Senator: Ariz. special session expected Thursday

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 8:36 AM

Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to call Arizona legislators back to work for a one-day special session on Thursday to act on the state's budget crisis, a legislative leader said late Monday.

Senate President Pro Tem Barbara Leff said agenda items for the special session would include spending cuts and special-election ballot measures to both temporarily raise the sale tax and loosen voter-approved spending mandates.

However, the Paradise Valley Republican said future tax cuts being pushed by majority House Republicans would not be part of the governor's call for the special session. Senate Republican leaders have said there wasn't enough support in that chamber to approve tax cuts during a December special session.

Leff spoke after a two-hour closed-door meeting late Monday between Republican legislative leaders and Brewer.

The special session would be the fourth this year on the state's fiscal troubles. The most recent, held in November, produced $452 million spending cuts and other budget changes that lowered the projected shortfall in the current fiscal year to $1.6 billion.

House Speaker Kirk Adams, a Mesa Republican who also participated in the meeting, declined to say what would be in the special session call. But he pointedly said some Republicans who previously voted for the sales-tax referral would not do so again without it being linked to future income tax cuts.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman did not respond to questions about the special session but said in a statement that Brewer was not issuing the call Monday evening. "She is continuing to press the Legislature for substantive action on the budget this week. She believes that legislators need to act, and they need to act promptly, to further reduce the state budget deficit."

Earlier Monday, Brewer said she supports future tax cuts to spur economic growth but that she didn't want a possible special session to get hung up on that issue.

"I certainly believe that is something that we need to do," Brewer told The Associated Press in an interview. "We need to get into special session. We need to take that bite of the apple. and begin getting this budget under control."

Brewer said she supports future tax cuts to make Arizona more competitive for good jobs with businesses making relocation and expansion decisions, but she indicated she doesn't want the possible special session this week to hung up on that issue.

"The important thing that we do now is go in there and try to do what we can with the budget in regards to reductions and certainly get the (sales tax) referral out to the people and let the people decide," she said.

Brewer also voiced support for loosening Proposition 105 protections for voter-approved mandates. Money now reserved for early childhood services could be used to help bail the state out of its budget crunch, she said.

"It's like having a big bank account over there and everybody's starving and not using your savings to get you over the hump," Brewer said.

Advocacy groups fighting to preserve current state funding for education and social programs have urged Brewer and lawmakers to forego any attempt to change Proposition 105.

"State lawmakers have many options to balance the state budget without raiding voter priorities. Investments in kids, education and health care should remain in both good times and bad to build Arizona's future," the Children's Actions Alliance said.