Gov. Jan Brewer won’t be quite as quick on the trigger when it comes to calling a fourth, and hopefully final, special session of the Legislature.
Speaking to reporters after touring the Olive Branch Senior Center in Sun City on Aug. 26, Brewer said she won’t call a special session until she reaches a budget agreement in her five-party talks with Republican and Democratic leadership.
Legislative Democrats, recently invited to the negotiating table as a bloc for the first time, have unveiled a budget proposal that restores about $300 million in cuts, which Brewer might have to sign off on in exchange for Democratic support for her plan to refer a temporary sales tax increase to the ballot in January.
The governor said she is supportive of some portions of the Democratic proposal, while others are “still being debated on the table.” Brewer, however, declined to say where the points of contention and agreement lie in the Democratic proposal.
“We are basically working on an idea of embargoing all information until we can go forward with the solution,” Brewer said.
The Legislature adjourned sine die on Aug. 25, and Brewer has until Sept. 5 to sign or veto the budget package it passed. The budget is strikingly similar to one vetoed by Brewer following the end of the regular session in July, and Brewer is expect to veto this package as well because it does include the ballot referral she has been pushing for on a three-year, one-cent sales tax increase. Brewer’s July 1 veto was immediately followed by a call for a special session to begin just days later, a move met by sharp criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
As usual, Brewer declined to say what action she would take on the budget. But she reiterated her insistence that any budget she signs must include provisions for increased state revenue.
“It’s sitting there in plain sight, and I think about it every day and every night. The bottom line is now I’ve got 10 days in order to determine what we’re going to do,” she said of the budget package.
The Democratic proposal reverses hundreds of millions in budget cuts and reinstates the property equalization tax, which is expected to bring in about $250 million during the 2010 fiscal year, if it is not permanently repealed first. The repeal of that tax has been a top Republican priority since before the session began.
Brewer acknowledged that it might be difficult to grant Democrats enough concessions to garner their support without losing hard-fought Republican votes. “It’s always difficult when you have to negotiate. Everybody has to compromise. But I think we’re all of the mindset, I hope, that we’re going in there to come up with a solution,” she said.
So far, Brewer said, the five-party talks have been productive.
“We’ve got the majority and the minority and myself working around my conference table, trying to come up with a negotiated agreement on how we can get the referral out to the people of Arizona for a temporary sales tax,” Brewer said. “I’m hopeful that shortly I will be able to sign the budgets and get legislation through on a special session and get the proposal out there so people can vote on it in January.”