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Governor to address state budget crisis

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – Governor Jan Brewer gives her first -- and perhaps last -- state
of the state speech this afternoon. Arizona Public Radio's Howard
Fischer sat down with her last week to talk about what she plans
to say and other issues.

Brewer said there's a simple central theme to the message she
will give when she comes to the podium.

(That it's incumbent upon us collectively, that all of us work
together and resolve the catastrophic crisis that Arizona is
facing. And we can do that by creating jobs. And we need to do
that as quickly as possible.)

But Brewer, who became governor a year ago after Janet Napolitano
quit, faces a more immediate problem. The state faces a deficit
of close to $1.5 billion for the current fiscal year and the
prospect of $3 billion in red ink for the new one. The governor
asked lawmakers in March for a temporary hike in the state sales
tax. So far she hasn't been able to marshal the votes. Now, with
a year lost, the governor is going to make another stab at it.
What makes it different now?

(My discussions with leadership and legislators in the last
couple of months leads me to believe that they do, indeed,
understand the gravity of it. And they do, indeed, understand
what is happening to our great state. And that they feel, now,
they need to address the issue. Perhaps, in the past, the gravity
of the deficit didn't register to the extreme that it is, for
whatever that reason is.)

At this point, Brewer has her work cut out for her. While her
proposal to refer the one-cent hike in sales taxes to the ballot
got out of the House last year, it fell short in the Senate where
some members of her own Republican Party continue to refuse to go
along. And so far no Democrats have signed on. So does she need
to pull out a 2-by-4 to line up the votes?

(No. I don't intend to whack them upside the head. I intend to
give them the information, the fundamentals of what it's going to
take to turn the state around for the people of Arizona. It all
is in THEIR hands. And if we're going to grow the economy, if
we're going to get new businesses here, keep the companies that
are already here, that have stuck it out with us, then we have
got to have a government that is functioning.)

Temporary higher taxes are only part of Brewer's plan. She said
Arizona needs to lower it's taxes on business -- though not

But in two or three years we can go in there and adjust our tax
structure to make it more competitive so that businesses can
thrive. And businesses will want to come. And we can be
competitive with those companies that are in other states that
are looking for a move, to benefit from them bringing their
businesses here to Arizona to provide those jobs that we so
desperately need.

Brewer said Arizona prospered in the past because people moved
here. That fueled the construction industry which until three
years ago employed closed to one person out of every 10. Then the
national economy tanked.

(We can't live on red tile roofs. That's why I have reached out
over and over and over again to different kinds of businesses
that have reached out to Arizona, even to those businesses that
haven't reached out to Arizona I've reached out to. And hopefully
we'll made headway with.)

The speech comes as several Republicans already have announced
their intent to challenge her in the primary. And if Brewer
survives she has to face off against likely Democratic candidate
Terry Goddard. Brewer said that is irrelevant.

(Well, I'm not giving my State of the State speech in regards to
my election. I'm giving my State of the State speech to the
people of Arizona and to the Legislature to assure them that Jan
Brewer's got a plan and that she's concerned about the economy
and a solution to bring Arizona back to its feet, to make it
successful. And the sooner we act, the sooner it's going to
happen. It's a strong message, one that can be delivered. And
when it's delivered, we'll see the sun rising. It's as simple as

For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.