Birthday bummer: Arizona still doesn't own its capitol - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Birthday bummer: Arizona still doesn't own its capitol

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 4:18 pm

Jan Brewer did not get what she wanted for the state's 100th birthday.

In her State of the State speech last month, the governor pointed out that Arizona does not currently own the House, the Senate and the Executive Tower. They were essentially mortgaged off two years ago as part of $1 billion in borrowing to balance the budget.

That deal gives the state 20 years to pay off the debt, with the option to pay it off early in a decade.

Brewer, however, sketched out a plan where the state could put the $106 million payoff into a special account and get the lenders to let go of their hold.

"And together we can celebrate the burning of that mortgage," she told lawmakers.

But the birthday came and went on Tuesday. And there is not even legislation in the pipeline to do what she wants.

In fact, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said it's unlikely the governor will get what she wants any time this year.

He agreed that there is extra cash this current year. And lawmakers anticipate a surplus for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

But Kavanagh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said not everyone is convinced it makes sense to use the excess on this. He said it is possible the state will actually be back in the red two years from now once the temporary one-cent sales tax expires May 31, 2013.

"A lot of members want to pay down the debt," he said. "And others want to put it into a larger rainy day fund so in 2015 if we have a major shortfall we can handle it without drastic program cuts."

Kavanagh said lawmakers will revisit the early payoff proposal next year after they have a better idea of the long-term revenue prospects.

Brewer told Capitol Media Services she was disappointed.

"I thought it would be a very nice gesture on behalf of our elected officials and myself to be able to pay the Capitol off in celebration of this very wonderful day," she said Tuesday.

The governor acknowledged that the $106 million figure to pay off the mortgage now is exactly the same amount the state would have to pay if it made the final payment eight years from now. But she said that does not make the early payoff just symbolic.

"I think it's important that we own the state Capitol," Brewer said.

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