Gilbert Town Councilman Steve Urie formed an exploratory committee to consider a possible run for the state House of Representatives next year from District 22.
Urie, who owns a property management business and has served on the council since 1999, quietly formed the committee in September. He said on Wednesday he hasn't made a decision to run. If he does, he'll have to resign his council seat by next May. His current council term ends in 2011.
Urie said a lot of the decision will ride on the results of the Citizens Budget Committee process he's leading. The committee is studying ways to cope with the $14 million shortfalls the town is facing over the next several years. The state is wrestling with its own shortfall approaching $2 billion.
A successful process at the local level could help spur him on to run, Urie said. "If that can be done at a local level, can we duplicate that on the state level?"
Urie is chairman of the steering committee of the Citizens Budget Committee, which is in the midst of assembling spending and revenue recommendations from seven subcommittees into a report that is to be turned over to the Town Council by Dec. 15.
Earlier this year, Urie voted with a council majority for a quarter-cent sales tax increase and other measures to raise money to close that gap. The council rescinded the tax hikes before they took effect after opponents turned in enough referendum petition signatures to likely put the matter on the ballot.
Urie, a Republican who would be running in a GOP-dominated district, is contemplating stepping into the fray as current Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, reaches his term limit for that office next year, and District 22 GOP Sen. Thayer Verschoor is exploring a run for state treasurer.
The district's other state representative, Laurin Hendrix, is in the middle of his first term and has also formed an exploratory committee for 2010.
Kelly Townsend and Adam Armer have also formed exploratory committees for the 2010 race.
Armer is a plumbing and air-conditioning contractor from Mesa who ran for the House seat last year.
Armer said his opposition to any tax increases, even at the state level, is one thing he knows of that differentiates him from Urie. Armer said his philosophy of no tax increases is what's driving him to run for state office when Arizona is said to be facing the second-worst budget meltdown in the nation.
"I would rather be there in better times but, it's probably more important now to have someone like me there," he said.
Urie said that given the magnitude of the state's shortfall, lawmakers need to be willing to consider tax increases along with spending cuts, and that will also be a factor in his deciding whether he wants to try to be a lawmaker himself.
"Is there flexibility? Is there a sense that we need to solve a problem and we will do what it takes to solve that problem?"