Arizona governor requests funding for 97 new state jobs

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is seeking funding for 97 new positions across state government, an apparent contradiction to his earlier calls for a state hiring freeze.

Ducey, a Republican, implemented the hiring freeze shortly after taking office in 2015 and said it saved Arizona $21 million last year. His most recent budget proposal, however, calls for new positions across several departments, agencies, boards and commissions for a total cost of about $10 million per year, The Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Daniel Scarpinato, the governor's spokesman, said the hiring freeze always came with exemptions for positions relating to health or safety of the public, employees directly involved in collecting state revenues and any "mission critical" employees.

The governor isn't breaking his own hiring freeze pledge, said Scarpinato. He pointed out that most agencies have fallen below a target employee headcount set by the Governor's Office through attrition.

"They'd have to be managing that within their budget, but I think our goal was, let's bring down the headcount, mostly through attrition, and then manage the numbers," Scarpinato said.

Some Republican lawmakers are less than pleased about the new positions, which include 25 jobs at the Department of Child Safety.

It was Republican Rep. Anthony Kern who asked the Legislature's budget experts to go through Ducey's proposal and tally up the new positions proposed by Ducey.

Kern said the new positions are unnecessary, even those at DCS, where employees have been fighting to reduce a backlog of child abuse and neglect cases.

"We keep throwing money and positions at DCS," said Kern, arguing that the agency claims to be reducing its caseload and therefore shouldn't need 25 new workers at a cost of about $107,000 each.

He said he would have a hard time voting for a budget that funds additional government employees and expects some of his fellow fiscal conservatives to feel the same.

"Do you see anywhere in the budget where we're actually cutting government, cutting spending?" he asked. "This is not less government, bottom line."

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