocating some prisons to Mexico, eliminating the Arizona Commission on the Arts, scrapping domestic partner benefits for state workers and merging small school districts.

Others call for abolishing all-day kindergarten, requiring Web conferencing for meetings, tightening eligibility standards for health care for children and looking for live-in fathers not married to mothers on welfare.

Though Gorman said some of the ideas came from Democrats, Democratic senators who reviewed the list said later they didn’t spot any they would endorse or were of obvious Democratic authorship.

“Certainly not ‘cities — take anything we can,”‘ said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, referring to the last item on the list’s third page. “That sure didn’t come from the Democratic caucus.”

Gorman said she wasn’t inclined initially to release the report because she feared that it would be misconstrued as a Republican proposal. She said she changed her mind after receiving a public records request from a media organization and learned that Democratic senators also wanted to see it.

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