Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 14, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Leadership

  |   Video
  • Arizona Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams return to HORIZON for an update on the state's budget.
Guests:
  • Bob Burns - State Senate President, Republican from Peoria
  • Kirk Adams - State speaker of the house, Republican from from Mesa
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Rumors down at the state capitol are that lawmakers are close to a budget deal. Here to tell us if that's true is Senate President Bob Burns, a Republican from Peoria. And speaker of the house Kirk Adams, a Republican from Mesa. Good to have you back on "Horizon." Thanks for joining us.

Kirk Adams:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
President Burns, is it true?

Bob Burns:
Well, I guess it depends on how you define close. I think we've got a little work to do. We've worked our way through the spreadsheet that came out of the appropriations committee. Briefed our members on that. We have the so-called BRB list. The budget reconciliation bills. We've worked our way through that and now we've got a $500 million nut to crack and so we're starting to work on that right now at the joint leadership level.

Ted Simons:
Speaker, is that how you're seeing it? Are things moving along more quickly?

Kirk Adams:
Yes, I think things are continuing to progress. As everyone knows this is a huge budget crisis and there's a lot of information to gather and facts to check. And we've been going through this process for a long period of time. But we're ramping up the feedback that we're beginning to get from the membership as to their tolerance level for certain things or relative intolerance level. So things are ramping up and we are making progress.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned feedback. We're hearing again and hear on this program, as well, concern that the process isn't as open as you promised it would be when you took over as speaker. Respond, if you would.

Kirk Adams:
I think there's some misconceptions about this process. And some rank hypocrisy. When you look at what we've done, we've had over 28 open meetings in the house. Many held jointly with the joint appropriations of the house and senate. And also did an unprecedented first week of session where we opened up the floor of the house and revealed all of the budget options available to balance this hole. We did that, I would add, to our own political peril, because it's been used by political enemies to bludgeon the house for the past few months, but we felt it was important that everyone know the options. And Bob has been all over the state. Tombstone, several places in Maricopa County, speaking in public forums and taking questions about the budget. Just last week on Thursday, we spoke in front of 800 people, at the -- 800 people at the Tempe center for the arts. We've been out there and active and the membership is more involved than ever before.

Ted Simons:
Do you agree with that, because we keep hearing about secret meetings and so much of the membership showing up with nothing to do and not knowing what's going on?

Bob Burns:
The meetings are basically informational, it's a process of, like I said, the worksheet as I refer to it that came out of the appropriations committee is a public document. It's out there -- the appropriations committee. Everybody's got it. What we did is sit down with members and discuss the items in there to get a basic read on the members' tolerance, as was stated to what they can and cannot accept. There's no decisions made at this particular point in time. Now, there may be some decisions made in a closed meeting between leadership. Typically, we will evaluate the feedback we got from our members and then we will decide what we believe will fly or not fly and then go back to our members with that, with that information and see where we're at. You know, once we get to that point, then we're in the process of counting votes and so that, I think, has to be relatively close to the vest. If you start asking members to publicly state their position on a vote, they very well could put themselves in a position where they could not in effect, reverse themselves with additional information. One of the problems is a constant -- conditions change and so people have to be able -- members have to be able to be flexible enough to make changes in their position.

Kirk Adams:
And if I might add to that. As a comparison to what? To our own high ideals we've set in terms of transparency. Are we all the way there yet? No, we've made considerable progress. But if you compare to the democratic budget literally by a handful, no one was complaining about the lack of transparency and the fact that we've having this conversation about transparency is huge progress.

Ted Simons:
We did hear complaints and why everybody thought it was going to change. When you were saying this process will open up this time around, perhaps expectations were higher but we were hearing this the last time around. It sounded like a lot of folks didn't know what was going on down there.

