In her 27 years in elected office, Gov. Jan Brewer said she has never seen a budget process run the way the Legislature is doing things this year.
To avoid a probable veto, the House and Senate have not transmitted their recently passed budget to Brewer’s desk, and House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Bob Burns said they want to sit down with Brewer and work out the details. Many Republican lawmakers said they passed the budget to send a Brewer a message that they won’t sign off on the temporary 1-cent sales tax hike she included in her budget plan.
But Brewer has a message of her own for the Legislature.
“I’d like to say, shooting from the hip a little bit, that it’s a very unusual way of trying to get negotiations done, to go and pass a budget in that style,” Brewer said Friday at a plenary session of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “It’s so contrary to the way that I’ve ever seen any legislative body proceed to send anything either from Congress to the president, or from the Legislature to the governor. So it’s a new way of legislating.”
Brewer said has not seen the budget bills, but has already identified what she feels are fundamental problems with the document. She said the legislative budget assumes a $3-billion deficit for 2010, not the $4-billion gap she accounted for in the budget her office released on June 1. She is worried that a $50-million sweep of university funds and language in the budget regarding AHCCCS may threaten hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money.
She also feels lawmakers have not given proper consideration to her five-point budget plan, the fifth point of which is the temporary tax increase to generate $1 billion a year.
“It appears to me that my five-point plan was not discussed in any shape or form, not point one, two, three, four or five,” Brewer said. “Obviously, they didn’t address that issue, so we don’t know what exactly their intention is of filling that gap.”
The governor’s budget plan has not been introduced in the Legislature. Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor has spoken with lawmakers who are willing to sponsor the bills in the Legislature, but he refused to name anybody.
Brewer said she has not yet heard from Adams and Burns regarding the negotiations they want, though “I would expect they’d be calling me, muy rapido.”
Since unveiling her five-point plan in early March, Brewer has said she wants legislators to either approve her tax increase plan themselves – which appears an unlikely prospect considering staunch opposition from conservatives and the two-thirds vote it would require – or put it on a ballot in the fall so the public can decide, which would require only a simple majority in the Legislature.
Some Republican lawmakers, such as House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, said a special election in November would not allow implementation a tax hike soon enough to have an impact on the fiscal 2010 budget, but suggested that if Brewer signs the budget passed by the Legislature, lawmakers could approve a special election in time for 2011. Brewer said, “They haven’t told me that. I will listen to them.”
The governor would not comment on whether she would veto the Legislature’s budget if it reaches her desk, but said she “gave them a pretty strong message” in her March speech in which she said she would not sign a budget that relied solely on cuts.
“I have not seen the bill that they passed last night. I have been told that it is based on what I believe are not good figures, that they have not done what I believe should be done by looking toward the future and doing things that I believe are necessary for our people, meaning I (do) not – and I believe that Arizona does not want – education to be decimated. I believe that they want to protect public safety,” Brewer said. “But I have not seen the bill, so we will probably deal with (the possibility of a veto) if they send me the bill. It is interesting time in Arizona, and the process has been changed a bit from normal protocol, to say the least.”
Senate committees will finally start hearing bills June 8 after Burns ended his session-long moratorium on non-budget bills. Brewer, however, said she stands by her request that lawmakers not send her any bills until a budget is finished.