Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 23, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Governor Jan Brewer


  • Ted Simons talks with Governor Jan Brewer about the current special session and the recently wrapped-up regular session of the Arizona State Legislature.
Guests:
  • Jan Brewer - Governor of Arizona
Category: Government

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. After a difficult legislative session and now three weeks into a special session, Arizona is still without a balanced budget. It's been a challenging time for Governor Jan Brewer, who joins me now in the protocol room on the ninth floor of the executive tower. Governor, good to see you again.

Jan Brewer:
Good to see you.

Ted Simons:
These are challenging times. Talk to us about that.

Jan Brewer:
They are challenging types. For everybody in Arizona. You know, we're in the middle of the largest crisis Arizona's ever faced and we have business to do. And we're trying to get that done.

Ted Simons:
Have you or your staff taken part in the budget negotiations going on right now, special session?

Jan Brewer:
Oh, absolutely. I've been in communication with leadership on both sides and members on both sides of the aisle and trying to come up with a resolution to the crisis, not unlike what they're facing throughout the country. I think interestingly enough, people keep looking at California, thinking that California is in such terrible shape, but when you look at it, Arizona per capita is worse off than California. So we have a big problem and I think people want results. They want something to take place that makes a difference.

Ted Simons:
I asked if you've been involved with staff, because we're hearing criticism from lawmakers that they're not getting enough out of the governor's office in terms of these negotiations. Would you respond?

Jan Brewer:
I've made myself available, I've been in contact. They've been up here in the office and I've tried to give us ideas on what I think we should do. It's important.

Ted Simons:
Are you concerned that the idea of an increase, one-cent increase on the sales tax, that that idea is not going to make the ballot?

Jan Brewer:
Well, I said we would have to have and generate more revenue for the state of Arizona. Of course, I'm concerned. I know what a difference it's going to make to the people of Arizona. But I feel confident we will be able to generate some kind of revenue and I've said it in the past. You know, everything is on the table. I suggested the one-cent sales tax, temporary tax; with the idea I think people can understand that. That it's easy to be able to collect appropriately for over the next three years. And I think it overwhelmingly is supported by the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
And I was going to ask that. Why you've been so adamant about this. You've been pretty strong on this and there's a fight from all different sides. Why so adamant? Is this something that simply has to be done as you see it?

Jan Brewer:
Not necessarily. However, I do travel all over the state, speak to a lot of different organizations and groups and meet a lot of people and I believe the sentiment from the public is they want to support a one-cent temporary tax and want to be able to have that opportunity to vote on it and, you know, if the legislature comes forward with something that's different, I certainly will look at it with a very open mind and move forward with that discussion. But I think we need to get something that the people support, something that will deliver the dollars to our state, to get us over this hump and it's not just a one-year issue. We have to look into 2011-2012, so --

Ted Simons:
And I want to talk about that in a minute. The leaders, house and senate leaders, in the past, will tell anyone who wants to listen that they see the increase in the sales tax as a jobs killer. Your response.

Jan Brewer:
It's interesting, nobody likes taxes. Jan Brewer doesn't either. But the fact of the matter is we cannot come in and decimate our state and services we provide. Certainly, education is very, very important. And I believe that we've got economists and people in the financial world that can speak on both sides of that. But I think it's an absolute necessity at this point in time. Not to eat the seed corn of our future and to not of course lose our stimulus dollars. The federal government has a lot of mandates on the state and if we don't come to a certain level, we lose our federal dollars too. That would be another blow on top of it. On education and healthcare services.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, on the other side, the Democrats are saying it's an aggressive tax. Doesn't play fair with lower and middle income folks. What are you telling them?

Jan Brewer:
Well, I listen and we talk about it. I certainly -- other states have broadened their base regarding sales tax as putting it on haircuts and pedicures and doctors' fees and now they've repealed it and I don't know if it's as aggressive as they believe it is.

Ted Simons:
So the idea of broadening the tax base to include these services, your thoughts on that? Would that be something you would be interested in, work toward, or is it a non-starter?

