PHOENIX (AP) - With just days to go before the primary election, Republican gubernatorial candidates are sparring anew over how the state should cure its budget woes.
Secretary of State Betsey Bayless on Friday accused former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon of backing a big cut in university spending that had been suggested by a conservative think tank.
Salmon's campaign called that untrue. A spokesman said Salmon regards the Goldwater Institute's report and its suggested budget cuts merely as a "starting point" for budget-cutting discussions.
Salmon, Bayless and state Treasurer Carol Springer face off in Tuesday's primary election, which will also see Democrats and Libertarians pick their nominees for governor.
How the state responds to its budget woes will be a major issue facing the next governor.
Gov. Jane Hull, who can't run again because of term limits, has said the state faces a projected shortfall of up to $400 million in the current 2-month-old fiscal year and $1 billion in the next one. Hull would like lawmakers to fix the current budget before she leaves office in January.
Bayless took the first jab on Friday, saying that Salmon was proposing to help balance the budget by cutting more than $105 million from state funding for universities and eliminating programs that pay for services for low-income children.
"These proposed cuts are contrary to statements made by Salmon over the course of the last year and throughout his campaign," Bayless said in a statement.
Bayless cited an article published Wednesday in the East Valley Tribune. In the article, Salmon voiced support for midyear spending cuts sought by Hull and said additional savings could be found in the Goldwater Institute report. The article said Salmon "did not offer support to any specific proposals."
Salmon spokesman Tom Puglia called Bayless' remarks "completely untrue attacks from a desperate campaign."
Salmon clearly was not endorsing the Goldwater proposals but considered them merely "a place to start" when state officials sit down in coming months to hash out a plan, Puglia said.
Puglia also said Bayless should join Salmon in backing Hull's call for agency heads to identify midyear cuts. She has said those cuts would exempt K-12 schools and prisons and could save approximately $150 million during the current fiscal year.
Salmon's other budget-balancing ideas include eliminating duplication in state programs, procurement changes and getting more money from the federal government, Puglia said.
Bayless on Friday released a budget-balancing proposal that outlined ideas she previously has voiced in debates, speeches and interviews.
They include merging state agencies to save on overhead, eliminating "excessive middle management" and, to save money immediately, freezing spending for overtime, out-of-state travel and equipment purchases. She also said she would eliminate vacant positions and dump consultants.