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Goddard says Brewer’s ‘balanced-budget’ claims are false

It’s often said that all budgets are balanced on the day they’re passed, even if they don’t stay that way for long. But gubernatorial hopeful Terry Goddard is accusing Gov. Jan Brewer of failing to meet that old budget maxim.

Goddard, the Democratic nominee for governor, blasted Brewer in a Sept. 1 debate, saying her claims to have balanced the budget are completely false. The budget, he said, was based on precarious contingencies and false assumptions about state revenue, and hasn’t been balanced since Brewer took office in January 2009.

In the debate, Goddard said Brewer has failed to meet her obligation under the Arizona Constitution to balance the budget. Alluding to the ongoing budget crisis, Goddard said the fiscal 2010 budget faced a $450 million deficit the moment it was passed more than a year ago. When the final, amended budget for fiscal 2010 was passed last March, he said, it was still in the red by $150 million.

“At no point in her time as governor has there been a balanced budget,” Goddard told the ~Arizona Capitol Times~.

Brewer defended her hard-fought budgets, saying they were balanced. She said she’s made tough but necessary decisions about the budget and the state’s deficits, while Goddard has offered nothing but criticism.

Doug Cole, a spokesman for Brewer’s campaign, said all budgets are based on assumptions about revenues. If revenues don’t meet expectations, as is often the case, lawmakers go back and fix the budget, he said.

“Every budget is only balanced on the day that it’s passed. That’s the history of legislative budgets in any state,” Cole said. “Every year … there are reconciliation bills for the current fiscal year. That’s been the case probably every year since Arizona’s been a state.”

One of Goddard’s chief complaints is that Brewer’s fiscal 2011 budget relies on voters approving two ballot measures in November that would put about $450 million into the budget. Proposition 301 would transfer $124 million from the state’s Land Conservation Fund into the general fund, while Proposition 302 would sweep $325 million from First Things First, an early childhood development program.

If Brewer wins in November and one or both of those propositions fail, Goddard said, voters won’t realize that the governor’s budget claims are false until the moment after she’s elected to a full term.

“I think the big secret of this election is the distinct possiblity that this will happen, that we will end up on Nov. 3 if Jan Brewer is elected with a billion-plus budget deficit and nobody knows how to deal with it,” Goddard said.

Goddard, who has served as attorney general since 2003, said he doesn’t know how he would balance the budget in January if elected because he has no idea what kind of baseline Brewer would leave him with. Even if Prop. 302 passes – Goddard said he will campaign against it – Goddard said he doubts it will bring in as much money as Brewer assumes.

Cole said Goddard’s lack of answers about how he would solve the budget crisis has been a defining feature of his campaign. Brewer began challenging Goddard in January to propose his own budget proposal for fiscal 2011, but Goddard chose not to do so.

During the Sept. 1 debate when Goddard criticized some of the $2.2 billion in cuts Brewer has made, Brewer shot back “Tell me where you would get the money to make up the difference.”

Brewer also chastised Goddard for waiting so long to take a position on Proposition 100, the temporary sales-tax increase she pushed for, which voters approved overwhelmingly in May. After months of fence-sitting on the sales-tax proposition, Goddard said he would support it just days before the election.

“Terry Goddard has not offered one solution or idea to fix the problem. All he does is sit on the sidelines and criticize. That is not leadership,” Cole said. “Absolutely he should be offering plans. He’s been running for governor for two years.”

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