GOP leaders say Napolitano has sullied future dealings
The Arizona Republic
May. 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Robbie Sherwood
Republican leaders predicted Tuesday that future negotiations with Gov. Janet Napolitano would be greatly hampered because of last week's veto of corporate tuition tax credits.

House Speaker Jim Weiers and Senate President Ken Bennett told assorted lobbyists and business leaders at the annual Phoenix Chamber of Commerce legislative wrap-up breakfast that they could no longer trust Napolitano.

"There was a deal; her word was given," said Weiers, R-Phoenix. "In the end, her word was broken. . . . I was lied to. President Bennett was lied to."

Napolitano told reporters Tuesday that it was Republicans who first broke the budget deal by passing an "inadequate" plan to comply with a court-ordered funding increase to improve instruction for English-language learners in public schools. She said the budget deal hinged on Republicans working with Democratic lawmakers to craft a realistic plan to deal with the Flores lawsuit. Republicans failed, she said.

She also said the structure of the tuition tax credit was not what she negotiated, though a top staff member of hers did mistakenly sign off on the language before it was approved.

"They say we can't trust the governor, but I trusted them," Napolitano said. "I trusted them to reach a resolution on English-language learners. I trusted them to make sure our agreement was abided by."

Napolitano said she plans on calling a special session later this year to deal with both the English-learner plan and to revisit the tuition tax credit.

The chamber breakfast at times resembled a roast with Bennett, Weiers and others taking humorous jabs at Napolitano.

Bennett said future budget negotiations would likely require checklists and signed statements to make sure parties stick to their word. "And maybe a polygraph," he said.

Sen. Dean Martin compared the legislative session, which included long-sought tax cuts and a host of other business friendly measures, to a bag of popcorn at the movies.

"It was great all the way through until that last kernel," the Phoenix Republican said. "It was burned, and there was that piece that got stuck in your throat. Other than that it was a great bag of popcorn."