Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday if voters reject the sales-tax hike she championed for more than a year, it may reflect on her credibility.
“As a truth-teller, I would probably believe that they didn’t believe me,” the governor said Monday at a last-minute press conference to push Proposition 100. But Brewer, who has made the tax hike a central point of her administration, said there may be other factors at work.
“They weren’t given the right information in order to make good decisions,” the governor continued.
Brewer also acknowledged that her nearly one-woman campaign for temporary higher taxes may take a political toll on her. She is facing what could be a difficult Republican primary in less than four months, with her three principal foes all opposed to the idea of a one-cent hike in state sales taxes.
But she was a bit more circumspect when asked if she’s OK with the possibility that her support for the measure will mean she won’t be governor next year.
“That’s a horse of a different color,” Brewer responded.
“The bottom line is, I would love to be governor,” she continued.
“But this vote is not about Jan Brewer,” Brewer said. “This vote is about the people of Arizona and getting our state turned around and doing the right thing.”
Brewer has been at odds with many members of both her own party and the Democrats on the idea of hiking the state’s 5.6-percent levy by a penny for three years.
Many Republicans have argued that state spending should be slashed even further to match declining tax revenues rather than trying to raise about $1 billion a year for the next three years. And some Democrats have complained that the better solution would have been to eliminate many exemptions that now exist in what is subject to sales taxes, particularly services.
Brewer could not get anywhere near the necessary two-thirds margin of both the House and Senate to hike taxes directly. But she did manage to cobble together the votes of a majority of legislators to put the question before voters.
While the three other key Republicans running for governor want Proposition 100 defeated, Brewer has gained some political cover for the general election if she wins the primary: Presumptive Democratic nominee Terry Goddard came out in support of the temporary tax hike last week, saying it’s the only reasonable alternative available to protect education and other services.
Most polls have suggested that the campaign to hike taxes, fueled by more than $2.6 million in advertising, is likely to succeed. Brewer, however, was not taking anything for granted.
“We expect that race to be close,” she said.
Brewer has sought to shield herself somewhat from criticism, pointing out repeatedly that, until now, she never voted for a tax increase, either as a state legislator for 14 years or when she was a Maricopa County supervisor. The governor said she is making an exception this time because she believes state services will be crippled without the temporary revenues.
And she repeatedly points out that the levy will self-destruct in three years.
“By then, I believe our economic recovery will have been well on its way,” Brewer said.