Q&A with Gov. Jan Brewer
Q: What is the message you're trying to get across?
A: 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.
Q: That deals with future tax cuts. What do we do in the short-term?
A: To begin with, again, let me say it: We are facing the largest catastrophic crisis that Arizona has ever faced in its history. And we have a budget deficit currently of about $1.5 billion. So we need to get in there, we need to resolve that budget. We need to solve it and move on to 2011.
I came out in March with a plan. I believe that plan is still the answer today. I'm the ONLY one that has come forward with a plan, with a solution. I think the gravity of it was so huge that people couldn't get their hands around it. I think now, today, everybody understands how deep the situation is in the state. And we need to move forward with budget reform, tax reform. We need to do more cutting. We need to address Proposition 105 (which keeps lawmakers from altering voter-approved programs). And we need new revenue. And it's going to take all five of those.
And not only is it going to take all five of those, it's going to take a lot of strength and a lot of courage because it's going to be painful and it's going to be awful.
Q: But this is the same message as March. What is different 10 months later?
A: I think that over the last few months, that we have seen a lot of movement with the reality of exactly what it is that we are facing. And everybody understands now the huge crisis. And they certainly understand that we need a solution.
My solution is the five-point plan. I have yet to hear of another plan. I am open for negotiation. Bring it to me. Bring it to me. But there's a lot of rhetoric out there in respect to, well, let's cut back to 2006 (spending levels). Well, hello! We're already at 2006. It's going to be more painful than that, my friends. And we need the courage to do it.
Everybody that comes to participate in the process needs to play in the process.
Q: Are you talking to lawmakers or are you talking to the public?
A: I'm talking to the legislators.
Q: And you think that, this time, you can whack them upside the head with a newspaper?
A: 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, that people can count on, that they know is responsible. And the way we show that is by having a balanced budget and moving forward, and then reaching out and bringing businesses in from outside the state. And reward those businesses here that have stuck it out with us.
Q: With all due respect, you gave them the talk in March, they went off and did what they wanted anyway. They came into special session and did what they wanted anyway. Your signing letter for the fifth special session said, 'you went off and went out on your own.' You almost seem to be superfluous to the process. How do you make yourself essential to what's going on so they don't keep ignoring you?
A: 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. I don't know. It takes everybody awhile to get their hands around it and understand it.
I was shocked, I was shocked. And I have a long conservative fiscal history in public office. And I didn't like it. I didn't want to believe it, either. Once you realize that you have the responsibility to govern and to solve it, well then you move forward. You do what you have to do. And it takes courage. Of course it's painful. And, obviously, we all operate in a political arena.
But, you know. We all have to put everything aside. We are here, elected to serve the people. And I believe that if you're honest, you give the people the truth, you give them the facts, they will respect you for that. They want people to solve problems. They don't want people creating problems.
Q: The first big deadline is Feb. 17, the day by which lawmakers need to act to put questions on a May ballot. How do you light a fire to force action?
A: Well, it's very obvious that we can go in and we can do a lot of things. But, regardless of what we do, we could cut every service the state provides that's not mandated by the federal government. We still couldn't balance the budget. That equals new revenues.
Now, they can either have the will and the foresight to enact that themselves to save the state. Or they can send it to the voters.
Q: But they don't even seem to be willing to do that.
A: Well, it's a new year. It's a new session. It's new times.
Q: But at what point do you decide that you need to work around the Legislature and help lead an initiative drive to put the issue on the ballot directly? The deadline for a November vote (the only one allowed for an initiative) is July 1.
A: Well, I think that the public will rise up and lead that charge if they don't do it.
Q: But nobody has. Do you need to be the leader? The cheerleader?
A: If need be, I'll be the cheerleader.
Q: All this sounds very depressing. But there sometimes needs to be an aspirational part of a State of the State address. What's the 'up' part of your message?
A: Well, I think it's very encouraging. I really believe that the people of Arizona are resilient. I think we have the entrepreneurship and the tenacity, the likes of which many states don't have. And that, given the dynamics of becoming governor a year ago and coming in and cleaning house at the Department of Commerce and revamping that and reaching out to the public sector within the state of Arizona and outside the state of Arizona has proven to be very, very beneficial.
