Unable to get the votes from her own party, Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday she's willing to accept demands by Democrats to let the state property tax return in exchange for their votes to put her sales tax hike on the ballot.
The governor's comments came as she expressed frustration with the failure so far of the Republican-controlled Legislature to come up with a spending and revenue plan that she finds acceptable for the fiscal year that began three weeks ago.
"I think we have a crisis in Arizona, and we need to step up and we need to address the issues that are on the front burner right now,'' Brewer said. "I would encourage them to move forward swiftly.''
So far, though, the key sticking point remains Brewer's insistence that the only responsible way to deal with the deficit involves not just spending cuts, accounting maneuvers and use of federal stimulus dollars. She wants a one-cent hike in the state sales tax for three years, a move that could generate $1 billion a year.
The problem for the Republican governor is there are insufficient GOP votes, both to enact the tax outright or even to refer the question to voters. Democrats have been unwilling to support it, too.
They specifically argue that it's not fair to hike sales taxes, which mainly hit consumers, while voting to permanently repeal the state property tax, a levy that affects businesses proportionately more than homeowners.
That levy was suspended in 2006 as part of a budget deal when Arizona had a surplus. The tax, which would generate about $250 million a year, returns automatically this fall without legislative action.
Brewer last month proposed a partial and temporary return of the property tax. But she said Tuesday she's "absolutely'' willing to consider bringing the whole thing back - at least if that's what it takes to get Democratic votes to refer the sales tax hike to the ballot.
"We need to discuss how we're going to solve the problem,'' she said.
"And if that's part of the options that we need to discuss, as it was prior, we will discuss it again,'' the governor continued. "But we need to get it resolved and we need to get it resolved quickly.''
Brewer sidestepped the question of whether raising both property and sales taxes amounts to taxing people twice during tough economic times and taking more money out of the economy.
"Well, right now I'm not going to explain it because it's not doing that,'' she said, at least not until there is some sort of a deal.
"Certainly, like we said, when you start negotiating any kind of budget, everything comes on the table,'' Brewer explained. "You talk about it, you get an agreement, and you determine how it's going to work and how it's going to affect the budget overall.''
The issue of property taxes arises because of how businesses and homes are valued for tax purposes.
If the state levy returns, it would add close to $80 a year in taxes on a $200,000 home. But the tax bill would be more than $165 a year on a $200,000 business - and even more when the value of the firm's equipment is added in.
Brewer brushed aside questions of whether pushing as hard as she is for higher taxes undermines her support within her own party - and possibly endangers her ability to win the nomination for next year's election.
"Right now I haven't given that a lot of consideration,'' she said.
"The bottom line is, I'm not worried about my political future,'' Brewer continued.
"We need to do what's right and we need to do it quickly,'' the governor said. "Then we will worry about the political arena.''
Brewer's desire to make a deal with whoever is willing to work with her doesn't stop with the idea of restoring the state property tax. The governor said Tuesday she's even willing to consider an alternate Democratic plan that would raise the extra funds not by raising the tax rate but by instead expanding the list of products and services subject to the tax.
"If they could show me that that would be a benefit to raise the kind of revenue that we need, and that it would be easily understood how it would be incorporated, I'm willing to discuss it,'' she said. "I'm willing to discuss any option to save the future of Arizona.''
Brewer, however, would not say whether she intends to be a candidate next year.
"It would be inappropriate at this time to make that kind of decision,'' said Brewer who was secretary of state until mid-January when she became govenor following the resignation of Democrat Janet Napolitano to take a post in the Obama administration. "We need to get the budget out and see where we're headed.''