Republican Gov. Jan Brewer did not go unchallenged at a luncheon with legislators and business people Thursday at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador in Oro Valley.
If letter grades similar to school evaluations were assigned to the Arizona Legislature and "possibly the governor's office," those marks might be "a little lower than we'd like," Democratic Rep. Steve Farley told a joint luncheon of the Marana and Tucson chambers of commerce.
"I'm very concerned about our future, and how leadership is not taking us in the right direction," Farley said. "We have slashed our public education system, even with the sales tax passage. We have eliminated all-day kindergarten, gifted programs, GED and adult education. You tell me that isn't going to affect our future."
Farley said the majority Republican Party is "focusing on ideological wedge issues," such as Senate Bill 1070 on immigration status. A result is that legal Mexican visitors, who account for a measurable volume of retail sales in Pima County, "aren't coming here to shop any more. If 1070 were actually doing something … maybe it's worth it. But it's not. It's telling people they're not welcome here.
"We can all agree the federal government isn't doing its job," Farley said. "1070 doesn't do anything, it just chases away business.
"Think about who we are electing," Farley said. "Are you thinking one party is business-friendly? Think again. Are they making decisions that are good for the economy, or for short-term political gain?"
"As the minority party, our voices aren't heard very often," Democratic Sen. Paula Abboud told the crowd. "The state is polarized … to the point only one party, and one ideological aspect of that party, is being represented."
Democratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright said she too is "concerned about the direction" Arizona is taking in education, and in particular her belief that it supports private and charter schools to the detriment of K-12 public schools.
"We have been consistently underfunding public schools, or de-funding them," Young Wright said.
"We have kept the reductions in K-12 funding to an absolute minimum," District 26 Sen. Al Melvin said later. Cuts are on the order of $500 per pupil, from $9,700 to $9,200 per student, he told the crowd. "It's a 5 percent reduction, absolutely minimal, even though revenues decreased 30 percent."
"The residents of this district are really interested in seeing us work in a more bipartisan way," Young Wright said. She hopes Arizona "can move toward a more centrist position."
Brewer gives Williams her public backing
In a room full of legislators, candidates and business people Thursday, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer gave her lone endorsement to a District 26 incumbent.
Rep. Vic Williams, the first-term Republican House member, "stood tall, and supported budget reductions time and time again," Brewer said. He also gave his backing to Proposition 100, the 1 percent sales tax increase Brewer proposed – and Arizona voters adopted – in May.
"I would like to personally express my appreciation to him for his continued support this last year and a half," Brewer said. "I look forward to seeing you back at the Capitol in January."
When it came time for Williams to address the joint luncheon of the Marana and Tucson chambers of commerce, he called for further, gradual reduction of the state budget, so that in three years when the sales tax expires, "we do not fall off a cliff with that $1 billion" in estimated annual revenue tied to the sales tax.