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It got worse: Burns, Brewer engage in statement battle

It seems the cordial bickering is over now that Senate President Bob Burns has castigated Gov. Jan Brewer for “abusing the public” through the use of budget vetoes and for calling a special session to hammer through a tax increase.

Burns issued a statement July 2, saying he was shocked and disappointed in Brewer’s partial veto of the budget, which included a line-item veto of the state’s entire K-12 education budget. Burns turned Brewer’s own words against her, saying she “decimated” education funding and jeopardized federal stimulus money while putting at risk “the state’s most vulnerable citizens, the very ones she has claimed to want to protect.”

Burns said Brewer’s vetoes and subsequent call for a special session appear to be “vindictive retaliation” for the Legislature’s refusal to approve her plan for a ballot referendum on a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase.

“This is not the first time a budget negotiation has gone to the 11th hour of the legislative session, but this is the first time a governor has abused the public in what can only be described as a strong-arm tactic to take control of the legislative process,” Burns said in his July 2 statement.

Burns’ gripes against Brewer appeared to predate the session-ending budget fiasco, as he took aim at her conduct throughout the legislative session.

“These past few months I have witnessed behavior that is incomprehensible to me. The governor has surrounded herself with a team of outstanding staff, most of whom I have known for years and respect very much. However, decisions and demands coming from her office have been unbelievable and in some cases unachievable,” Burns wrote. “It appears the governor is having problems managing the level of responsibility to which she has been elevated.”

In her response later that day, Brewer stated that Burns’ comments were “regrettable and terribly unproductive.” She also criticized his decision to hold the budget passed by lawmakers on June 4 for weeks without sending it to her desk, a decision that prompted Brewer to sue the Legislature in the Arizona Supreme Court.

“I choose not to take President Burns’ comments personally because I recognize he is very angry right now. Politics is often very difficult, and President Burns has a tremendous leadership burden,” Brewer wrote. “I continue to have respect for his as he struggles to fulfill the challenges of his office.”

After months of opposition from Republican leadership in the Legislature, Burns, Brewer and House Speaker Kirk Adams joined forces late in the waning days of the legislative session to drum up support for the tax referral. They were unable to find enough votes, however, and lawmakers passed a budget a fiscal year 2010 budget that did not include a special election to decide the sales tax issue.

Burns, who cancelled a trip to Europe so he could remain in Phoenix for the special session, said he and Adams held up their end up the bargain with Brewer by trying to garner support for the governor’s plan, but the votes were not there. To completely unravel a long and difficult compromise, Burns wrote, makes no sense.

Brewer made several line-item vetoes in the main spending bill passed by the Legislature, and vetoed 15 trailer bills. Her decision to line-item veto the entire general fund portion of the state’s K-12 education budget has been met with sharp criticism from lawmakers, and Burns said it could jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money. A $300 million payment to the schools is due from the state on July 15, which Brewer cited as the deadline for lawmakers to readjust the budget.

Speaking to reporters several hours before Burns issued his statement, Brewer expressed optimism that she and lawmakers would be able to reach agreement before the July 15 deadline.

“I think that sometimes when you clean the deck you can start afresh, and I’m hoping that that’s what we’ll be able to do,” Brewer said.

Burns said he and Adams agreed to continue seeking support for Brewer’s tax referral in a special session, but requested a break of several weeks so lawmakers could “regroup after a very grueling session” and do some ground work in advance of the session.

To read Burns’ statement, go to: http://azsenaterepublicans.com/2009/07/02/senate-president-bob-burns%E2%80%99-statement-on-veto-and-special-session/

To read Brewer’s response, go to: http://azcapitoltimes.com/wp-files//07-02-09-statement-by-governor-jan-brewer.pdf

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