Session Wrap 2014: UpClose with Gov. Jan Brewer

Jeremy Duda//May 28, 2014

Session Wrap 2014: UpClose with Gov. Jan Brewer

Jeremy Duda//May 28, 2014

Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Jan Brewer’s last regular legislative session was less eventful than in years past, even anticlimactic, according to the governor.

That doesn’t mean Brewer isn’t pleased with how her last regular session turned out. She got most of what she wanted in the budget. She passed her biggest economic development policy of the year. And she signed an anti-human trafficking bill that she said could serve as a model for other states.

In the meantime, Brewer faced yet another issue that put Arizona in the national spotlight. SB1062, which opponents decried as anti-gay and discriminatory, sparked a national media frenzy that ended when Brewer vetoed the controversial legislation.

The biggest issue of 2014, an overhaul of Arizona’s Child Protective Services, which will become a separate agency, is still looming. But Brewer said she expects no problems when that comes before the Legislature in an upcoming special session.

Brewer sat down with the Arizona Capitol Times to discuss the achievements of her last regular session, why she vetoed SB1062 and what she hopes to see from her successor as the hotly contested gubernatorial race intensifies.

How did it feel to end your last legislative session, or at least your last regular session?
I think that it was a very successful session. And I thought it was sort of anticlimactic. It was just quite smooth and I think everybody behaved well and we did good things for the state.

Why do you say it was a successful session? What do you feel you accomplished?
I certainly was successful in getting my budget through, which is again balanced and (with) a rainy day fund and a cash carry-forward. So under very difficult times, that’s a huge success. And without much contention. So I felt very, very good about that.

Certainly getting my tax package through with the electricity and manufacturing (taxes) being removed so that will encourage people to come here and make us competitive with other states was a big deal. So I’m very, very thrilled about that.

And certainly the human trafficking piece of legislation we were able to get through to make really big differences, I think, and become the model, if you will, for the country with our task force and our legislation.

All of those things are very important. And then, of course, moving forward our Child Protective Services issue is going to be huge. And I think we’re going to find resolve on that and no longer have to put Band-Aids on all those issues that I have faced personally as an elected official for 33 years.

Now that we’ve been able to separate it and start from scratch, I think that we will be in a position not to see so many poor children suffer and be tormented.

Aside from CPS, which is still pending, do you feel like you got everything you wanted this session? Is there anything you wanted but didn’t get?
I felt very comfortable. You know, there are a few tweaks there that I would have preferred that maybe possibly could have gone my way. But that’s part of the process.

But overwhelmingly, I think that I had a huge win. I think the state of Arizona had a huge win. And I think the Legislature got a win. So it doesn’t get much better than that, considering what we kind of started out with six years ago.

We’re hearing objections from lawmakers to some of the proposed CPS spending. Do you expect the special session to be contentious?
I don’t think so. I think we have done our homework. I think everybody wants the same results. I think that we’re moving forward in the direction of fixing something that we all know is terribly broken. And fortunately, because I was able to be prudent in the budget as was the Legislature, and then with the vetoes, it will almost be self-funded, so there’s not going to really be a big money issue.

Last year ended on a very rancorous note after the special session on Medicaid. Do you feel like any of that carried over to this year?
I would like to believe that it didn’t. It certainly didn’t with me. I knew that we had a state to govern and that we had to move forward and get our job done. I think that they realized that they had a responsibility to do what they were elected to do also. They know the rules and I know the rules. Together we got it done.

How much of a distraction was SB1062 this session?
From the beginning, I thought it was an unnecessary piece of legislation that certainly wasn’t going to address anything that we were facing here in Arizona. So why would they even debate it?

I got a little briefing on it. I looked at the bill, I think, the day before I left for Washington. I didn’t like the bill. It was a piece of legislation that I personally felt is going to be a total distraction. And we weren’t addressing any of the problems that they were … trying to address.

I went off to Washington, D.C., and the next thing I knew it had Crisco on its legs and then it would slide up here. And I immediately called home. And when I arrived that Monday, as soon as I could get out of D.C., we talked to the parties involved on both sides of the issue. And I made my decision and I vetoed within, what, three days?

That was something that kind of was irritating. It was, “Why did she take so long?” Come on. That’s why you have five days to veto a bill is that you consider it, you try to be diligent about what you’re doing.

And certainly with an issue this large, when there was such strong convictions on both sides, I thought that I owed it to the people on both sides to sit down in groups and to talk with them. And no one convinced me any differently after I spoke with them.

You’ve been a strong social conservative for 30 years in office.
I have. I still am a strong social conservative.

Considering that, did you have any misgivings about vetoing SB1062?
No. I don’t believe in discrimination.

It seemed like the Republicans at the Capitol all got along this year. Do you feel like there was much disagreement?

But you still issued your annual veto threat and bill moratorium over the budget?
Because I think this has to be our number one priority, and I think in the past there was a possibility that maybe they didn’t think I meant it when I said it. But then again, we were moving along. It (the budget) should have been done, I felt, from the beginning, earlier and more properly.

But it didn’t happen. So I had to remind them that our priority is getting a budget out of here. Difficult times call for difficult solutions, and we’ve had to make a lot of them. So let’s get the budget done, and then we can deal with all the other stuff, everyone’s go-home bills.

All eyes are now on the race to succeed you. Are you going to endorse in the GOP primary for governor?
I sure want to. Yes. It doesn’t do much good if you don’t endorse in the primary, if they can’t get through that.

I am looking at all my options and narrowing it down. And hopefully I find someone that I feel will carry on my plan that I had to enact six years ago to get us turned around and move in that direction. So that’s what I’m looking to do.

Do you know who you’re going to endorse, or who you’re leaning toward?
At this point I don’t. I think I’ve limited it down to about two.

Scott Smith is the only GOP candidate who supports some of your more controversial decisions you’ve made.
That’s true. But there’s lots of points on the other side, too. So we’ll see.

Is he one of the two?

Can you say who the other is?
I will say this — it’s very, very difficult because I know them all. I know some better than others. But I want to do the right thing, and not the right thing for me but the right thing for the state of Arizona. And they all are very well-qualified, I believe.

And they all have good strengths and some of them have weaknesses. But I want somebody that I can be assured that will carry on with the plan that I was forced, if you will, to enact and carry forward with the issues that I think are important to the state.

I don’t want to see it all fall apart, because if my plan is carried out, the state will have been completely turned around.