Goddard charges Brewer is hiding truth on state budget deficit
GLENDALE -- Gov. Jan Brewer is hiding the size of the state's current deficit to get herself elected, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry Goddard charged Thursday.
Goddard said lawmakers need to come into a special session -- and soon -- because the revenues are not keeping pace with expenses, even with voter approval of a temporary one-cent sales tax hike that is should generate close to $1 billion a year.
At this rate, Goddard said, the deficit could be close to $1 billion. And he said that, without additional revenues, patching that hole will mean even deeper cuts to education.
"She wants that decision and that discussion to go past the election and then suddenly sort of spring it on the Arizona voters,' he said.
"That is a crisis,' Goddard said, one lawmakers should deal with now. And he said part of that solution has to be raising even more tax revenues.
Brewer has conceded that further trimming may be necessary. But she hasn't provided specifics. She also has shown no interest in calling lawmakers back to the Capitol between now and the Nov. 2 election.
And Brewer, who pushed that sales tax hike as a way to protect education, refused to commit to using her power as governor to shield it from further cuts.
"To make promises is very, very difficult,' she said.
"I will do everything in my power to protect education,' the governor continued. Se said, though, the tax hike she championed "was not a cure-all.'
The conflicting views came both during and after the pair gave separate speeches Thursday to the annual conference of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.
Brewer, in the middle of a "victory tour' with other Republican nominees, did not stay to listen to Goddard. Goddard, in turn, suggested Brewer had to leave early to prepare for the candidate forum the League is sponsoring today, knowing full well that the governor has no intention of attending.
The governor said the economy is improving in Arizona, taking credit for that in the speech.
"We have come so far in the last 600 days,' she said, since she became governor after Democrat Janet Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration.
"We've changed everything,' Brewer continued. "Arizona is moving again.
Brewer later brushed aside questions of why the state unemployment rate, 7.0 percent when Brewer took office, is now at 9.6 percent, a level it has remained at for months. She said jobs are being created.
"We have a plan,' Brewer said. That includes a moratorium she enacted last year on new rules and regulations "which allows people to prosper so they can bring jobs here.'
As to why the jobless rate is higher, Brewer blamed the Obama administration.
"We will be pushing back against the federal government and all their mandates and their spending and the issues they keep pushing on down to the states,' Brewer said.
Goddard, however, said that corporate executive are much more interested in quality of life issues, like education, than they are in state taxes. He said that's why there needs to be a special session, with one goal being to bring in more dollars.
Legislative budget staffers already are saying the deficit this year could hit $1 billion.
Pushed for specifics on additional revenues and spending cuts, Goddard demurred, saying it isn't his job.
"This is Brewer's administration,' he said.
"She should be honest with the people of Arizona about the kind of financial trouble we're in.'
While Goddard said Brewer can't take any credit for a recovery he said is not occurring, he also said neither can she take all the blame for the state's current fiscal mess.
Napolitano, in the years prior to leaving, pushed through creation of new spending programs while approving a 10 percent cut in state income tax rates, with no regard to the possibility that the booming economy would ever crash. And when revenues started to dip, Napolitano proposed some accounting gimmicks designed to allow continued spending while taking the costs off the current year's books.
"Arizona, basically, in the exuberant good times, made some very foolish economic decisions,' Goddard said. "Now we have to live with those, we have to try to correct them to the degree we can.'
How deep the state is in the hole may depend on what voters do in November other than electing a new governor and other state officials.
The budget approved by lawmakers and signed by Brewer was built on the premise that voters will allow lawmakers to take money from both the First Things First early childhood development program as well as a special fund approved by voters to purchase land in urban areas for open space. Together those shifts total more than $400 million.
Legislative budget staffers already are predicting future deficits, including when that temporary sales tax disappears in mid-2012.