Arizona’s Truth-Teller-in-Chief Eyes Tried-And-True Violation of Truth-In-Taxation Law to Balance Her Unbalanced Budget

The state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee official estimates say Arizona is $368 million in deficit already and we’re only a week into the fiscal year. Add to that the $400 million in federal Medicare matching dollars that was counted on that’s not coming. That’s a budget out of whack by nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars and we really haven’t gotten started on this year’s faux-balanced budget fashioned under the flinty Governor Brewer last February.

Oh yeah, that Brewer budget is also predicated on passage of both Prop. 301 and Prop. 302 this November. The former steals $125 million from the Growing Smarter fund for land preservation and the latter steals $325 million from the First Things First fund for “the children”. Well-funded “no” campaigns are already gearing up to defeat those measures ironically consisting of many of the same interests behind Prop. 100’s grand coalition of multi-millionaire spenders.

So, add the $768 million in known shortfall to $450 million in evaporating voter-protected funds and on or about November 3, 2010, Jan Brewer’s balanced budget achievement will be more than $1.2 billion in the red four months into the fiscal year.

How will that deficit be closed in an environment of a 64% mandate to raise taxes before cutting education, public safety and health and human services programs? The past might be a guide to this inevitable future.

Governor Brewer embraces the honorific “Truth Teller” for the selfless and heroic sacrifice of her unblemished anti-tax credentials in championing Prop. 100’s three-year, one-cent sales tax increase. On countless occasions she would start her pitch for Prop. 100 with, “In my 28 years of public service, I’ve never voted for a tax increase…” But how spotless is that record really?

One could fairly claim Brewer lost her anti-tax virtue in 2009 by, not once, but twice being the sole vote (or veto) to raise property taxes $250,000,000 per year, every year until the tax is repealed in some distant future (if ever). There is no need to get twisted around the vagaries of a temporary vs. permanent tax cut. The indisputable fact is that on two occasions in the summer of 2009 Brewer vetoed legislation that would have kept property taxes from being hiked a quarter-billion dollars every year going forward. In doing so, she followed in the footsteps of Governor Napolitano who vetoed similar tax-killing legislation the year before. If she couldn’t stomach signing the bills she could have allowed the legislation retiring the state property tax forever to become law without her signature. But she did exhibit leadership and vetoed them. Twice. That’s cold.

But Jan Brewer has a distinguished and controversial history of property tax increases. Her tax promiscuity caused her great stress and embarrassment in 2002 when she was called on it by her opponent for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State, Sal DiCiccio, the former and current Phoenix city councilman. The Arizona Republic’s Bob Robb laid out the dust up in his July 19, 2002 column titled, “Of all the races to brew a rumble: Secretary of State?”

“Brewer hotly denies the charge, pointing out that the property tax rate declined while she was on the board. As it did. But the resourceful Arizona Tax Research Association got the Legislature in 1996 to pass a bill, called “Truth in Taxation,” to expose the game politicians play with tax rates as opposed to tax levies.”

“Property values are, of course, rapidly rising, particularly in the Valley. That means the same, or even somewhat lower, rate can produce higher tax bills. “Truth in Taxation” requires that the previous rate be rolled back to reflect subsequent appreciation in previously existing land and improvements. Governments then have to provide public notice and vote on increasing the rolled-back truth-in-taxation rate.”

“Clearly Tax Research’s intent was that the truth-in-taxation rate would become the base against which the question of whether property taxes are being increased would be measured. And Jan Brewer, who was in the Legislature at the time, voted for “Truth in Taxation.” Since she has been a county supervisor, the county has fairly consistently voted to exceed the truth-in-taxation, and Brewer has voted with the majority. So DiCiccio is right: Brewer did vote several times as a county supervisor to raise property taxes, properly understood.”

The Arizona Daily Star backed up DiCiccio’s in an August 22, 2002 ad watch examining the truth of his charge in a campaign spot.

“When Brewer was chairwoman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, county officials boasted that the 2001-02 budget marked the third consecutive year the board reduced the tax rate. In the 2001-02 budget, the county even notified residents that it was able to afford a 3-cent tax cut for its citizens.”

“At the same time, however, property values rose steeply, resulting in higher average tax bills. According to the Arizona Tax Research Association, it would have required a 4.7-cent cut in the rate in 2001-02 to hold taxpayers at existing levels. In fact, supervisors actually increased the primary levy for operating revenues by nearly 2 cents, although it was offset by a reduction in the secondary rate for past bond sales.”

Yeah, but that’s a decade ago—a youthful indiscretion however repeated and chronic.

Not so fast.

On December 21, 2009, in her best Yuletide cheer and after triumphantly concluding a special session that didn’t balance the budget, Brewer conducted a public cabinet spectacle where she outlined how bad our budget situation was at that time. In an eerie foreshadowing of Brewer’s tried-and-true abuse of truth-in-taxation she bemoaned the lowering of the “qualified tax rate” to a $2.74 rate in 2010 from a $4.40 rate back in 1998 all in keeping with the above mentioned ‘Truth in Taxation” law that the State of Arizona, if not Brewer’s Maricopa County, stayed faithful to. She quantified the amount of money Arizona was losing at $700 million per year. (See Page 19 of this PowerPoint presentation from the Governor’s official website).

