Governor makes her caseBy Bill Hess
Wick News Service
The state is facing a horrendous budget problem that can only be fixed by hard decisions, Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday during her first visit to the city as the state’s top executive.
During a reception for her at the Holiday Inn Express, Brewer talked about her five-point, long-term recovery plan, some of which was warmly greeted by the nearly 130-person crowd of mostly Republicans. When she discussed her last point, which is a tax increase to raise a billion dollars for an unknown length of time, it received lukewarm applause.
Arizona is facing is a growing deficit that could reach $3 billion for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2010.
The Republican governor said a budget based “on a fair and honest revenue forecast” must be developed.
Unfortunately, she said, recent budgets have been based on an 8 percent revenue increase when the last one actually saw “a 12 percent decline in revenues.”
In the past, programs have been added without taking into account the lack of funds to support them, she said.
“We’ve got to stop adding and creating programs we can’t afford,” the governor said, without mentioning specifics.
Further spending cuts will need to be made, Brewer said. In preparation, she has instructed the state’s agencies to look at 5 percent incremental reductions up to 20 percent.
“A budget without reductions will not receive my signature,” Brewer said.
The reductions must be done to ensure education, public safety and health needs are not harmfully impacted, the governor said.
As for the proposed temporary tax increase, Brewer said she is taking heat and will continue to take heat for her idea. She noted that when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he found himself with a major budget problem that was addressed by increasing taxes.
Saying she would “match her fiscal conservative credentials with anyone,” Brewer said the potential of a tax increase is needed.
“We must be willing to pass a temporary tax increase,” she said. “I do not support this proposal lightly.”
The state will suffer longer without controlling the budget impacts on families and businesses, Brewer said.
There have been too many “accounting gimmicks” used to make previous budgets appear sound, the governor said. One method, she said, was raiding the state’s “rainy day fund when it wasn’t raining.”
When it comes to the legislators, Brewer said Republicans and Democrats must put aside their differences and work together.
“Workers, families, retirees, young people must come first, ahead of politics,” Brewer said.
The governor added, “Arizona’s economic recovery will not happen overnight.”
She added that she and legislators, including those of her own party, are at loggerheads in addressing the budget crisis.
“Sometimes, I don’t think they are listening,” she said.
In regards to federal stimulus funds, Brewer said U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told her that Congress is sending a ton of money to Arizona.
But, the governor said she told him, “I need a ton, a ton, a ton, with no strings attached.”
Brewer’s concern is that there will be requirements in using some of the stimulus funds, which in turn will put the state in further debt once the money is used up in two years and make it so the state will be obligated to continue some of the funding.
After the reception, the governor met with the Herald/Review editorial board, where she expanded on her budget concerns.
Brewer noted there isn’t much room to reduce the state’s budget without cutting important programs, again mentioning education, public safety and health care.
She said all portions of education, from kindergarten up to universities uses 60 percent of the budget.
“Even a $500 million cut will be very, very difficult,” the governor said.
When she was secretary of state, Brewer said she saw the growing budget problem. As governor, it has come to her desk to address the issue.
Saying she hasn’t used a veto stamp “in the right drawer of my desk,” Brewer said she will use it if legislators send her a balanced budget plan that isn’t carefully structured and will do additional harm to the state.
“People tend to wait to the last moment,” the governor said.
But in this case, she said, waiting can’t be done because the budget is “an extreme emergency.”
When it comes to another money issue, Brewer said her predecessor made demands on President George W. Bush’s administration for Arizona to be reimbursed for the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants and providing those who entered the nation illegally with other services. In the past, this issue has affected the state’s budget, as well as county and municipal governments in Arizona.
Brewer replaced former Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Napolitano had written many letters to the former secretary of Homeland Security seeking reimbursement, and Brewer said although she hasn’t yet written a “Dear Janet” letter, that still is a possibility.
When it comes to controlling the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona from Mexico, the governor said she has growing concerns about the increasing violence in Mexico, especially since it is flowing across the border into the United States.
“We have a right to feel safe in our country,” Brewer said during the editorial board meeting and at the reception hosted by the Cochise County Republican Committee. The governor also met with local officials.
She has called for more National Guard forces to be deployed to the border in Arizona because of the unique challenges the state faces in this matter.
As for her five-point budget recovery plan, Brewer said she believes the people of Arizona will rally to support her proposals.
The long-range goal is to see Arizona “sail out of rough (economic) waters to a safe harbor,” the governor said.
Presentation to the governor
During Thursday’s reception for Gov. Jan Brewer in Sierra Vista, the governor was presented with a letter written and signed by late President Ronald Reagan congratulating the state on its Vietnam Memorial in Phoenix.
Local resident Larry Braden, who was on the board establishing the monument, said the letter was read at the November 1985 ceremony by then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. The letter was then handed to the board for safe keeping until a proper place to archive the document could be found.
On Friday, Braden handed Brewer the letter and said it was time to present the document to the state’s top executive.
• Governor’s Office: http://www.governor.state.az.us/