PHOENIX (AP) -- Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed a budget bill for criminal justice programs, a move that provides funding for the cash-short Department of Public Safety to keep operating and sets the state on a course to help close its big revenue shortfall by refinancing prisons and other facilities.
The bill was the second budget measure that Brewer has signed since nine reached her desk on Aug. 20 but the fate of the rest of the bills -- including measures to restore spending cuts and to repeal a state property tax -- remained in the balance. Brewer, who previously signed a bill for parks and environmental programs, is expected to act on the remaining bills Friday. That's one day before Saturday's deadline for her to act.
Brewer had not signaled what she'll do with the balance of the package, which was drafted by Republican lawmakers and which doesn't include the GOP governor's proposal for a temporary sales tax increase.
Brewer on July 1 vetoed much of a previous budget proposal that didn't include the sales tax increase.
Those vetoes and subsequent legislative action left Arizona with a budget on the books but also a $3 billion shortfall that needs to be eliminated.
Bipartisan talks between Brewer and lawmakers have been unable to produce a compromise on possible changes to the budget package that originally was sent to her on Aug. 20.
The biggest sticking point in those talks was a property tax that had been suspended for three years but which is taking effect again this year.
Republicans refused to back off their push for repeal of the property tax, saying they viewed its return as a tax increase that would damage the economy. Democrats said the state needs the $250 million in annual revenue that would be provided by the tax to prop up essential services.
The Legislature adjourned its special session on the budget on Aug. 25, a move that set Saturday's deadline for action on the bills.
The 29-page criminal justice bill (HB2010) signed Thursday contains dozens of budget-balancing steps and other funding provisions dealing with various agencies.
"The governor is comfortable with the legislation," Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said Thursday. He said the governor hadn't made final decisions on the other bills.
House Minority Leader David Lujan, D-Phoenix, said he didn't know what Brewer would do with the other bills, but he noted that Brewer has continued to press for lawmakers to send her sales tax proposal to a special election ballot.
If she intended to sign the rest of the package, "she would have just done it along with" the criminal justice bill, he said. "I would think she would want to veto the budget because its virtually the same budget she called 'fatally flawed' just two months ago."
The criminal justice bill's provisions include one to free up more than $110 million of funding for the DPS, mostly by allowing a larger than normal use of highway dollars to pay for Highway Patrol operations.
The DPS did get some funding through an appropriations bill that Brewer signed on July 1, but not enough to continue operations past a Sept. 11 payroll, an agency official said earlier this week.
The signed bill also includes several major budget-balancing provisions, including one to have Brewer's administration raise $735 million through sale-leaseback refinancing of prisons and other state facilities, which the state would continue to operate.
However, the bill also calls for the state to allow one or more private prison companies to take over operations of one or more prisons in exchange for a $100 million up-front payment to the state. The operators then would be paid annually to house state prisoners.
The sales tax proposal, the centerpiece of Brewer's efforts to improve the state's shaky finances, was removed from the latest package passed by the Republican-led Legislature after the tax proposal fell two votes short of passage in the 30-member Senate.
Under Brewer's proposal, the sales tax would increase by a penny for a three-year period. She wanted it either approved outright by the Legislature or put on a special election ballot.
On the Net:
Arizona Legislature: www.azleg.state.az.us
Arizona Governor: http://azgovernor.gov/