Jan Brewer:
We have talked about it, and I'm not really comfortable with it. I think, again, as I've met with people throughout the state of Arizona, they're not real comfortable with it. I know there's polls done out there in the last couple of months, three or four of them, and it was a topic that was asked of people, and overwhelmingly, people supported the one-cent temporary sales tax, versus the broadening of the base on the sales tax.

Ted Simons:
There are those that say that increase of a tax basically just kicks the can down the road, postpones, delays what they see as a structural deficit problem. Valid argument?

Jan Brewer:
In regards of raising --

Ted Simons:
The sales tax.

Jan Brewer:
For a temporary sales tax?

Ted Simons:
Yes.

Jan Brewer:
We're hoping we can see the economy turn around in the next three years. That's why I've, from the beginning, said that it's not a one-year problem. It's probably a three-year problem. Possibly four before we see the economy turn around. But what we have attempted to do and I think that the legislature would agree, we needed to go in and needed to cut spending. We needed to do that right away. Which we did. As governor, we did the largest cut in the history of the state in spending and that helps a whole lot and then, of course, we had to maintain our maintenance of effort. To receive our federal share of dollars and certainly, out of the shoot, agreed to accept the stimulus dollars to bridge us over this period of time. And then if we get that temporary revenue and we do budget reform and tax reform, hopefully in three or four years, we'll have the state turned around. It's a long-term problem and we need to solve it now. We have to look at it as an opportunity and plan toward the future. It's very, very important that we just don't look at it for one year and wait until next year to address those issues.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, what happens if, let's say, it does make the ballot and fails? Is there a plan B? What does the state do?

Jan Brewer:
We'll abide by the wishes of the voters. We'll have to do extraordinary cutting in our spending. There's no other way to get around it. We've already cut tremendously, like I said. The largest cuts in the history of the state and if the people of Arizona feel that's what they want done, in regards to education and health and human services, and certainly public safety, then we'll be forced to do that. We'll have no other choice.

Ted Simons:
Is that how you see this? A chance for Arizona citizens to say what they want? To help with services, it's a way for that voice to be heard?

Jan Brewer:
Absolutely. I think the people out there are very, very wise and I think when you look at the budget as a whole, 50% is education. I really strongly believe that moms and dads out in the community want their kids educated. A good education for them and certainly know that if we start cutting, a majority of the cuts will come from education and from health. And you know, there again, that's our future.

Ted Simons:
The state property tax equalization rate is up for renewal. There's a move to get that permanently repealed. I know you had a phase-out in your plan. Is that something that you are willing to go ahead and get back on the books if it helps the state avoid what you see as pretty drastic cuts?

Jan Brewer:
Oh, absolutely. You know, as we're negotiating in the special session and looking at everything all over again, it's real important that everything is there for us to work with, and I'm agreeable with whatever solves the problem for the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
So if it means getting democrats on your side as far as the sales tax, I know they have their own concerns regarding the temporary increase of the sales tax, if it means their support there, there might be support for you to get that state property tax back on the books?

Jan Brewer:
Well, you know, yes. I would say yes. The fact of the matter is I want to see it permanently repealed, of course, also, and so it is carefully orchestrated process, as we move through and do all of this, because there's a lot of things that are floating out there in response to trying to solve the problem and to find results to serve the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about some of them. What else is out there in terms of revenue? You mentioned largest per capita deficit in the United States. It's here in Arizona. It's a big problem. There's a state property tax -- but that doesn't come close to fill -- what else needs to be done to get revenue into the state?

Jan Brewer:
That's probably something that I wanted to address as soon as I got to become governor and the bottom line is that we have to build our economy up and by doing that, I have totally revamped the department of commerce to be more efficient and do the job they're supposed to do because we have to be able to encourage employers to come to Arizona. And then we have to be sure that they provide good paying jobs to boost our economy. I mean, that's the number one priority of mine. And it ought to be for everybody in the state of Arizona and we need to do that very quickly, and we need to do it earnestly and then we need to reward, in my opinion, the employers that have stuck it out with us by doing tax reform and that is what floats Arizona, is our economy and our businesses and our jobs. And you know, we lived on that bubble for a long time during the good times and that was construction and construction jobs. We need to bring other industry in here.

