Q&A with Governor Jan Brewer
The 2013 legislative session ended with a bang, and Gov. Jan Brewer is hoping the bad blood and raw feelings won’t carry over to this year.
The fireworks from last year’s Medicaid expansion fight are over, but there’s still work to do. As the governor enters her final legislative session – Brewer insists she can and might run again, though election law experts disagree and would-be successors are campaigning hard for her job – she plans to focus her attention on education, public safety and economic development.
Recent revelations that thousands of cases went uninvestigated by Child Protective Services also loom over the 2014 session. Brewer, along with lawmakers, is looking for a solution to the troubled department.
Last year’s session ended on a pretty acrimonious note. Do you think that bad blood will carry over to this year?
I certainly hope not. I think that we’re all grown-ups and that we deal with those kinds of issues and then we move on. We’ve got a state to run and people to represent. So we all better work hard to get along and get the people’s work done.
How is your relationship with Andy Biggs and Andy Tobin after they were steamrolled at the end of the 2013 session?
I think that we have a good working relationship. I communicate with them and look forward to moving into next session to do the people’s work.
Will last year’s budget and Medicaid coalition stay together, or will it go back to the majority Republicans running the show?
You’re asking me a hypothetical question here. And I can look at my crystal ball and I could say a lot of things. But the coalition is part of the Legislature, so you’d probably be best to talk to the Legislature.
I was grateful to each and every one of those people that participated and did the right thing for Arizona. They did the math, and it worked. And it made a big difference for Arizona.
Will legislative Democrats have a seat at the table again for this year’s budget negotiations, as they did last year?
A seat at the table during budget negotiations? The Democrats have always contacted me and have talked to me about budgets and what it is that they feel is necessary to keep our state healthy. And I always have an open ear to work with them. They too are elected by the people of Arizona.
What will your top priorities be for the 2014 session?
I think that, as usual, it’s about the budget and keeping Arizona healthy. Those things that are important to all of us, things that have been on the forefront, like CPS and education and public safety, those things. Top priorities.
What would you like to do with CPS this session?
I have sent a CARE Team to work and they’ve been working very diligently, and I think that they’ve done a tremendous job. And I think it’s important that everybody remember that we have to find out what the cause is. And once we find the cause then we will find a solution. And hopefully that can be completed sometime next year.
Do you plan to keep Clarence Carter on as DES director? Does he still have your confidence?
I have not reached that point at this time to make a decision regarding that.
We’ll have some extra money for the budget this year. How would you like to see it spent?
There is no such thing as extra money.
Well, more money than last year.
Because of good planning and budgetary diligence. And we’re very proud of that. And as we move forward, we’ll see where it can be best used and how we will use it wisely.
How much of a fight do you expect over what to do with that money?
Well, everybody always has their own personal concerns of where they want to spend money and what they want to do with it. And we have to come to an agreement how to spend it and spend it wisely so that it affects all the people of Arizona.
Do you plan to push the K-12 performance funding plan that you proposed last year?
I think that we have to require our students to achieve a higher standard, and I think that it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that our teachers are rewarded for their successes. And I believe strongly in that and I will continue down that path.
You haven’t said yet whether you’ll attempt to run for another term. But if this is your last session, what would you like to accomplish in your final year?
That’s hypothetical too because I haven’t made up my mind yet. I probably will make that up and let people know sometime in February.
At this point in your career, what would you say has been your legacy as governor?
That I had inherited the worst budget deficit in the history of the state. The economy was in a tank. It was the deepest recession that we faced in our state and that I was at the helm and did the right thing, made the right choices and got the job done.
Is that how you’d like to be remembered as governor?
I think so. Not to mention that we did the landmark settlement on the Arnold v. Sarn, which was a huge issue.
There’s been talk of the anti-Medicaid expansion Republicans in the Legislature pushing for retaliation against Republican members of your coalition. How will you react if that happens?
Shame on them.
Would you get involved in the fight if that happened?
There we go again with hypotheticals. It depends on what happens, I suppose. But shame on them.
You had a disagreement with Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod at the end of the 2013 session over Medicaid expansion. Have you two buried the hatchet since then?
I don’t know if there was a hatchet or not. I was disappointed because I really, truly felt that she was going to stay out of that because AHCCCS restoration, Medicaid restoration had nothing to do with pro-life or pro-choice, period. And she had assured me that she wasn’t going to get into that discussion. And in the end, she did, so it was disappointing. But, you know, I’m a big girl. I move on.