Gov. Jan Brewer’s vetoes of a half-dozen bills sponsored by fellow Republicans are raising eyebrows, with some conservatives questioning whether she is still one of them.
Never mind that she has signed more than 200 other bills from the GOP-led Legislature.
They wanted her to OK bills on school choice and religious rights, among others, as well as one that would have made the state the first to require presidential candidates to prove their natural born citizenship to get on the ballot.
That last one has become a pet cause to some conservatives who believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore ineligible to hold the nation’s highest office.
It was too much even for Brewer, a Republican who last year became the public face of the state’s controversial immigration law and used it to help her win election.
The so-called birther bill was a “huge distraction” that would have tarnished the state’s reputation and hindered efforts to turn around the state’s ailing economy, she told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“From my perspective, knowing what I believe the Constitution says and the information that I had, that it would be something that wouldn’t reflect well on our state,” she said.
Brewer said she based her sign-or-veto decisions on a standard of what’s right for the state.
One example was her veto of a bill that would have allowed guns on college campuses.
Brewer, who in the past two years signed major bills championed by gun-rights advocates, said in her veto letter that the bill was poorly written and might have been interpreted to also apply to K-12 schools.
A school-choice bill and two tax-cut measures were vetoed because the price tags would have undermined the cash-short state’s just-approved budget, she said.
Republican Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican who sponsored the guns bill, said Brewer tacked to the right in the run-up to the 2010 election by signing the immigration law, known as SB1070, last spring. But now she’s showing her true colors with her vetoes, he said.
“It’s kind of disappointing because we’re going to see this year that Brewer is not a conservative,” he said.
By the numbers, Brewer’s seven vetoes through Tuesday are far short of the total bills she signed.
“We’ve had a lot more signed than we’ve had lost,” said Republican Rep. Andy Tobin, the House majority leader.
Brewer has signed bills creating a new voucher program for special education students, easing requirements to get a concealed-weapon permit, giving a tie-breaker adoption preference to married couples and restricting union activities.
Brewer also has yet to get an anti-abortion bill she won’t sign.
Last month, she worked with Republican fiscal hawks on a budget-balancing plan that included deeper spending cuts and less gimmickry than she originally proposed.
“I don’t think her overall politics have changed that much,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Tucson Democrat. “We’ve seen her sign far more bad legislation this year than we’ve seen her veto.”
Patterson cited the new $8.3 billion budget.
The budget is largely built on a Medicaid spending cut that Brewer has proposed be accomplished by reducing enrollment by approximately 140,000 people through freezes on new signups for certain categories of low-income adults.
Brewer’s relations with the Legislature’s majority Republicans haven’t always been smooth.
Brewer was Arizona’s elected secretary of state when was elevated to the governor’s office in January 2009 when Democrat Janet Napolitano resigned to serve in the Obama administration.
Brewer vetoed key parts of a Republican budget that year, and it took her nearly a year to get enough lawmakers to agree to hold a special election on her proposal for a temporary sales tax increase to help bail out the state’s finances.
More recently, sponsors of several of the bills she vetoed this year complained that her office didn’t telegraph any concerns or objections in time for the bills to be adjusted.
Some lawmakers and others said they don’t see Brewer changing her ideology and that more likely her vetoes partly reflect that she’s emboldened by winning a full term last November.
Add in that term limits bar Brewer from running for re-election as governor and that she’s said she won’t run for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2014.
“You can be somewhat less compromising or alternatively more focused on your own plans, your own vision when there’s no subsequent election to worry about,” said lobbyist Lee Miller, a state Republican Party activist.
Brewer said it is simpler: Her vetoes show her willingness to make unpopular but correct decisions.
“I’m a straight-shooter, I’m a truth-teller,” she said. “I made some tough decisions.”