Governor unveils budget balancing plan

Phoenix, AZ – Governor Jan Brewer unveiled her plan Wednesday to balance the
state budget. Lawmakers from both parties found something to dislike in the plan.

Brewer asked lawmakers to cut state spending by about $1 billion.
She also hopes to get another billion in federal stimulus
dollars. But that still leaves the state a billion dollars short.
Brewer told lawmakers she has a long record of conservative and
anti-tax credentials.

(But as a very last resort, after considering every other option,
and after doing a truthful and honest assessment of our economic
situation we must be willing to consider the passage of a
temporary tax increase.)

The governor stopped short of saying exactly what she thinks
should be taxed to raise that billion dollars, saying that is a
decision for the Legislature. And Brewer said it would be up to
lawmakers to decide whether to hike the taxes themselves -- or
punt and send the issue to voters. Reaction to the Republican
governor's plan was particularly negative from legislators
from her own party. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray pointed out
that many GOP lawmakers have taken a pledge not to hike taxes, a
pledge he said history has taught them not to break.

(Once upon a time there was a president who said 'No new taxes,
read my lips.' And he got fired by the voters because he raised
taxes right after that. And so read my lips. No new taxes. I'm
not voting for any taxes. And I don't think that any of the
caucus members or a majority of the Republicans are going to vote
for new taxes.)

Rebecca Rios, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said she
appreciates Brewer being willing to say that the budget cannot be
balanced solely by cutting spending. But she pointed out that
Brewer told lawmakers they need to look down the road at reducing
business taxes.

(You don't ask Arizonans to raise their taxes while, in the same
speech, promising to give a tax reduction to businesses.)

Brewer, talking to reporters after the speech, said the negative
reaction to her proposal was not entirely unexpected.

(Nobody likes to say that they're going to support raising taxes.
I certainly have never been of the mindset that I ever wanted to
raise taxes. But once you're confronted with the information and
that there is no other way to resolve the crisis that we're
facing in Arizona, reality sets in. And now all we need is some
courage to do the right thing.)

The governor's plan does include something that Republicans, at
least, did cheer. She wants to put a proposal on the ballot to
allow legislators to alter voter-approved mandates. A 1998
constitutional amendment says anything that has been approved at
the ballot can be changed by legislators only if it furthers the
intent of the original measure. Brewer may have her eye on $150
million a year raised by 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes
approved by voters in 2006 to fund early childhood development
programs. But she said that doesn't mean the cash that tax raises
every year should be out of reach of lawmakers, as it is now.

(If there are dollars out there that are being expended on some
issues that were possibly rceived by voters that they felt were
necessary, but now that we're in this huge deficit, they might
consider the fact it would be better to put it into core services
like education, health services, and give them that choice.)

Senate Majority Leader Jorge Garcia said he finds such a proposal
to be distasteful, especially if it's just to seize money now
going to something else.

(Are we asking voters to rescind the tax as well? Or are we just
asking, hey, let us have the money and let us spend it the way we
want it because we don't agree with you.)

One thing Brewer did not address in her speech is the push by
Republican legislative leadership to permanently repeal of the
state property tax. That levy was suspended in 2006 when Arizona
had a surplus; it returns automatically later this year unless
lawmakers vote otherwise.