Brewer: Some programs will be eliminated - East Valley Tribune: News

Brewer: Some programs will be eliminated

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Posted: Monday, October 5, 2009 6:14 pm | Updated: 2:59 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Arizonans should expect some programs and services they now use to disappear entirely because of the budget crunch, Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday.The governor said prior cuts in state spending have been made pretty much across the board, with virtually all state agencies having to trim a little.

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Arizonans should expect some programs and services they now use to disappear entirely because of the budget crunch, Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday.

The governor said prior cuts in state spending have been made pretty much across the board, with virtually all state agencies having to trim a little. But Brewer said the depth of the problem, coupled with her desire to save what she believes are the most critical services, means that is unlikely to be the path followed now.

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"There will be probably a lot of programs that will have to be done away with,'' she said.

The governor was not ready to say what is likely to disappear. She said those decisions will come after all state agencies provide her at the end of this week with reports she ordered detailing exactly how trimming another 15 percent - or more - from their budgets would affect their services.

Brewer said she issued that directive when it was clear to her that the current gap between spending and revenues this year easily would exceed the $1 billion originally projected. That was confirmed last week when legislative budget staffers predict that, at the current rate money is coming in and going out, the state will finish this fiscal year $1.5 billion in the red.

Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, agreed that programs will have to go. But Pearce, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at least part of the blame for the state's dire fiscal situation can be laid at Brewer's feet for vetoing the budget plan lawmakers adopted in June, largely because she could not get the support for what she wanted: asking voters for a temporary hike in the state sales tax.

But Brewer on Monday sidestepped questions of whether part of the reason for the deficit is the vetoes she made.

Instead, she complained about the refusal of lawmakers - all the Democrats and some members of her own party - to support the plan she unveiled in March for higher taxes.

"We knew that we had an economic slump,'' she said. That complicated the situation she walked into when she became governor; she inherited a budget that was spending more than was being collected in taxes.

"We knew that we had to find a solution to it,'' Brewer continued. "I had my solution.''

Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman defended the vetoes.

"The cut levels for specific agencies were certainly unacceptable to the governor,'' he said, in the neighborhood of $500 billion. That includes nearly $360 million lawmakers wanted to take from K-12 education, money that Brewer's vetoes restored.

Senseman said that's why the governor wants additional revenues as part of the package.

He acknowledged that there's more behind Brewer's directive to agency chiefs to explain what they will have to cut other than simply coming up with a list of options.

"The exercise will be enlightening for citizens and for legislators as to what the currently legislatively approved spending levels ... will result in terms of service eliminations or reductions,'' he said. "Now we're going to see what the governor predicted back in March.''

That possibility does not scare Pearce. He said that, given the state's dwindling tax collections, it's long overdue that some programs disappear or be severely curtailed.

At the top of his list is state-funded full-day kindergarten. Implemented at the behest of Janet Napolitano, Brewer's predecessor, going from half-day to full-day programs carries a $200 million price tag.

Pearce also wants lawmakers to roll back the 2000 extension of the school year by five days, to 180 days. Pearce said he believes lawmakers could make that change despite the fact it was approved by voters.

He said while Brewer's spending plans are less than her Democratic predecessor, the incumbent wants to maintain spending at levels higher than the approximately $7 billion in tax collections.

"We 'gimmicked' our way to get to this point,'' he said, using accounting techniques like putting off payments as well as borrowing. He said the only responsible thing is to cut the size of government, even if that means certain programs and services will go away.

He faulted Brewer for hanging onto her demands for increased revenues while not slashing spending immediately.

"Agencies are still spending like drunken sailors,'' he said.

Pearce did agree with Brewer on one key point: Whatever is going to be done on the budget has to happen soon.

He pointed out the fiscal year started July 1. If agencies have to make a 15 percent cut in their authorized budgets halfway through the year, that becomes the equivalent of a 30 percent cut in spending for the six months left.

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