We've landed the largest solar manufacturing company in the world to be here in Arizona. Shutterfly has opened up here. Freelife has made their headquarters here. Numerous different smaller businesses have come because they do have faith in the state. And I believe that the essence of signing the tax credit for renewable energy was a huge boost. And out of that came over 200 inquiries from around the world that were interested. And of those 200, 40 very sincere, earnest inquiries that we are working on and are very encouraged that we will be able to negotiate and work with them in order to complete satisfaction to their desires for them to come here and locate. And when that happens, that's going to bring tremendous amount of jobs that going to employ the people of Arizona and boost our economy. I think a very bright light.
Q: House Speaker Kirk Adams unveiled his own package of tax cuts in the week before the State of the State speech. Do you think he was trying to pre-empt your or steal some thunder?
A: I don't. I believe as speaker of the House he has a leadership position and he needs to have a plan, too, of moving the state forward and delivering it and getting the votes to see it succeed. It's not trying to preempt us. I believe that his message was no different than basically what my message is.
Certainly, I believe we need to go in and do tax reform. I said that in March we need to do tax reform. I believe it needs to be delayed. By putting things like that on the books, if you will, if you book it, that will encourage businesses that want to decide they want to move today or tomorrow to be moved in a year or two, knowing that that is there, that they will be able to work under those kinds of conditions. So I'm all for it.
Q: You didn't get a chance to give a State of the State speech last year because then-Gov. Janet Napolitano insisted on doing it, even knowing she was leaving.....
Q: Have you seen the polls?
A: I don't govern by polls. I know what's going on out there. I'm out there amongst the real people.
Q: The fact is, this is your one chance before the election to give such a speech to talk both to lawmakers and the people of Arizona. How do you use this? And where does the upcoming election fit in?
A: 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 that.
In this catastrophic crisis that we're facing, the likes of which we have never, ever seen before in the history of the state, it's time for us to take off our aspirations of the next election. Now is the time to step forward and be a statesman and do what's right. And I feel very strongly about that. And I really believe, again, you send the message out. You don't do the political sidestep. You tell the people the truth. You're honest. You give them the correct facts. And you hand them a solution. They're going to digest that.
Q: That gets back to what I asked earlier: Some of what you're doing is talking less to the Legislature than to the public.
A: Of course. The message is prepared to be delivered at the Legislature. Certainly, the message goes out to the people of Arizona. As their governor. This is the crisis that we've been in. And this is a solution. And these are the facts.
And the bottom line? I want them to understand that I will tell them the truth, Howie. I've never been afraid of the truth. I will give them honest facts. And will give them a solution that works.
And I think times like this truly is a test of your character and your values. And it has served me will for the past 28 years. I've always been pretty plain-spoken. I've always tried to be honest, tried to show integrity. And I will continue down that path. The most important thing to me, given the circumstances today, is that we solve the problem for the people of Arizona.
We are worse off than any other state in the union. But we have the resiliency, the brain power and the will, more so than any other state that I can think of.
Q: Going back to the Fife Symington administration there were sharp cuts in income tax rates. Corporate income tax rates went from 9 to less than 7 percent. In 2006 individual income tax rates were cut 10 percent. The state property tax was suspended. The assessment ratio on business property has been reduced. Yet all of that tax cutting did not insulate Arizona from the recession and this state is worse than others. How can you propose more tax cuts in 2012?
A: Obviously, I have a long history of being a fiscal conservative, a record that I will hold up to anybody that has held public office. I mean I have a long history, a record if you want to check it, of being a fiscal conservative.
I believe that we have to be competitive with the states that surround us. Certainly, we can't do tax cuts today or tomorrow. 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. Because obviously, we were living on red tile roofs. 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 some.
Q: Do you have any surprises planned for Monday?
A: I don't believe that there's any big surprises. (To her press aide:) Can you think of anything Paul?
Q: Just budget and jobs?
A: As I have been here for the last year, a lot of things have come to my attention that just don't make sense. And I think I'll be addressing some of those things when I get my message out on Monday. And I hope that you find it worthwhile. And I think that you probably will agree, being the kind of person that you are, with a majority of what I have to say.
Q: Are you going to extend the moratorium on new regulations you instituted last year?
A: No. We'll take it a piece at a time. But certainly, we need to get out of the way. Government needs to get out of the way and let business prosper. Regulate, regulate, regulate is stymie, stymie, stymie. That's not a successful recipe. It never has been. Never will be.
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