Brewer signs $17 million tax break for manufacturers, smelters
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Posted by: Gabe Salcido
Alia Beard Rau, The Republic | azcentral.com 12:02 a.m. MST April 12, 2014
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed the $9.2 billion fiscal 2015 budget, but she wielded her line-item veto power to slice out millions of dollars in items she deemed unnecessary.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed a $9.2billion budget passed by lawmakers this week, but she wielded her line-item veto power to slice out about $4.7million in spending that she deemed unnecessary.
Explaining several of her vetoes, Brewer said the money would be better spent overhauling the state's child-welfare system, which has been swamped by reports of child abuse and neglect to the point that thousands of cases had not been investigated.
In her signing statement, Brewer called the fiscal 2015 budget "balanced, principled and fiscally prudent."
"This budget keeps us on the path to restoring the state to a structurally balanced budget by 2016 and protects the 'rainy-day fund' while addressing critical priorities, like child protection, public safety and education," she said.
But she also reiterated in letters to Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin that her focus is on developing a new child-welfare agency.
"The success of the new agency will not only require a strong administrative and operational structure, but also sufficient resources," Brewer said. "It is imperative that we appropriate wisely and marshal available funds to accomplish this mission."
Lawmakers did not give Brewer all the money she requested for child welfare, but they included in the budget language saying that they intend to re-examine whether the new agency needs additional dollars once the agency's structure is clear. A plan is due by May1.
The Legislature, which hopes to conclude the session next week, will likely reconvene this summer for a special session on the new child-welfare agency.
"A new agency must have the resources it needs to succeed in its core mission to safeguard Arizona's abused and neglected children," Brewer said in her statements. "I have line-item vetoed certain appropriations in the budget in order to maintain a fiscally prudent spending plan and preserve crucial resources for our reform efforts. Child safety is a core focus, and our state budget must reflect that."
Her vetoes included removing funds for law enforcement in Colorado City, teacher training, public technical high schools, a Grand Canyon-area airstrip and the counties.
House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he didn't consider Brewer's cuts substantial.
"The governor did a light trim to the budget," he said. "The rural communities took most of the brunt, but this was not a hatchet job. I don't think there are going to be any bad feelings."
State Attorney General Tom Horne said he was disappointed the governor eliminated a $500,000 request to pay for law-enforcement activities in Colorado City, the polygamist enclave in northwestern Arizona.
His office has spent $400,000 to $500,000 a year to keep at least one Mohave County sheriff's official in the town full-time to ensure that laws are respected.
"Before we funded the sheriff there, the only law enforcement were the local marshals that were under the thumb of the dominant church," Horne said Friday. "When a woman tried to escape, they would capture her and drag her back.
"Since the sheriff has been there, women have been able to leave, and they themselves said they wouldn't have been able to do that had he not been there.
"In my opinion, this is the biggest injustice that's going on in the state of Arizona. I consider it a top priority, and I can do this for one more year, but next year, they're really going to have to do something."
Brewer eliminated the entire $828,500 budget for the state ombudsman, an independent arm of the Legislature that investigates allegations involving state agencies.
But Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said the intent was not to end the agency. Her target was $200,000 lawmakers added to that office to handle complaints about child-welfare cases.
Brewer called the additional money "premature" because plans for the new child-welfare agency are still in the works and its needs are not yet known.
There was no way for her to technically extract just the $200,000, so she vetoed the entire ombudsman budget.
In her veto message, she suggested that funding for the agency could be restored later this spring. "In the upcoming special session on child safety, we can revisit the scope of funding for the Ombudsman-aide office," she wrote.
The rural effect
Craig Sullivan, who lobbies for the Arizona Association of Counties, said the veto of $1.3 million for the counties was disappointing, especially given budget cuts that have affected county governments and the sweeps the Legislature has made of county funds.
The funds were intended to make up for sales-tax revenue counties would lose under new law eliminating the state's sales tax on energy sold to manufacturers.
"All of these various inputs add up," Sullivan said.
Gila County, in particular, will be hit hard. It is home to two smelters whose electricity usage generates $300,000 a year in sales taxes for the rural county.
Legislative Democrats voted against the budget proposal. House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said that even with Brewer's line-item tweaks, it "is not a good budget."
But he said there is still one more chance this year to remedy that with the special session on the child-welfare agency.
"That's when the rubber hits the road," he said. "We've got the money. I'm hopeful, when we go back into session, the governor will work for restoring some of the services that have been cut."
He said key to the discussion will be funding for preventive measures, including child-care subsidies.
"They help keep people out of the system in the first place, and that's better for the families and the kids," he said.