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July 1, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Capitol Update

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  • Arizona Capitol Times’ Jim Small reports on the latest from the state capitol.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Government

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TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Governor Jan Brewer today line item vetoed a number of provisions of a budget she received from the legislature early this morning. She also called lawmakers back into special session to find a way to pay for some of the cuts she restored to the budget. That could be tricky as some lawmakers are planning on being out of town soon. Here now to give us an update is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Jim, get any sleep last night at all?
JIM SMALL: I got a little bit this afternoon.
TED SIMONS: It's a long night. She line item vetoes, calls a special session, how much of a surprise is this?
JIM SMALL: Well, it was one of the options that I think people were speculating about. As yesterday drug into last night as it drug into this morning. You know, there were a number of -- everyone was trying to figure out what was going to happen, because republican lawmakers were acting on this negotiated set of budget bills absent the main provision that the governor Brewer was proposing was pushing for, which was a referral to the November ballot for a sales tax increase, without the speculation range the from she's going to veto everything and force us to shut down state government to she's going to cave completely and just sign it and move on and address the tax issue later. You know, she ended up somewhere in the middle. She avoided a government shutdown. She let, you know, let the underlying bills go into law. And she line item vetoed a number of spending cuts that were supported by republican lawmakers and she also really vetoed a lot of the policy bills that went along with it, that established, you know, how spending cuts were supposed to be implemented or different -- a number of different policy things, she outright vetoed them and said basically this is a budget, that is -- it's not a good budget. It doesn't include any additional revenue. It makes cuts that are way too deep and without a tax increase proposal on it we're going to have to start over.
TED SIMONS: She specifically targeted education here as far as vetoes and that's a pretty bold move, isn't it? That's a lot of money.
JIM SMALL: It is, and, you know, republican -- the budget that was passed by republicans included about $220 million in cuts to K-12 education plus another $40 million to the university system. In her line item vetoes she eliminated those cuts and the way it was structured she eliminated all of -- at first reading that she eliminated all the funding for education and universities possibly as well, so you know, that may be one way to try to actually prod the legislature into acting on this quickly, they are statutorily required to make a schools payment I believe later this month in a couple weeks, you know, so you've got a lot of things going on. She's bound and determined obviously to get the tax increase on the ballot. The thing she's been pushing for all year long, and these, you know this just demonstrates I think the length she's willing to go to for it.
TED SIMONS: The verbiage in her little, fatally flawed budget, devastating cuts to education, public safety, health services, is any of this going to fly any higher than it did for the past six months?
JIM SMALL: Well, I'm not really sure exactly what's going to happen, I mean, lawmakers are -- the republican lawmakers I talked to today are not happy with the way this worked. They feel they worked hard, in good faith, to negotiate a budget package and to try to get the entire package out. They feel that, look, we tried our hardest. We went to every member of our caucus and tried to twist every arm possible, you know, take everyone to the woodshed that we could, and we could not get the votes for it. You know, I spoke with house speaker Kirk Adams today. He said the way the deal worked was we would go and get every one of our members possible and we would come and then it was the governor's responsibility after that to go pick up any straggling republicans or go grab the democratic votes necessary for this tax referral. His comment to me was they failed in that goal and they didn't do it and so this is where we're at. You know, we're going to go ahead and pass the budget. We're not going to shut down government. But at the same time we can't be held responsible for this thing not getting support because the support just doesn't exist.
TED SIMONS: So she failed by not picking up the stragglers but they didn't fail as leaders to get her what she needed as far as the compromise is concerned.
JIM SMALL: Well, and I think this is, you know, where politics comes into it. Both sides are certainly going to have their reasons for believing why what they did was right and why the other side misbehaved.
TED SIMONS: Well, and that kind of brings us to the question, you know, folks are leaving town, they got vacations, weren't expected to be here come Monday, can they muster a quorum?
JIM SMALL: Don't know. I think we'll have to wait until Monday. Spoke with Senator Jonathan Payton from Tucson, he's in the Army Reserves. He was scheduled next week to go be on active duty, so he's supposed to be doing military training exercises starting Monday and for the entire week, he's not really sure if he's going to be able to show up down here at the capitol Monday, if he's going to be the serving the federal government.
TED SIMONS: If certain folks are missing and certain folks aren't missing, could that seriously change the dynamic of what gets negotiated and what gets played down there?
JIM SMALL: It could. I think really the biggest impact it's going to have is whether they even have frankly enough members to convene a special session. They have to have a quorum, they have to have16 in the senate, 31 in the house. A lot of people out of town or who frankly aren't willing to come back for this, say what's the point? They could have a difficult time convening a quorum and even if they do get a quorum, republican leadership is obviously not happy with the way this worked out. They've been fighting governor Brewer on this budget thing, you know, all year long, so if -- without a deal in place it's always possible they could come in, get the 31 and 16 people they need just to open up the floor, take attendance, do their pledge of allegiance, prayer, and sine die the special session without doing any action. It's happened before. It's still kind of up in the air to see what's going to happen. This whole thing is still really fresh and frankly most of the people I called today weren't available because they were at home sleeping because they were at the capitol until the wee hours of the morning.
TED SIMONS: I think some viewers would be interested, I know I certainly would, the deadline was midnight last night, and I know because I was following it, they were still going on much past midnight. They were going on until 7:30 this morning. Why wasn't the midnight deadline a deadline?
JIM SMALL: The house actually approved the bills at about 11:45 last night. They voted on them, sent them over to the senate so the senate could handle them. It took a couple hours before the senate got to them. There was the way they did it was the senate had their own bills, house had their own bills and they substituted one for the other. They had to make sure they were identical. The rules say you can only do the substitution if the bills are perfectly identical so they had to check and make sure there were no discrepancies. Senate finished at about 3:00, quarter to 3:00 in the morning. They got the budget bills done and essentially they got sent to the governor I think the first -- the senate sent the original budget bills from earlier in June to the governor at about 6:30 and the house followed shortly thereafter and sent them up and it took a few more hours before the governor announced what she was going to do.
TED SIMONS: We heard reports the senate doors were actually locked to keep people from the governor's office from delivering vetoes. Is that true?
JIM SMALL: Yeah. Yeah. They were certainly locked. I was on the outside so I don't know what was being said inside as to why exactly they were locked but yeah, that's what reportedly that was the reason why, because they were still in session. In fact I was standing in the house lobby looking across at people trying to open up the doors in to the senate to get in and eventually security came and let people in. But you know, they were still doing floor work and wanted to not have to I think deal, you know, maybe read those vetoes and actually deal with it while everyone was there. It was a tense situation, so it's probably a preventive measure.
TED SIMONS: It sounds awfully tense. Last question, with that in mind, this doesn't seem to bode all that well for next year, is there concern that this just could be an absolute chaotic mess even more so next go round?
JIM SMALL: You know, if they could come up with a way to have a more chaotic mess of a budget process than they had this year, that will be a feat unto itself I think. I mean, this year was plagued from the beginning. You had the federal stimulus dollars coming in, not knowing how those would be implemented, change in governors, you know, inability to get people on the same page, I imagine this problem between governor Brewer and the legislative republican leaders is definitely going to be a big obstacle for them to overcome next year.
TED SIMONS: Well Jim, great work. Thank you so much for showing up today after a very long night, always appreciate having you on.
JIM SMALL: Thanks for having me.

