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Forget immigration, the big challenge for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is a tax increase

May 14, 2010 |  6:45 pm

Jan Brewer

Arizona's political class is spending the next few days wondering whether a fateful decision made by Gov. Jan Brewer will make or break her governorship.

No, not the controversial immigration law the governor signed last month that effectively makes Arizona police enforce immigration law -- which is wildly popular in the state and has little downside for Brewer. Instead, on Tuesday, voters will decide whether to follow her recommendations and do what is unthinkable in this conservative state: raise taxes.

Proposition 100, which is Brewer's baby, calls for a three-year 1-cent sales tax hike that is expected to generated $1 billion annually. That would patch the remaining hole in this state's rickety budget. Brewer argues that additional cuts will gut schools and public safety programs already reeling from big reductions last year.

Arizona has the 41st lowest tax burden in the nation, but Brewer's proposal split her own Republican Party, and it took months for the GOP-controlled Legislature to even agree to put it on the ballot. Brewer now has 20-plus challengers in the gubernatorial primary in August, largely because of her advocacy for the tax hike.

That's not to say Brewer's completely ignoring immigration. On Friday she announced the creation of a task force to try to rehabilitate Arizona's public image, fight back against a growing boycott of the state and counter what she called "mistruths" about the law.

-- Nicholas Riccardi

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Photo: Gov. Jan Brewer in April signs Arizona's new law to control illegal immigration. Credit: Associated Press.