Ted Simons:
You talk about tax reform, the idea of a flat tax kind of popped up toward the end of the legislative session. Your thoughts on a flat tax?

Jan Brewer:
The details of it, of course, are kind of somewhat complicated because how it affects the lower end of the wage earners and how it affects the high earners' end of it is interesting. In my opinion, the information I've been provided and I do believe it actually ends up raising taxes in that middle area. So, you know, if you're really down at the lower, lower end, you get a tax break and the higher end, a tax break and those of us in the center, we get a big tax increase. I don't know that's the way I would like to see the state go.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned you wanted to see the state more competitive, to give a break to businesses already here and these things and yet the critics say any kind of tax increase, the one-cent increase, temporary as it may be, is going to hurt business to the point of a chilling effect on economic growth. Is that a valid argument and how far does that argument go in terms of you got to help business, you've got a lot of people in need out there?

Jan Brewer:
I think everybody that lives in Arizona and loves this great state of ours; they want what's best for Arizona on the whole. And if we start and don't address this crisis in a realistic manner and everybody's going to have to share a little bit of that pain, but if we go in and start slashing and devastating certain things that we need to have a good fruitful future, that's not good for business either. So we're going to have to supplement, temporarily, in order to turn the whole situation around. You know, I've spoken to a lot of the business community. You know, again, spoke to the legislature early on and gave a five-point plan hoping they would grab that and work in that direction. And I think it's imperative that when you're faced with this catastrophe and -- other states, but we need to look at the big picture of budget reform. I mean, in the good days, Ted, a few years ago, they -- they spent all the rainy day fund. And it wasn't even raining. When times are good, we spend and spend and now here we are in this crisis so we need -- the legislature and I need to look forward for the next future, the next three or four years. And do budget reform. Do tax reform. Address the issue of proposition 105 and do spending cuts and then do a temporary sales tax or whatever we come to agreement on to get that revenue in there. And along with the stimulus dollars and with good budgeting we can turn our state around and we can do it right. We can do it proper. And that boosts everybody in the state of Arizona and it doesn't kill our future in regards to our children.

Ted Simons:
Are you seeing an ideological element to this? That any tax at any time is negative coming from the legislative leaders?

Jan Brewer:
It's unfortunate, I think. Sometimes -- you know nobody likes taxes. I think they're making a huge mistake at this point in time. And I believe that it's absolutely necessary in order to do what we need to do and that responsibility is on us and I don't totally agree with them in the fact that it is devastating to cause the recession to get worse if we do a temporary sales tax. And I'm perfectly comfortable with giving that opportunity to the voters of Arizona to make that decision and I will abide by whatever they say. But, Ted, if we don't do the important things we need to do in order to balance our budget, we will not have our stimulus dollars anymore. So there you go. Another billion dollars automatically out there. If we don't get a temporary sales tax, that's another billion out of there. And if we don't do budget reform and more cutting, you know, we -- we have a $10 billion budget and we get $7 billion in revenue. We've got to address all those issues so that we can turn it around. I mean, you do it with great urgency.

Ted Simons:
Do you have any second thoughts on the line item vetoes at all?

Jan Brewer:
No.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Thank you. I ask that question because some saw it awfully risky considering stimulus money and matching funds for Medicaid were put at risk. Again, did you see risk there?

Jan Brewer:
It's always risky when dealing with a budget. No, I did not. I was able to go in and line item certain parts of the budget and then able to go in and veto certain parts of the budget, and the state is running at this point in time. Certainly, we need to address it quickly, but it was the right thing do for the people of Arizona. It was the right thing to do for education, for the most vulnerable in our state. And we need to get back to the drawing board and need to do it right and we have that opportunity, hopefully, quickly.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of stimulus funds, there's some concern the state wasn't on the same page as the feds. The state treasurer -- they were bulling the state. Do you think the feds were bullying Arizona as far as stimulus funds were concerned?

