Originally Published: August 30, 2009 10:32 p.m.
PHOENIX - Nearly two months after vetoing most of a new state budget because it omitted her proposal for a temporary sales tax increase, Gov. Jan Brewer is faced with having to consider letting a nearly identical spending plan take effect so cash-strapped Arizona can have a balanced budget.
That would require the Republican governor to swallow her criticism of the earlier budget proposal and suffer an image blow that could affect her ability to work with the GOP-led Legislature and even win a full term as governor.
If Brewer does sign the pending budget without the sales tax proposal, "politically, she looks like a weak executive (because) she can't negotiate a way to get this on the ballot," said Patrick Kenney, Arizona State political science department chair.
Back on July 1, Brewer said the previous budget proposal was "fatally flawed" because the lack of additional revenue from a temporary sales tax increase would leave "devastating cuts" to education and other vital services.
Brewer could avoid having to agree to the near-repeat of that budget if ongoing bipartisan negotiations produces a compromise. However, her sales-tax proposal has been stalled after months of debate.
Brewer's July 1 vetoes and subsequent legislative action left Arizona with a budget on the books, but it is out of balance by roughly $3.2 billion.
The deadline for Brewer to act on the bills is Sept. 5.
A House Democratic leader, Rep. Chad Campbell of Phoenix, said Democrats "were obviously on board" with Brewer's stated desire to minimize cuts to education and social services. He said her accepting the pending budget package would show her inability to work with lawmakers.
However, House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills said Brewer's signing of the proposal would demonstrate "the true quality of a leader, which is compromise and sense of reality."
Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman deflected questions as to possible consequences for the governor if her sales tax proposal doesn't advance to voters. But he noted that nearly all Republican lawmakers have supported sending the proposal to voters.