PHOENIX -- Former Senate President Russell Pearce, ousted from office by voters, could now get more than a quarter-million in taxpayer dollars.
“This is about accountability and taxpayer money,” said Randy Parraz, who led the successful recall of Pearce and spoke out in opposition to the Republican idea of reimbursing Pearce for his recall expenses.
“The tea party talks about accountability, personal fiscal responsibility and transparency in government, but today they shut the door on that type of accountability,” Parraz said.
It turns out the Arizona Constitution does have a provision that allows for reimbursement of reasonable special election campaign expenses. But attorney Michael Liburdi said, “The constitution is not self-executing, which means the Legislature has to come in and enact a law that would provide procedures and amounts under which a public official could be reimbursed.”
Even so, state Sen. Steve Gallardo said, “It's unconscionable for us to use taxpayer money to reimburse a legislator that has been fired from his job.”
Republican state Sen. Linda Grey agrees.
“According to statute, I do believe it's legal to do that,… Grey said. "I don't believe we'll do that, though.”
However, there are reportedly some Republicans who would like to see a line item amendment to the budget.
“Our understanding from Andy Biggs in our bipartisan conversations is that he wants it in there as a line item,” said state Sen. David Schapira.
Republican leadership did not respond to our multiple interview requests, but attorney Liburdi tells us, “The Legislature could do whatever it wants, it could put a line item in the budget to provide for the reimbursement of however much it wants to Russell Pearce, but that's sure to invite certain challenges.”
And Rep. Steve Montenegro, who reportedly spearheaded the idea of reimbursement and has been passing a letter or petition around the house, is now backing off the idea.
“I don't know where they get their information but there is nothing in the budget that would provide for that reimbursement,” he said.
As of today there is no reimbursement for Pearce in the budget, but there is still talk of adding it or introducing a law that would allow for it.