The latest update from the lege is that Sen. Jack Harper (R-Surprise) has reached an agreement with the Governor to get his vote to refer a sales tax hike to the November ballot (the reason why this was already a bad deal before Harper became the critical vote is summarized nicely in Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson)'s post right here.
The catch is that Harper will only vote for the referral if all state agencies cut 5% of their staff. No, that's not a 5% across the board budget cut, it's a 5% across the board staff cut. Of course these are agencies that have already eliminated unnecessary positions and gone along with state hiring freezes (remember those were implemented during the past few bad budget years) so what he means is that in order to get his vote, he wants to see heads roll. He wants to watch them fire people-- and in every state agency, no matter how critical they are.
Only in the bizarre, twisted world of Arizona Republican politics would a demented creation like Harper be allowed to wield that kind of power.
But that's only the beginning of what he wants.
He also wants to screw over two of his GOP colleagues and kill a downtown redevelopment project in Tucson. The two Republican Senators from Tucson, Jonathan Paton and Al Melvin, are already on board the GOP budget. Some southern Arizona blogs are all over them about that now that Harper is pulling his stunt. But Paton and Melvin have apparently folded like a house of cards. All I can say to that is, join the club. My own Republican Senator, Sylvia "uranium mining can't be dangerous because the earth is 6000 years old" Allen, already voted for the June 4 budget (which is more or less being revived in this one) which will make devastating cuts to rural hospitals and likely force every single rural health clinic around here to close. Maybe Tom Chabin is right and the voters are getting what we deserve, but I don't think so. Republicans have been promising for years that they would cut taxes for the wealthy and cut budgets and shrink government, well guess what folks, it wasn't just rhetoric. I have confidence that the voters will fix this problem next year (but it will be rocky going until then.)
But the really ridiculous part of what Harper wants is a 50% cut to the Auditor General's Office. The Auditor General is a nonpartisan office which is tasked with making sure that all the funds (or what is left of them) that the state provides to local governments, school districts and other entities are accounted for and spent responsibly. So apparently Sen. Harper is OK with more waste, fraud, mismanagement and even embezzlement of public funds because these are the things that the office of the Auditor General is supposed to prevent and protect us taxpayers from.
I should also add that the Auditor General's office has consistently been recognized as one of the best run offices in the state (maybe there is something to be said for running a non-partisan office with professionals who stay focused on doing their job.) In fact, Bill Thomson, the Deputy Auditor General, was recently honored with the Administrator of the Year award, given by that well-known hotbed of radical ultra-liberalism, the BYU Marriott school of Business Management.
Which makes me wonder. Why would Senator Harper single out the Auditor General's office for a 50% cut? Is it because he wants there to be more waste and fraud in public funds so that someday in the future he can find an example and use it to advance his own sick agenda? Or is it perhaps something a bit closer to home-- he knows someone who is screwing the taxpayers personally by embezzling funds, and he wants to try and protect them from those nosy auditors?
The real crime is that the rest of the Republicans in the legislature will probably vote for this and the Governor will sign it.
UPDATE: This did NOT get voted on. Apparently other Republican legislators balked at the idea of blanket-firing thousands of state workers for no other reason than to get one vote in the state senate. A small victory for sanity.