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Brewer preparing budget protecting her priorities

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Outgoing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday she is preparing a budget proposal that protects her top priorities but that she acknowledges can be ignored by governor-elect Doug Ducey.

Brewer said her budget will spare education, child welfare and mental health services from big cuts that will be needed as she seeks to fill a projected $1 billion deficit for the budget year that begins July 1. But she said it will difficult to avoid including big spending cuts in other areas.

“There are several things that are very protected in that budget, that I’ll be guarding very carefully,” Brewer said, ticking off the three top priorities. “So I’ve got those priorities, they’ve always been my priorities and they will continue to be my priorities.”

But the Republican governor said it will be “probably be very, very difficult,” to avoid major cuts in other programs, especially since Ducey has promised not to raise taxes. And she acknowledge that Ducey can take her proposal and change it however he likes, even if that means cuts to the new Department of Child Safety or behavioral health services.

“I think they will probably take my budget that’s been drafted by my staff and then go in there and address the issues that they feel are important or not so important,” Brewer said. “He’ll be governor, he can do whatever he wants to do.”

Ducey, also a Republican, takes office Jan. 5 and will roll out his budget on Jan. 16, meaning Brewer’s efforts will save him time. Brewer budget director John Arnold is leading the effort to craft her new budget, and he also is part of Ducey’s transition team. That means he’ll likely leave plenty of options available for Ducey as he takes charge.

The budget proposal won’t be made public, Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Ducey welcomes the governor’s input, but he did not give any additional comment.

Brewer called the looming budget crisis — a revenue shortfall of more than 10 percent of this budget year’s $9.3 billion in spending — a challenge that Ducey can overcome. She herself faced a much bigger shortfall when she became governor after Janet Napolitano resigned in 2009 to take a job in the Obama Administration.

“Coming from where I came from it doesn’t seem like such an enormous task — we were faced with a $3 billion deficit,” Brewer said. “You just have to get a plan and you have to decide what it is and what your priorities are and move forward and then stick to your guns and get it done.”

Brewer didn’t have the chance to work with Napolitano on a budget proposal when she took office. Napolitano had stayed in office and presented her own budget proposal after accepting Barack Obama’s offer to become his Homeland Security secretary, then resigned.

The state, mired in the throes of the Great recession, made massive spending cuts in Brewer’s first years in office, including cuts to those top priorities Brewer is now trying to protect.

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