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Tue, Oct. 15

Gould blasts governor's budget plan
Brewer says more taxes only solution to economic woes

State Sen. Ron Gould

State Sen. Ron Gould

KINGMAN - Governor Jan Brewer has Arizona Republicans and some Democrats astonished and angered by her recent call for a $1 billion tax increase.

Brewer made the request when she revealed her five-point recovery plan to a joint session of the state Legislature Wednesday.

"I walked off the floor of the House," said Sen. Ron Gould. "I don't support this. She thinks it's more important to balance the state budget right now than to help the taxpayers balance theirs."

Currently, the state is projecting a $3 billion shortfall in the 2009/2010 budget.

"The truth is that Arizona is in a financial crisis," Brewer stated in a news release. "We cannot afford the size of government that we now have, and even a slowly recovering economy will not fix this problem."

Brewer's five-point recovery plan includes:

• Doubling the size of and restricting how money from the state's Rainy Day Fund is used. At the same time, limit raids on special-use funds.

• Ask voters to loosen restrictions on how funds for voter-approved projects are used.

• Look for additional areas to cut spending within the budget. The state has already cut more than $500 million from the budget since the beginning of this year.

• Reform the state tax structure by 2012 and provide tax reductions to encourage new jobs and job growth in the state. "We need a tax structure that promotes job growth, job sustainability, investment in Arizona and revenue stability," Brewer said.

• The last part of her plan calls for a $1 billion increase in state revenue through a temporary tax increases. "The (fiscal year 2009) revenues need to grow by 8 percent to meet the budget," Brewer said, "but instead have declined by 12 percent."

According to the Associated Press, Brewer later told reporters the tax increase likely would have to last several years but that its duration would be worked out with lawmakers, along with which tax should be increased.

In order for Brewer to increase taxes, two-thirds of the Legislature would have to support the increase or the Legislature would have to approve sending the request to Arizona voters.

"This is a multi-year problem," she said. "We must stop considering only a 2010 budget deal, and we must start considering a multi-year fix that secures our future."

She asked the Legislature to refrain from sending her any bills that did not provide a long-term fix to Arizona's budget crisis.

"We cannot balance this budget on cuts alone, nor on taxes alone, nor on federal stimulus dollars alone," she told the Associated Press. "We cannot place all of the burden on our children and their schools. We cannot place all of the burden on the parents that need day care so they can go to work and stay off welfare. We cannot leave the sick on the streets alone to fend for themselves only to overload our hospitals and our jails. We cannot be penny wise and pound foolish."

"She wants to take the easy way out with a tax increase," Gould said.

Gould would prefer to go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb, something he has been trying to accomplish for the last five years.

"We have duplicates and triplicates of programs," he said. "This is the best time to do it (cut spending)."

The state basically needs to find $1 billion to balance the 2010 budget, he said. Legislators have already found a way to cure approximately $2 billion of the shortfall by using $1 billion from the federal stimulus package and cutting spending by $1 billion.

Gould thinks the state could find another $1 billion in spending to cut.

"I feel betrayed by the governor," he said. "She's acting as if this is undoable."

Gould said he is not the only Republican Party member who is upset over the governor's request. The entire Republican leadership is upset, he said.

"We didn't think we were going to be in adversarial relationship with a Republican governor," he said. Republican leaders were blindsided by the governor's request for a tax increase. She never warned the Legislature that she was looking at this possibility.

"We're unhappy with the way she has been communicating with us," Gould said.

Brewer told the Republican leadership very little of her plans for office since she was sworn in. The party had chalked it up to the fact that Brewer was still finding her way in a new office. Now they're having second thoughts, he said.

"She's running her own agenda," he said.

She may find herself with an opponent in the Republican primary race for the governor's seat, he said.

Brewer's office did not respond before this story went to print.

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