Bob Burns:
I think that there's a -- there's a model when you have money and there's a model when you don't have money. These decisions are much more difficult now to make, and so there are a number of members who may be, in fact, complaining that it's not open enough, but others who say, wait a minute, I want to be able to make up my mind without being in front of the camera so I can be sure that the information I'm getting and the decision I make is solid and will hold through the entire process. One of the problems we had when we were in the open subcommittee model, if you will, when we were short on money, members went in and we said, look, you're going to have to make reductions and they did it at the subcommittee level. It went back to the committee level and they got reversed so these members in an open meeting voted to do what was considered by many of us the right thing, making those reductions and then the reductions were reversed and they were basically hung out to dry. They took the heat for voting the way they should have voted but then got reversed and so, you know, that puts a lot of pressure on members when that kind of thing starts to happen.

Ted Simons:
When you were on last time, president Burns, I remember you said you took it as a challenge to see if you can get the budget in without raising taxes. How is the challenge going?

Bob Burns:
I think we're making good progress. I'm encouraged. There's still work to do, obviously. That last vote, when it's 31 and 16, those are the tough ones, but we're making significant progress. The risk that would be created to the economy by raising taxes I think is extreme and we have got to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

Ted Simons:
Speaker, it sounds like leadership and the governor are at odds and the chasm is widening.

Kirk Adams:
It's important not to overstate the differences. The governor laid out five bullet points. The first four are widespread opportunity for agreement and we're optimistic in those areas. The primary difference would be whether you pass a temporary garden variety tax increase or send one to the ballot for the voters. There are practical and economic implications. We believe you can't fix the budget unless you also fix the economy and imposing a tax increase at this time does just the opposite. It will hurt the economy, not help it.

Ted Simons:
The governor said, I guess expressed shock at some of the things that the leadership was throwing out there. Which she called funny math, rollovers and these sorts of things. Your response.

Kirk Adams:
I understand -- I think there's legitimate criticisms and concerns about going in that direction, but relative to what? Many, many states across the country are utilizing these measures. Our position is that you have to identify the risk and downside with each option on the table and if you're going to propose a temporary tax increase, you have to acknowledge the risk to the economy along with that. We believe a preferable option would be to use the debt financing techniques that spread out the cost, if you will, of this deficit over multiple periods of time rather than concentrating that pain in -- concentrating it in a two or three period of time.

Ted Simons:
Debt financing techniques. This sounds a lot like the outgoing governor was saying.

Bob Burns:
It may sound the same, but I think there's a considerable difference. We're considering a borrowing to basically bridge us through to improving economy. Her borrowing plans were to increase state spending at accelerating rates above a sustainable level and that's what brought us to the problem we're in now. You know, when we were in a high growth spike as many people said it was, the 19% and 20% growth rate, when we came out of that and then continued to maintain spending levels that were created in that spike, it's unsustainable and that's why we're where we're at now.

Ted Simons:
Tax credits seem like it's becoming a talking point at the capitol. Is it sustainable to keep these tax credits going under the current situation?

Bob Burns:
I guess it depends on -- there's a number of tax credits out there and some are in place to stimulate activity, economic activity. If you want to get into the school voucher tax credit issue, I think what we do there is end up saving money by providing a partial payment to attract people out of the public school system into the private system. There's a debate about how many have to be attracted out in order to realize that savings, but the numbers, in my opinion, are the proof in the pudding.

Ted Simons:
We've got a taskforce -- a couple minutes left. A.S.U. people and economists and business -- people that there might be a way to get a tax increase out there, after three or four years, you would actually lower taxes in the long run and just need a simple majority as opposed to a two-thirds supermajority.

Kirk Adams:
You're referring to the prop 108 opinion contained in the F.A.C.T. report. And I think if you have lined up attorneys you would get at least two different answers split 50/50 whether that passes constitutional muster. It's an intriguing concept but if that were true, prop 108 would be meaningless for all intents and purposes. So we have to ask ourselves, are we willing to put the budget at risk to an adverse court decision if we went that direction.

Ted Simons:
All right. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Bob Burns:
Thank you.

