Brewer on Medicaid fight: 'The right thing for the people'

Governor defends push vs. GOP to expand Medicaid
2013-06-29T00:00:00Z Brewer on Medicaid fight: 'The right thing for the people'Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
June 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - The decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to push through Medicaid expansion in the recently ended legislative session over the objections of most members of her own party left the GOP in Arizona deeply divided.

But she said Wednesday that none of that is her fault. Instead, the governor said she was simply doing the will of the voters.

And if there is a schism, it's not her fault.

"I don't think I've left the party fractured at all," she said in a post-session interview. "What I've been able to do and what I've been able to accomplish over the last five years is doing the right thing for the people of Arizona."

And that, Brewer insisted, includes taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare in the parlance of its foes - to leverage $1.6 billion in federal dollars for just $240 million in state costs, which is being borne by hospitals.

Whether Brewer really is doing what Arizonans want remains to be seen.

Medicaid expansion first has to survive a threatened referendum, although Brewer sidestepped questions of whether voters deserve the final word on the expansion.

"I do not believe the voters will get the opportunity to vote on it, so it's not a question I need to go further on," the governor said. "I don't think it's referable."

That's based on Brewer's contention that constitutional provisions allowing voters to veto state laws do not apply to matters involving the budget. And the Medicaid expansion plan, including both expanding eligibility and the hospital tax to pay for it, are part of the budget.

Anyway, she said, voters don't need a direct voice on this.

"They elected us to make those kind of policies," Brewer said. And that's what we have done."

But the referendum may not be the only way for voters to express their views of Brewer on the 2014 ballot. The governor also said she remains convinced that, despite a constitutional provision, she can run for what would be a third term.

"I have not made up my decision," she said.

"I know people are anxiously waiting to see what I'm going to do," Brewer said. While some Republicans already have announced their intent to run in 2014 and others have formed exploratory committees, others may be waiting to see if the GOP primary will include Brewer.

"But I don't run on their time schedule," she said.

Brewer is basing her contention she can run on an opinion she sought from Joe Kanefield when he was her chief legal counsel.

The Arizona Constitution says the governor and other members of the executive branch may serve only two terms, "which shall include any part of a term served."

Brewer became governor in January 2009 after Janet Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration. She was elected to her own four-year term in 2010. But Kanefield said those first two years do not count because Brewer became governor through no action of her own, meaning that was not Brewer's term.

Brewer would not address whether she personally believes she gets a shot at another four years in 2014.

"I think that there are people that believe that there is an opening," she said.

That leaves the question of how Brewer, who potentially will be around for another five years, repairs the party that holds the majority in both the House and Senate.

"You're always going to have disagreements among people," she said. "But when all is said and done we will all come back together as Republicans."

Still, the governor acknowledged the hostility and bad feelings left after this year's particularly long session. She said, though, it didn't have to be that way, citing her own 14 years in the Legislature beginning in 1983.

"We forgot the ability that we had … to get what we want by talking to one another, by trying to convince them of our point of view or they convincing us," she said. Now, Brewer said, lawmakers who talk to someone from the other party to achieve a common goal are considered "a traitor or you're evil or you are bad."

She said some of that can be traced to term limits - the same one she may be fighting - that also were imposed on lawmakers by voters in 1992.

"You don't see these relationships mature," Brewer said. "You're in - and you're gone."

Brewer's disagreements with members of her own party extend beyond Medicaid. This session she vetoed 26 measures the Republican-controlled Legislature had sent her. The governor said, though, it's not personal.

"I have not ever, I believe, vetoed a bill because of a sponsor," Brewer said, saying she had a legitimate reason for each veto. And she chided those lawmakers who have complained, saying each of them know the Arizona Constitution gives her the ultimate say.

"That's the process," she said. "It's 101 Politics."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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