PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer gives what is likely to be her final State of the State speech today, laying out her priorities for the coming year.
Brewer is likely to ask lawmakers to approve new incentives to lure businesses to Arizona. She also wants them to adopt a plan to financially reward schools that improve student achievement.
And the Republican governor will discuss how she plans to fix Child Protective Services to ensure there is not a repeat of last year’s embarrassing revelation that more than 6,500 complaints of child abuse were ignored.
But Brewer also will devote at least some of her speech to reminding lawmakers of what she believes have been her accomplishments since taking office in early 2009 after Janet Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration — starting with a revenue and spending plan to turn around a budget on the verge of going $3 billion in the hole.
“I would like to believe that Jan Brewer inherited the worst budget deficit in the history of our state during a terrible recession, and that she had a plan, and that she turned it around and that she, in fact, balanced the budget, with a cash carry-forward and a rainy-day fund,” the governor said in an interview last week.
That claim, however, comes with an asterisk.
The state’s books are technically balanced. But that is because Arizona had about $700 million left over from last fiscal year, largely from a now-expired temporary one-cent sales tax.
In fact, the state actually is spending $400 million more this year than it is collecting in tax revenues. But the governor said that’s no surprise.
“We knew that; we anticipated that; we planned for that,” she said, adding that the budget is playing out “exactly how we planned it.”
In essence, Brewer contends the economic development measures already approved will bring in more business and, by extension, more tax dollars.
Already approved legislation will cut Arizona’s current corporate tax rate of slightly less than 7 percent to 4.9 percent by 2017. The state also has tinkered with other parts of the tax code to do things like allow businesses to take faster tax write-offs of new business equipment.
And Brewer has made a point of reducing regulations on businesses.
All that, she said, has resulted in new jobs, with the state recently landing a manufacturing facility for Apple and some insurance-claims and customer-services offices.
Whether this is really Brewer’s last State of the State speech technically remains unanswered.
The Arizona Constitution says the governor is limited to two consecutive terms in office, specifying any part of a term, no matter how short, counts the same as a full term.
A host of Republicans, relying on what they say is the document’s plain language, already are campaigning to replace her.
But Brewer, relying on an opinion from a staff counsel, said the two years remaining on Napolitano’s term do not count, based on an argument that the Arizona Constitution made her governor, automatically, when Napolitano quit.
Since she did nothing to seek the office, but inherited it through no effort of her own, Brewer contends she is entitled to four more years — if she wants it.
No one should expect any hint of her plans today. The governor is playing it coy for now, suggesting a decision may come by February.
If she decides to run, the final decision will likely be made by the Arizona Supreme Court.