United States Senator Jon Kyl

  |   Video
  • U.S. Senator Jon Kyl discusses national issues, including the economy and President Obama's stimulus package.
Guests:
  • Jon Kyl - U.S. Senator, Arizona


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Back from a recent trip to the Middle East, Arizona senator Jon Kyl is here to tell us what he learned and share his thoughts on the economy, the stimulus, and what it means for Arizona. Good to see you again.

Jon Kyl:
Thank you very much. Good to be back.

Ted Simons:
Where did you go?

Jon Kyl:
We went to Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. We think we have problems here. They've got problems over there.

Ted Simons:
What did you see?

Jon Kyl:
The biggest impression is that Pakistan is in bad shape. It's a viable democracy. A vibrant country with a lot of people and the economy is down like everywhere else, but the Taliban have taken over significant parts of that country and the leadership of the country is divided, the military has not been able to stop the Taliban. This is a country with 100 nuclear weapons and as tough as the challenge in Afghanistan and the situation in Israel and the other places in the Middle East are, Pakistan, I think is where the serious attention should be paid to.

Ted Simons:
And we heard about the Pakistan government essentially ceding a part of the country to the Taliban under Sharia law. That’s basically a home ground now for the Taliban is it not?

Jon Kyl:
And when I met with the president, it was essentially, not to worry. They're just changing the names of the judges and it's not really a big deal. Well, it is a big deal. When your country can't control a part of your territory, it's like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona deciding they're going to be under the control of a drug cartel and it's no big deal, it's not a problem.

Ted Simons:
How is this changing what's happening on the ground there?

Jon Kyl:
We have two connected problems. Afghanistan in some respects is a little bit more like Iraq in the sense that the American military can be successful if we put in enough troops. The President's strategy is good, but I think he's trying to do a little bit on the cheap. We probably need 30,000 troops but we can retake -- where the poppies are grown and if we can help the government by training the Afghan army to stay and protect the population, we can maintain control in Afghanistan. The real problem? Afghanistan, there are about 300 al Qaeda in the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Probably at least 30,000 Taliban. It's the militant Taliban that's the real problem.

Ted Simons:
I know you didn't get to visit the Asian countries.

Jon Kyl:
My colleague John McCain got back.

Ted Simons:
We'll be talking to him tomorrow. North Korea fires that missile and then the U.S. Security Council condemns and now North Korea says the six party talks forget about it. What's going on here?

Jon Kyl:
North Korea is tough and the Security Council is not. It condemns the action. Big deal. That doesn't mean anything to North Korea and I really regret there's been an assumption if we just talk with them and reason with the dear leader that everything will be all right. It won't. They're a nation that has nuclear weapons and they're testing missiles that can go further and further. Thank goodness we have a missile defense we can use to stop a missile. But now the president is talking about cutting back on the number of missiles in our missile defense and we need to get serious about threats from Iran and North Korea. Right now the best defense we have is our missile defense.

Ted Simons:
Secretary Gates had some ideas on reforming military acquisitions and weapons systems. Your thoughts.

Jon Kyl:
There's some good ideas and reforms that he has in place. I quarrel with some of the areas where he's cutting back. We're -- if you think about the stimulus package, the omnibus spending bill, the budget, where we're taking on massive debt. Spending trillions more and yet cutting defense. It's not credible for us to engage in all of this diplomacy and have nothing to back it up. They respect one thing and that's force and consistency and when they see us cutting back defense, particularly in areas where it -- particularly where it affects them. Missile defense, I think they're confident we're not going to have the ability to get the world to cause them to stop what they're doing and that's a bad thing.

Ted Simons:
Are we cutting back or slowing the increase?

Jon Kyl:
It depends on whether you fold into the budget all of the expenditures in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you fold that in, it's increased spending but under the Bush administration, that operational spending in Iraq and Afghanistan was always outside of the budget. If you bring it all in, and then you drastically cut the weapon acquisition, you can still have a larger budget, but in terms what we've been spending on military hardware and software, it's reduced.

Ted Simons:
Critics say the opponents to the cuts are carrying water for Raytheon.

