Burns lashes out, calls Brewer incompetent - East Valley Tribune: News

Burns lashes out, calls Brewer incompetent

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Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2009 10:17 pm | Updated: 1:50 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Stung by the veto of key elements of the Republican budget plan, Senate President Bob Burns on Thursday said Gov. Jan Brewer is incompetent.

Brewer seeks Dem support on sales tax hike

State leaders can't ignore depth of deficit

Stung by the veto of key elements of the Republican budget plan, Senate President Bob Burns on Thursday said Gov. Jan Brewer is incompetent.

"It appears the governor is having problems managing the level of responsibility to which she has been elevated," Burns said in a prepared statement. Brewer, a Republican like Burns, became governor in January after Democrat Janet Napolitano quit to become Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration.

Brewer seeks Dem support on sales tax hike

State leaders can't ignore depth of deficit

Burns also said the governor "has abused the public in what can only be described as a strong-arm tactic to take control of the legislative process" and said Brewer's veto of parts of the $8.4 billion spending plan "appears to be a vindictive retaliation against the Legislature for not rubber-stamping 'her plan.'"

That plan is Brewer's demand that lawmakers put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to hike the state sales tax by a penny, to 6.6 cents on every dollar of taxable items.

House Speaker Kirk Adams was only slightly more charitable in his comments, calling her veto "irresponsible and reckless." He also said her decision to totally eliminate the more than $3.2 billion in state aid to education "puts schoolchildren, hardworking teachers and employees in our public schools in jeopardy."

And both said Brewer had agreed to the budget.

The governor, however, said she vetoed the education funding as inadequate, hoping lawmakers will adopt a more responsible spending plan when they return to the Capitol on Monday.

As to the budget having been negotiated, Brewer said the two GOP leaders are only half right.

"I've said all along as we negotiated through the process that it was based on the premise that the tax referral went out," Brewer said.

That levy would generate $1 billion a year. Brewer said the deal she negotiated with Burns and Adams was premised on at least giving voters the opportunity to approve the tax, with the proceeds used to restore some of the more than $600 million in spending cuts in the plan.

She said, though, the budget that reached her desk - one without referring the tax plan to the ballot - "didn't work in the way that it was presented."

"I never did, and never would agree, to destructive long-term cuts to education, public safety and care for our most vulnerable populations without providing the opportunity to voters to mitigate them," Brewer said. As to what Burns said about her, she called the comments "regrettable and totally unproductive."

The tit-for-tat statements only underscored Brewer's new-found desire after vetoing the GOP spending plan to consider a deal with Democrats to get their votes to put the proposed sales tax hike on the November ballot.

Republicans appear no more anxious to do that in next week's special session than they have been until now.

"I don't think it's my responsibility," said Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, of voting for a tax hike, even one where voters get to decide.

At least some Democrats are willing to deal. That includes Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia, D-Tucson.

But Garcia said Thursday that Brewer is going to have to agree to some changes.

One key issue, he said, is something to deal with the fact that Democrats consider sales taxes regressive, with those people near the bottom of the income scale spending a larger portion of what they bring home on taxes than those at the top.

Garcia said an income tax rebate for those earning below a certain figure helps alleviate that.

More important, Garcia wants the budget to include restoration of the state property tax.

That levy, suspended three years ago when Arizona had a surplus, generates about $250 million a year. It returns automatically later this year absent legislative action.

The budget that Republicans sent to Brewer included permanent repeal of that tax. But that was in one of the bills the governor vetoed.

Finally, Garcia wants more spending.

Getting the votes of House Democrats, however, could prove more difficult.

House Minority Whip Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, remains wedded to a plan to decrease the state sales tax, currently at 5.6 cents on the dollar, perhaps to 4 percent.

But he said it would bring in more money by broadening the base, making more transactions subject to the levy.

For the first time, taxes would be charged on services ranging from barber shops and hair salons to dance lessons, driving schools and even lottery tickets. Exemptions would remain for food purchased at grocery stores, prescriptions and medical services.

Brewer's push to deal with the deficit by putting the question of sales taxes on the November ballot is risky: Voters might reject it.

But Brewer said the spending plan is crafted so that it can work - with or without the billion dollars a year that the tax hike would raise. She said the plan had "triggers" to restore cuts if the tax hike is approved.

The governor said she believes that voters will understand what rejecting the levy means. That includes a $220 million cut in state aid to education and less money for health and welfare programs.

"I think the people out there want their kids educated and they indeed want every child that's being abused and unprotected to be investigated by Child Protective Services," Brewer said.

"I'm betting and hoping that once they look at the (tax) referendum and it's on the ballot that they would vote for it," she said. "And if they don't, then I will abide by the voters."

Campbell said he believes voters would be more willing to accept his plan to lower the sales tax rate but make it apply to more things than Brewer's 1-cent hike on currently taxable items.

But Campbell's plan would involve a permanent change in the state's tax structure; Brewer wants that 1-cent hike for just three years. 

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