Jan Brewer:
No, I don't. We've been and I've been in contact with vice president Biden and my financial people have been filling out the forms and it's not an easy process but we made application and we were one of the first states, by the way, to receive the stimulus dollars for transportation. For the shovel-ready opportunities which, of course, create jobs out there and we know that our infrastructure needs a lot of repair. So they've been working with us pretty fairly, I believe. It's not easy and certainly with the stimulus dollars, I said from the beginning, I would accept those dollars. But didn't want to accept any with strings attached so we wouldn't have to continue programs in the future we couldn't maintain. But those dollars we could accept to fill in the gap during this time. It was very, very important. Helped us, of course, to keep the maintenance of effort for education and maintenance of effort for healthcare. In healthcare, we would have lost three dollars for every one that the state puts in. It's a lot of dollars.

Ted Simons:
Do you think the bills you signed and the ones you haven't, or never even got a chance, were they fully vetted? Were you confident that the legislative leaders and lawmakers knew what they were sending to you as far as the fine points?

Jan Brewer:
I know the legislature takes their position very, very seriously and I do believe they were diligent about what they were doing and certainly they had time on their own, if, in fact, it doesn't happen, a lot in committee, I know they were probably researching and having a great input from staff to know what they were voting on. I sincerely believe that. As we were up on the ninth floor, as the bills moving through, my great staff were out there and they were reading the bills and dissecting them and getting fiscal notes on them. And when they arrived, by the way, at the end of the session, we worked 16, 17 hours a day to make sure that everything was the way they thought they were coming to us at that point in time. But we reviewed each and every one of those bills very, very carefully from my point of view and I believe the legislature did also.

Ted Simons:
Confident there's no surprises down the road?

Jan Brewer:
We certainly hope not. We were cautious, careful. That's our job, by the way.

Ted Simons:
I got you. Yeah. Your job as well is, of course, to take some shots from all sides. You are the governor.

Jan Brewer:
Really?

Ted Simons:
Yeah, I'm sure you're well aware. Former Governor Symington said you're damaged politically because of your stance on the temporary sales tax and other things. But when you hear him say that, what do you think?

Jan Brewer:
I'm disappointed of course, because, you know, I would have liked to talk and give him the kinds of information we have. Because he's a bright person. I don't think he really understands the whole concept of what we're going through. He certainly doesn't have access to the kinds of information I have available to me. So I find it regrettable. You know? I believe I'm doing the right thing and I think that's important and I believe the public believes that I'm doing the right thing. So, you know, it's kind of an animal that goes with the territory, I guess. People are always shooting at the governor. But I govern the whole state. I've got a huge responsibility and I'm going to do what is right for Arizona. I will not allow the state of Arizona to go into bankruptcy and I will look for a good, good future for the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
I brought up Governor Symington because it quotes from Speaker Adams and President Burns and irresponsible and reckless and these things. And some folks are asking, what happened to Jan Brewer, the conservative? When you hear that, how do you respond?

Jan Brewer:
The conservative is still Jan Brewer the conservative. I've served in office going on 27 and a half years and I have a long fiscal record of being very, very responsible, but we're living in very interesting times. Unlike again what we've ever, ever seen in Arizona and you have to act responsible. You can't sit in an echo chamber and say, no, no, no. You have to provide results and do what is right for the people of Arizona and this is our opportunity to turn the state around and make those dramatic changes that should have been made a long time ago and I'm willing to do that. And I believe it's the right thing to do. I would never do anything that I didn't think was right. But we're doing what is good for Arizona, for the future. And that's what people have to remember. It's not just today. It's for the future.

Ted Simons:
Are you willing to keep up that fight in the future? In other words, would you -- are you still -- I don't know if you were -- but are you thinking for running for governor again? Or running for governor, period?

Jan Brewer:
There's been encouragement from people. But unfortunately, at this point in time, I'm totally focused on the urgency of the budget we're facing here and I think once we get that resolved I can make a decision and -- and determine at that time if I move forward or not. I certainly love the job as governor. You know, I wish it would have been at better times, easier times. But I believe I'm up to the job and I think we'll get through this and I think the people of Arizona should feel comfortable that between the legislature and myself, Arizona can be a leader during this crisis.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Jan Brewer:
Thank you so much.


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