Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday she is planning a stimulus package to jump-start Arizona’s weak economy.
But Brewer, who became the 22nd person to be governor, told those attending her inaugural that, unlike Washington, her plan is not going to involve up to $1 trillion in deficit spending. Instead, she promised a program based on a simple premise: freedom.
Other than saying she won’t borrow, Brewer provided no specifics on exactly how she intends to get Arizona on its fiscal feet — or more immediately, make up the $1.6 billion deficit for the rest of this year and estimated $3 billion gap between revenues and expenses next year.
About the only thing Brewer made clear is she does not intend to balance the budget with higher taxes. Instead, she said, the reverse will be true.
“Our government is going to get smaller,” she told the more than 1,500 people who attended the event in front of the state Capitol. “We know this, and so do the people we serve.”
Rather than providing chapter-and-verse details of her economic plan, the new governor, in her first major speech since formally taking the job less than 24 hours earlier, laid out more of a philosophy of government.
The central theme of that, Brewer said, is Arizona needs to keep taxes and regulation to a minimum. She said that will convince businesses to move here — and bring the jobs that come with them.
“We must make sure that beleaguered businesses in California and other such overtaxed places hear the music of our commerce and our culture and see brighter prospects in the cities and towns across Arizona,” she said.
Brewer mentioned her predecessor, Janet Napolitano, only once by name, thanking her for her service to the state and offering “prayers and good will” in her new job as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. Napolitano resigned Tuesday after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
But the new governor made it clear she was inheriting a fiscal mess.
“In some ways this feels like you’ve just shown up for a party,” she said. “But all the guests have all gone. Only the caterer is left — and she immediately hands you the bill.”
Brewer said the kind of spending cuts that will have to be made to balance the budget are not necessarily a bad thing, drawing analogies between governing and gardening.
“To grow beautiful things, you must have good seeds and provide water and sunshine, and then you have to control the weeds, spray the pests and run off the rabbits,” she told her audience. “But every gardener also knows that some pruning from time to time leads to greater fruit.”
In sketching out her philosophy, Brewer mentioned the theme of “freedom” no less than nine times in her 14-minute speech, with even more references to what it means to “make our people free.”
“Free to work and earn a living, to build a business, to build a life,” she said. “Free to find and speak the truth about their government and those who would lead it. Free from crime and violence and lawlessness of all kinds.”
That freedom, she said, also includes freedom of parents “to choose the schools their children will attend.”
The governor did hint that, as she and lawmakers look for places to cut spending, there is one area she might like to protect to the extent possible: She promised Arizonans “freedom to pursue an authentic higher education in our great research universities and community colleges, at a cost that will not leave them under a crushing debt.”
While Brewer is the 22nd person to be governor since Arizona became a state in 1912, this actually is the 24th time the occupant of the office has changed. That is because George W.P. Hurt was the state’s first, third and fifth governor.