PHOENIX — Ken Bennett formally kicked off his bid to become governor Tuesday by proposing to replace the state’s income tax by increasing the number of goods and services subject to the state sales tax.
Bennett, a Republican, said he’s convinced Arizona can broaden the base of what’s subject to the levy while at the same time lowering the rate from the current 5.6 percent. Bennett said he might even eliminate the exemption that now exists for all food products — with a possible exception for “essential” items.
But Bennett would not explain what he would tax that is now exempt, or exactly how he would raise enough additional money through a revamped state sales tax to make up for the lost income taxes.
The $3.5 billion paid in individual income taxes and more than $700 million in corporate taxes combine to fund about 45 percent of the state’s operating budget.
“We’ll bring you some of those details over time,” he said.
Bennett also took a slap of sorts at incumbent Jan Brewer, also a Republican, who has repeatedly touted her leadership for creating what she has called the “Arizona comeback.’’
“In my opinion, it’s coming back way too slow,” Bennett said.
Bennett conceded that Brewer, who became governor when Democrat Janet Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration, inherited a $3 billion deficit. He said it took a long time to recover from that, though some of that was done with “accounting tricks and gimmicks’’ that moved around expenses to make the books look balanced, as well as borrowing money, including by mortgaging off the House and Senate buildings.
He said the state needs to get out of debt and eliminate those accounting maneuvers.
“She’s done a good job, but I think we can do even better,” Bennett said.