Seven-hundred million dollars in faithless overturning of “Truth in Taxation” doesn’t fill a $1.2 billion hole but it does get you almost there. No single Brewer tax increase will balance her budget. So far, a $250 million property tax increase and $1 billion sales tax increase haven’t done the trick. Another $700 million property tax shift won’t solve our budget deficit either. But it is coming, like day follows night, from a lame-duck Brewer who may be awarded four years to conjure many more tax hike schemes that will surely earn the teachers union approval like Prop. 100.



  1. Jefferson Smith says

    Why this governor looks like she’s racing to a primary victory in August is beyond me. Let’s hope the media keeps SB 1070 in the headlines all the way up to November. Brewer will need it. Without Russell Pearce’s gift of an issue, Brewer would be being judged by primary voters for her gross mismanagement of our state’s finances and tax increase policies.

    What happens if the papers stop flogging SB 1070 and redirect their considerable influence over what we all talk about to the economy and jobs—two subjects Brewer is woefully deficient in?

    Maybe even Terry Goddard could get himself elected if the topic ever turns away from SB 1070.

  2. Oberserve says

    TAX-O-RAMA Jan strikes again!

  3. Who wrote that post, Terry Goddard? It’s obvious the writer wants Republicans to nominate a weaker candidate then Brewer, which would help those opposed to 1070.

  4. johny d. goodes says

    We still have a budget issue? I though Jan had taken care of that. Wasn’t the budget deficit beheaded?

  5. Whoever posted this entry was reading too many Press Releases from the AZDEM.ORG website.

    Jun 16, 2010
    Truthteller in chief? Not exactly

    In last night’s GOP gubernatorial debate, Gov. Brewer repeatedly said, “I’m a truthteller,” as if saying it would somehow make it so. But the truth is harder to find in what Brewer says than in what she does. Here’s a comparison of the two:

    Brewer says: “I will NOT give up on education.” (Brewer statement, 9/4/09)
    Brewer does: Cuts more than $1 billion from education. (HB2001, signed 3/18/10; SB1002, signed 11/23/09; SB1006, signed 1/31/09)

    Brewer says: The federal government is “the largest external threat to Arizona’s budget.” (Brewer’s State of the State address, Jan. 11, 2010)
    Brewer does: Asks the federal government for stimulus funds and then touts Arizona’s share of the funds 23 times in official press releases. (

    Brewer says: Vows to “protect our children and our families” (ironically, by opposing health reform that would extend them coverage). (
    Brewer does: Signs a bill making Arizona the only state to eliminate its children’s insurance program. (HB2001 cuts KidsCare, AHCCCS, signed 3/18/10)

    Brewer says: “I have no greater focus than to grow jobs in Arizona” (Brewer on 3/4/09:
    Brewer does: (nothing)

    The hard truth is that Brewer is avoiding the elephant in the room: our state’s economic crisis. Her budget proposal and rhetoric have done absolutely nothing to create jobs and put Arizona on track for a stable economic foundation. Arizona needs real leadership now more than ever – it’s time to replace rhetoric with bold action.

    Jun 15, 2010
    Gov. Brewer claims she ‘balanced the budget’ (and she’s right — if she’s playing Jenga)

    As Arizona voters and the news media watch tonight’s GOP gubernatorial debate, a fact-checker might come in handy. Last Saturday, Gov. Brewer tried to claim during a forum with Republican opponents that she has “balanced the budget.” In reality, Brewer’s “balanced budget” gambles on about $1.2 billion in contingencies. Consider:

    * Revenue projections are way off: State economists project $368 million less in revenue than what Brewer and Republican lawmakers agreed upon for the FY11 budget. If the economists are right, Brewer’s budget falls apart.
    * Funding hinges on voters: Brewer’s budget relies on voters’ passage of two ballot referrals this November to overturn $469 million in voter-approved spending for programs like early childhood development. If voters say “no,” Brewer’s budget falls apart.
    * Funding hinges on federal government: Brewer’s budget also relies on the federal government to pass an extension of stimulus funding to pay Arizona’s share ($385 million) for AHCCCS and KidsCare. If Congress doesn’t pass this extension, Brewer’s budget falls apart. [Budget source: (Page 10)]

    Brewer’s budget is “balanced” only in the way a Jenga game tower is balanced: Pull out the wrong piece, and the budget comes tumbling down. Watch our video:

  6. LOL! Give it up dude. Love her or hate her, Brewer has this locked up. Waste your energy on another race.

  7. Tortoise says

    Fighting tax increases for wasteful spending, that’s Dean Martin…Doing the job this Gov refuses to do.

Leave a Reply