Governor Jan Brewer delivered a condensed version of her state of the state address Wednesday to roughly 140 Prescott and Prescott Valley business leaders and elected officials at the Wyndham Gardens Hotel in Prescott at a luncheon sponsored by the Prescott and Prescott Valley Chambers of Commerce (Prescott Chamber of Commerce / Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce).
She spoke of the need to make cuts in health care; tax reform; controlling illegal immigration across the border; attracting jobs to Arizona; and making education more affordable, more accessible and easier for parents to get involved with their children's progress.
"These are difficult days that providence has set before us," she said. "I don't shrink from them. I do not cower. And, neither should you," she told the audience in her closing statement.
In her first State of the State address since she rose to the Governor's seat on Janet Napolitano's departure to serve as U.S. Homeland Security Chief, Gov. Brewer focused on hardships the state faces and will continue to face, rather than making promises for the new year, as most previous governors have in their annual State of the State address.
And although many might consider her speech to be less than reassuring, she promised hope with her proposed changes.
"I believe Arizona's second century will far surpass its first," she said. "Let me be clear about something else as well: Meeting this challenge will not be easy. I know this for a fact, because if there's one thing I've learned in my years of public service, it's that doing the right thing almost always means doing the hard thing.
"That's what it will come down to in the days ahead," she said. "Choosing what's tough over what's tempting. Choosing commitment over ignorance. Choosing government that is necessary over government that is merely desired. Choosing the truthful over the false.
"Honesty versus lies. Right versus wrong. Those are the choices Arizona faces."
Gov. Brewer emphasized that lawmakers need to place the needs of the people over their political aspirations.
"Wrong, is a state budget deficit of nearly $5 billion across two fiscal years," she said. "Wrong, is a federal government whose unfunded mandates and sweetheart deals steal Arizona's freedom and threaten to bankrupt our state.
"Wrong, is arguing, 'the system worked,' when evidence to the contrary is everywhere and obvious.
"Right, is telling hard truth even when it exacts a political cost. Right, is acting not in self-interest but on behalf of others. Right, is self-sacrifice, commitment to the greater good ... valor."
Much of her address rang of a political campaign speech, albeit void of immeasurable promises. This did not come as much of a surprise to those attending, as she will need to be re-elected next fall to retain her position. She will face challenges, even within her own party; State Treasurer Dean Martin was in Prescott at the same time announcing his run for the office.
Many attending the $25 a-plate luncheon told Prescott eNews they had come with questions to ask her after her speech. However, that time never came.
West Yavapai Guidance Clinic CEO Larry Green Jr., M.S., said he was disappointed he was not able to ask Gov. Brewer what will become of the 475,000 Arizonans currently eligible for AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) services who could lose those benefits and particularly the "most vulnerable Arizonans that need mental health and addiction treatment services, if AHCCCS is cut or eligibility is rolled back. Will they end up in emergency rooms or in jail?" he asks. "What about crisis services for mental health?"
Although the forum did not allow for public questioning the Governor, she did make some time after her speech for some of those attending to take photos with her. And she is the first Arizona Governor in many years to clear her schedule after her address for one-on-one interviews with local media in a private room.
Prescott eNews asked her about Green's questions and will follow up in the next few days with a story focusing on those issues; the Governor's response and the Governor's concerns about the fallout of what she considers to be necessary cutbacks in the state budget.
Yet, many in attendance walked away from the luncheon feeling inspired by what the Governor had to say.
Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall told Prescott eNews he did not expect her to open the forum to questions and feels confident in the direction she's trying to take the state.
"I thought she did a good job and she's telling it like it is, the way it should have been done all along," Kuykendall said. "I think she said what she could and is waiting until Friday to say more when she submits her plans to the legislature. Then she will get more deeply involved. I have a lot of respect for her and confidence in her."
The Governor's staff told Prescott eNews Brewer has been working closely with her budget committee and is ready to meet the Friday deadline to announce her proposed budget for 2010.
Alyce Mahan Brownridge, director of The Orme School of Arizona, said she appreciates the Governor's commitment to sustainability and desire to improve educational opportunities and broaden business opportunities throughout the state, as outlined in the state of the state address.
"I enjoyed hearing Governor Brewer's speech very much," Brownridge said. "There are a lot of challenges in the State of Arizona, of course, we all recognize that. What I particularly liked was the sustainability and renewable energy portions of her speech.
"Our school is also embarking on a sustainability program which educates our students so they can be involved in real projects through the state," she said. "It's such a natural place for us to do that with solar and wind energy, as well as lots of land resources that we have. The Orme School has been doing renewable and sustainable energy ever since its inception 81 yrs ago and now it's really a formal program with us, where students can measure wind energy and solar energy and build those facilities on campus directly with engineers from Northern Arizona University."
Prescott eNews will provide further details on the sustainability programs underway at Orme School, anticipated fallout from proposed cuts to Arizona's healthcare system and various elements of Governor's Brewer's plans in upcoming stories underway.