KINGMAN - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer told the Miner Tuesday that she expects a budget bill from the Legislature to be on her desk Friday. The bill is expected to include a measure that would put a 1-cent sales tax on the May ballot.
"I'm very encouraged that it has made its way out of the House Appropriations Committee by a party-line vote," she said. Brewer was in Kingman Tuesday to meet with the Mohave County Republican Men's Forum and local officials to pound home the need for a temporary sales tax and a bill to fix the state's current budget problems. She also stopped by the Miner.
"This is a very difficult time for the people of Arizona," she said. "This budget is going to be very difficult for people. I don't say this lightly, everyone will be affected." The current cuts to the state budget will trickle down and affect all residents by some time in August or September, she said.
According to the Associated Press, the current bill would cut $218.3 million from education for full-day kindergarten, dropping more than 310,000 people from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, divert more than $450 million from voter initiatives, abolish the Arizona Juvenile Corrections Department and cut state employee's pay by 5 percent.
Some of those programs were unsustainable in the state's current budget crisis, she said.
Brewer blamed the state's current problems on the former Legislature and Gov. Janet Napolitano. Both the Legislature and Napolitano overspent the state's revenue on new programs and services during the boom in the economy. They even raided the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to fuel their spending.
Brewer said she and the state were left holding the bag when Napolitano left for her new position as President Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, she said. "The state was on the brink of collapse," she said. When she took office, Brewer tried everything to avoid raising taxes. She cut the state budget by $1 billion and then looked for more cuts.
"In my 28 years as an elected official, I have never once voted to raise taxes," she told a packed house at the Mohave County Republican Men's Forum.
"The problem was worse than imagined. We were headed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I resisted it as long as I could, but I had to face reality. There was no other way," she said. "The depth of the problem is so severe it cannot be solved by cuts alone. Doing the right thing almost always means doing the hard thing."
She promised that the 1-cent sales tax was a temporary tax. It is designed to go into effect June 1 and end May 31, 2013.
If the sales tax does not pass the May ballot, the state will have to make $1 billion more in cuts and the state could be in this mess for another eight to nine years, she said.
Education, public safety and home healthcare would be at the top of the list.
Cutting spending across the board won't work, she said. The state has more students, inmates and residents in need of Medicare. Plus there are voter-mandated programs that have to be funded.
"I have to present a balanced budget to the state. It's all got to fit perfectly," she said.
She did not expect and would not ask for another tax if this one passed, Brewer said.
The sales tax won't be a cure-all, she said.
A good education system is desperately needed in this down economy, Brewer said. Businesses won't move to a state that doesn't have a skilled workforce. The state can't have a skilled workforce without a good education system.
The state also needs to become more attractive to businesses.
"They (businesses) have other choices," she said.
"We have to reward businesses who stay here. We can't tax them to death, and we have to be competitive with other states."
She hated some of the budget solutions passed by the Legislature and her office so far, especially the sale and lease back of state buildings and the closing of rest stops on Arizona highways.
She also didn't like shifting costs to cities and counties by closing the Juvenile Corrections Department, but there was no choice, she said.
Even with a budget bill and a 1-cent sales tax, there are still tough times ahead, Brewer said.
"Revenue is still depressed, spending must be further reduced. Jobs will be shed and services will be curtailed or lost," she said.
"I did not create this, but I intend to resolve it," Brewer said.
"Challenges arise to show us what we're made of. They're a test of our values."