PHOENIX -- Dean Martin launched his gubernatorial campaign today with a promise to use armed National Guard troops to militarize the international border.
"What's the difference of guarding the Arizona border and guarding the Afghan border or guarding the Iraqi border,' the 35-year-old state treasurer said. "It's a very similar role.'
And Martin said the move actually would help the soldiers.
"The training that they could obtain in helping us secure our border is very easily translated to possible deployment overseas,' he said.
But much of the focus of Martin's campaign is the state's financial situation and the fact Arizona has been spending money faster than it has been taking it in. Martin said while the problem predates Jan Brewer's becoming governor a year ago, he clearly faults her for not doing more to fix the problem.
Martin specifically said he opposes Brewer's proposal for a temporary one-cent hike in the state's 5.6 percent sales tax to balance the budget until the economy improves.
"You cannot balance this budget by taking more money from the taxpayers we have left,' he said.
And Martin also said it was wrong of the Legislature to try to come up with some immediate cash with a plan to sell off $735 million of state buildings and then lease them back for the next 20 years.
"Each of us has to live within our own means,' he said. "And since government lives off our means, why should they be any different?'
He said state spending has to be brought back to the level it was five years ago to match current revenues.
But Martin repeatedly refused to provide specifics today of exactly what programs and services he would cut. The treasurer said he currently lacks sufficient information to do that because the governor has not yet released her spending plan for the coming year, a plan that will detail what state agencies are currently spending
The closest Martin came to actually proposing a cut was to repeat what Brewer proposed Monday in her State of the State speech: Ask voters to reconsider their 2000 mandate that the state provide free health care for everyone below the federal poverty level.
There are currently about 1.2 million Arizonans getting free care; returning to pre-2000 levels would trim the rolls by about 300,000.
He said voters were told that the expanded coverage would be paid for entirely from the state's share of a nationwide settlement with tobacco companies. That, however, has not proven true.
But Martin had a twist on what Brewer proposed. He said voters should be given two options: Fund only the number of people whose care can be provided with the approximately $100 million a year the state is getting in that settlement, or ask voters if they're willing to permanently hike taxes to keep what he called the "Cadillac program.'
On the issue of militarizing the border, Martin said he did not have a cost. But he said it certainly would be less than Arizona now spends arresting and incarcerating illegal immigrants who commit crimes and providing benefits to those not here legally.
And Martin said he has no problem having armed Guard troops looking for illegal immigrants.
"You don't deploy individuals without providing them the proper resources and protection,' he said.
Martin joins a race for the Republican nomination already populated by Brewer, Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, former Board of Regents President John Munger and Paulden business owner Owen Buz Mills.
The survivor will face off against Attorney General Terry Goddard, currently the only high-profile Democrat in the race.