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Arizona governor says she’s close to new tack on budget

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer may give up trying to negotiate a budget with fellow Republicans in the legislature for now and just present her own comprehensive plan.

Brewer had said soon after taking office that she intended to produce a budget proposal. But she hasn’t taken that step while she and her staff consulted privately with legislative leaders in an attempt to find common ground on ways to close a projected shortfall of roughly $3 billion in the coming year.

However, Brewer on Thursday she told reporters she “almost believes” she should just present the Legislature with a specific plan.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor first wants legislative leaders to detail $840 million in spending cuts that they say are in their draft plan.

“At this point, she is exploring the option of rolling out more details of her five-point plan unilaterally, however we have not limited ourselves to (a) specific date for release,” Senseman said in an e-mail response to an inquiry from The Associated Press.

Republican leaders said they’ve been explaining their still-developing draft proposal to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers in recent weeks and are about to begin gauging how many would support it.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said Wednesday that lawmakers could present their proposal to Brewer once it clears the committee level but before it is considered by the full House or Senate.

Brewer, a Republican, became governor on Jan. 20 upon the resignation of her Democratic predecessor, Janet Napolitano, to assume a federal Cabinet post.

By then, Napolitano had already fulfilled the legal requirement that the governor provide the Legislature with a budget proposal within five days of the start of lawmakers’ annual session.

Because of her lame-duck status, Napolitano’s light-on-cuts proposal as a whole was immediately considered dead as a package by most lawmakers. However, some elements have been included in subsequent legislative offerings.

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