This is the final installment in The State Press’ five-week series that highlighted the gubernatorial candidates and their platforms. The primary election will be held Aug. 24, and early voting begins July 29.
Gov. Jan Brewer answered our questions through e-mail due to her tight schedule.
Name: Jan Brewer
Current city: Glendale
Number of years in Arizona: 40
State Press: What are your future plans to combat rising tuition? Some people argue that it’s one of the lowest in the country, but students are still worried because it’s been rising consistently in the last several years.
Gov. Jan Brewer: When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was first passed there were many who encouraged me to not accept the federal funds, but one of the reasons I did was because of how it would help education. I specifically instructed the universities to use the stimulus money to help mitigate tuition increases and it has.
However, the rising cost of tuition is a long-term issue and one facing our entire country. Last spring, I challenged the Board of Regents and the community colleges to develop more affordable, predictable and sustainable models of higher education for Arizona students and parents. They are working diligently, together, to come up with more low-cost four-year degree models throughout our state. I have been pleased with their progress but have told them that we must be aggressive in implementing these models. The need has never been greater.
SP: Critics say your signing of SB 1070 was purely a political move to win the election. What is your response?
JB: There is nothing political about fighting to keep the citizens of Arizona safe.
There will be no apologies for that.
The lack of a secure border and the corresponding human smuggling and illegal immigration that result from it are very serious problems that the federal government has neglected to solve for decades. The federal government must secure our border and put human smugglers out of business if we are to maintain our nation’s sovereignty and security.
The border region has become increasingly lawless and concerns continue to grow over violence spilling over into our border communities and then further north into major metropolitan areas. Absent a significant improvement in border security and a firm commitment to enforce U.S. immigration laws, citizens throughout the Southwest — not just Arizona — have a legitimate right to be concerned about lawlessness and violence.
Moreover, the federal government’s policy of securing the border in the El Paso and San Diego areas has turned Arizona into the superhighway of human smuggling activity, forcing illegal smugglers and illegal aliens into the remote and dangerous Arizona desert and then, ultimately, into drop houses in Arizona’s metropolitan areas.
Human smugglers are criminal operatives that prey on illegal aliens and coordinate their passage into our country.
The illegal immigrants are smuggled into the country, typically on foot, through the Arizona desert in very remote, rugged and dangerous terrain. Upon reaching a lay-up area, the smugglers will transition the illegal aliens into a vehicle for transport to a drop house.
It is not unusual for smugglers to cram 12 to 15 illegal aliens into a truck or van, or, in some cases, the smugglers will place dozens of illegal aliens into rental moving vans for transport.
The smugglers temporarily stash their human cargo in overcrowded drop houses until transportation and employment in their final destination is arranged.
Moreover, recently the federal Bureau of Land Management posted new signs in interior counties of Arizona warning residents not to access federal lands due to criminal activity associated with the border. These warnings signal to some that we have handed over portions of sovereign U.S. territory to human smugglers and drug traffickers.
This is an outrage. Instead of warning Americans to stay out of parts of our own country, we ought to be warning international lawbreakers that they will be detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We should also establish measures that stop illegal border crossings and put an end to crimes perpetrated on Americans by illegal aliens.
SP: You requested troops and money from the government and passed SB 1070. Are you satisfied with the border security now or is there more that needs to be done?
JB: No, I am not satisfied. We need the federal government to step up and do its job. While it has been the mantra for years in Arizona that this is a federal responsibility, I have taken our case to our Capitol and the nation to get some action. And we are starting to get some results.
I know that the Chamber has been heavily involved in representing the business community over the last several years on immigration issues. Because of the federal government’s neglect, the State of Arizona has had to step in and show the way in some instances.
My four-part plan provides for: Putting the National Guard back on the border; Completing the border fence; Restoring integrity to the federal immigration system; and Reimbursing the State of Arizona and our emergency health care providers for the burden we have had to bear due to the federal failure to secure the border, including the approximately $150 million annually to imprison criminal aliens.
SP: What do you plan on doing to fix the current budget situation further?
JB: I have initiated a five-point plan:
First, I launched a Jobs Action Team — Commerce, State Land, the Departments of Environmental Quality and Revenue — all working together to cut through red tape — and green tape — and speed [up] what has been a slow government process.
Second, we recognized our tax structure unduly burdened our employers, particularly those who require large capital investments, such as manufacturing. I committed the state to creating a reasonable package, one that includes tax reductions to foster economic development and long-term growth.
Third, we created a new Commerce Authority, replacing the Department of Commerce, to advance Arizona’s global competitiveness [as] long-lasting, impactful and laser-focused to grow Arizona businesses and attract new companies to our state. This new authority is designed to focus on Arizona’s high-value industries — renewable energy/solar, advanced manufacturing, technology, bioscience, and others — to transcend political whims and in order to diversify the State economy for the long-term.
Fourth, we began investing in our people, to make sure they have the skills to compete in these new jobs. I blocked further sweeps of Arizona’s Job Training Fund and I am committing $10 million of my discretionary funding — through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — to establish a Job Training Assistance Program.
Fifth, we began restoring fiscal stability, starting with balancing the state budget and resolving the deficit while protecting education and public safety. Returning Arizona to sustained prosperity has been the central focus of my tenure in office. I have never lost sight of its importance, nor have I lost sight of the progress we have made so far. It is real, it is significant and when you look back at where we started, thanks to the resolve of Arizonans, it is worthy of recognition.
SP: Was being governor ever a consideration in your past as secretary of state?
JB: No, being the best secretary of state possible in serving the people of Arizona was my singular focus. I was, however, very upfront with citizens on the campaign trail that the role of secretary of state includes succession, and that I was fully prepared to assume that office should Gov. [Janet] Napolitano leave Arizona.
SP: What will you do if you’re not elected?
JB: I will remember the tremendous honor it has been to serve the people of Arizona, and encourage others to continue to seek public office. Public service can be selfless and noble, if you place your service before yourself.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com