It was the finger jab heard round the world. Normally finger jabs do not make noise, but I'm confident that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer got even the air's attention as she stuck her digit at the president when the two met on an airport tarmac in January. Brewer has developed a strong reputation as a conservative—she championed Arizona's controversial immigration bill, among the most extreme in the country. She's pushing for a measure now to give public workers a 5 percent pay increase—so long as they give up their job protections. So far, fairly typical Republican stuff, right?
Here's the curveball. In the past, she's pushed for increasing taxes and Tuesday she criticized state Republican lawmakers for offering a budget without enough spending for healthcare and education.
Arizona House Republicans offered a state budget Monday with $200 million less than the budget Brewer proposed. As the East Valley Tribune reports, Brewer's spokesman called the plan "short-sighted and reckless." Brewer wants to see more go to areas mental health services and building schools. Her proposal is hardly progressive; she offers no money to restore a health insurance program for low-income kids and uses some of the additional funds to push for raises to those public employees who forgo worker protections. But it does bring funding to some key areas, like increased funding for higher education and increased payments for healthcare providers. There's some money for remediation for students who fall behind and money to update the state's technology systems. Meanwhile, the Republicans controlling the Arizona House want propose a budget that does little to restore the drastic cuts from last year. Republican lawmakers seem relatively used to disregarding Brewer's demands. Still, this time, legislators may face an uphill battle.
"I'll tell you a budget she would sign: the one she proposed last month," the governor's spokesman told the Arizona Republic.
Brewer is one of very few Republicans in the limelight who's talking about a need for spending. She pushes against public worker protections, against immigrant rights and stands staunchly on the far right of other key issues. But in this case, it seems like she's among the few who argue government spending may help a state. The stage in Arizona is set for a fascinating fight Wednesday over just how Republicans define their budget priorities.
I'm guessing Brewer's got her finger ready to do some jabbing.