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Brewer mum on referendum advice

Gov. Jan Brewer won’t say whether voters should support a ballot measure she and the Republican-led Legislature used to fill a gap in the state budget she signed this year by taking cash from an early childhood program.

Brewer told The Associated Press during an interview that she still likes her proposal to accept an offer by the First Things First program’s leadership to provide the state with an interest-free loan.

But she wasn’t willing to say “yes” or “no” when asked how she thinks voters should vote on Proposition 302 to eliminate the program and take its money permanently.

Lawmakers voted last March to put the referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. Because the program was created by voters, eliminating it or making significant changes must be resubmitted to voters.

The budget includes an assumption that voters will approve ending First Things First and transferring its tobacco tax funding into the general treasury.

Rejecting Proposition 302 would increase the state’s budget shortfall.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff has estimated that voter rejection of Proposition 302 would carve a $345 million hole in the $8.5 billion budget, contributing to a shortfall of up to $825 million.

During the AP interview Tuesday, Brewer carefully mulled over a question about how voters should decide the ballot question.

She responded that she still favors accepting a large interest-free loan from the First Things First program, as she had proposed in her January 2010 proposal.

Lawmakers decided instead to ask voters to eliminate the program and shift its tobacco-tax revenue to the general fund, she said.

That was a change she had to accept to get a budget approved, she said. “I would continue to support borrowing from First Things First.”

Democratic challenger Terry Goddard, who opposes Proposition 302, said in a separate AP interview that Brewer can’t deny she supports the ballot measure.

“Of course she is. It’s in her budget. She signed that budget,” Goddard said. “It was ‘I was for it before I was against it.’”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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