Jon Kyl:
You have some congressmen if it's made in their district, they're for it. That's not where I'm coming from. Or John McCain. There's some areas where the secretary is making some very good adjustments, shall we say.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to economic matters here if we can. Ben Bernanke says the recession may be bottoming out.

Jon Kyl:
He would know better than I would. I don't think anyone can know for sure. It could be. If it is, my guess is it will be a rocky bottom for some time to come.

Ted Simons:
Does it seem as though credit is starting to loosen up?

Jon Kyl:
In other places in the country, it is, but not in Arizona. We have a market that's dominated by real estate development, and the like. And the credit for those kinds of activities is still very constipated is the word they use, and it's a good description.

Ted Simons:
You spoke to a group of bankers and told them government regulators and the government are going to be watching their every step.

Jon Kyl:
Sure.

Ted Simons:
Was this a way of warning them or is it this a criticism over regulation?

Jon Kyl:
Neither. What I was saying if you take money from the federal government, like the so-called tarp money, you need to welcome them into your boardroom because they're going to be watching what you're doing and maybe -- he who has the gold makes the rules and if the federal government gives help, then beware, they may tell what you what to do.

Ted Simons:
Do you agree with that scrutiny especially how much government money is being pumped in?

Jon Kyl:
In some respects it's appropriate, but can you imagine government bureaucrats dictating how much you pay your people? They didn't get any smarter when they went from Ohio or Washington D.C. and while it's correct that taxpayer money should be carefully accounted for and managed when it's sent to General Motors or some big bank, by the same token, that shouldn't mean that the government decides how to run the businesses.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to Mexico now. Jumping all over the globe. But you have field hearings I believe next week.

Jon Kyl:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Violence spilling over from Mexico to the U.S. How much of a threat?

Jon Kyl:
It’s a huge threat. It's been going on for a long time. The law enforcement people, they couldn't get anybody to pay attention until recently but it's a phenomenon that -- because of the kidnapping and extortion and then the crime, immigrant on immigrant, the rapes and burglaries and now the drug cartels moving ever further north preying on each other but a lot spills across the border because they're in Arizona and Texas and California and as well as northern Mexico. It's a huge problem and we need to work closely with the Mexican government to do everything we can to stop it.

Ted Simons:
What should we do, aside from working with the Mexican government?

Jon Kyl:
That's the primary thing, control our borders. We still don't have control of our borders. And they don't want us to allow cash and arms to flow into Mexico and we don't want them to bring illegal contraband or immigrants. Controlling the borders works both ways.

Ted Simons:
Is there more incentive on Capitol Hill to find consensus on reform?

Jon Kyl:
Not right now. First of all, we're in a recession and the need for cheaper labor isn't as significant as it was back in the boom days. Secondly, as John McCain will tell you, the American people have sent a strong signal. Control the border, enforce the law and then we'll talk about what we do next and we still haven't accomplished everything we need to in those regard. To try and do immigration reform at this point would be premature and probably not end successfully.

Ted Simons:
I ask that because the president sounds like he's starting to get more interested and focus more on immigration reform. What would you tell him? What do you want him to look at?

Jon Kyl:
First of all, he has a big group he needs to satisfy who wants that. And he's working the problem and we'll work it together and that's fine and there will be a lot of action but I don't think there will be action on Capitol Hill. I think it would be a big mistake to try and pursue that right now. I don't think the ground has been laid and if they want a failure, try it soon. But they ought to focus on the big problem. Domestically it's the recession and the credit crunch and until we get that taken care of, most will say stop reforming the world and get down to the problem that's affecting our daily lives.

Ted Simons:
Last question. Are we on the right track to get that kind of return as far as the economy is concerned?

Jon Kyl:
No. We're doing some proper things in dealing with financial institutions and credit. There's some things we ought to be doing that we're not doing and vice versa. But when it comes to stimulating the economy, we're spending literally trillions of dollars. Much will be wasted. Little of it will do any good and it will create a permanent government structure that's going to be very difficult to roll back. The most number of new jobs created are government jobs.

Ted Simons:
All right. Senator, we'll stop it right there. Thanks for joining us.

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