Lower-cost College Education

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  • Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderon discusses ideas for a cheaper alternative to the traditional four-year degree from one of Arizona’s three state universities.
  • Ernest Calderon - President, Arizona Board of Regents President
Category: Education

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TED SIMONS: Imagine having a coupon for 60% off a university education in Arizona. A proposal by the president of the Arizona Board of Regents would have that effect for certain majors. Regent president Ernest Calderon is proposing a program be established to allow students to receive a bachelor's degree with expanded collaboration with community colleges. Here now to talk about the plan is regent president Ernest Calderon. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.
ERNEST CALDERON: Thanks for having me, Ted.
TED SIMONS: Get into detail here. Explain what you're talking about and how the collaboration would work.
ERNEST CALDERON: I'm thrilled that we're having a discussion on this, because it really is only an idea, but it's an idea that's loosely patterned on the success that they've had in Colorado with Regis College. Regis is a private jesuit school, they have put together these three plus one, or they call it A to B, associates to bachelor's degree program. What it means is this -- when a student is in high school, they would pick whatever university in Arizona they wanted to attend. The university would then say to them you need to pick up six hours in math or science and they would prescribe the hours and the courses the students would need to take. The students would satisfy that either through an advanced placement test or taking a course through a community college while they're in high school. They would then once they satisfy that, tell the university show the university that they had successfully completed it. The university would then assign them to a community college and they would go and attend the community college for that freshman year at community college rates. They would have no electives. They would have no wiggle room. They'd have to complete a prescribed curriculum that the community college will provide them. Same thing would happen in year two. They go to the same community college as prescribed by the university and they would complete the rigid curriculum. In year three rather than transfer to the university even though they were already admitted to the university they would stay at that community college and that year it would be the university that was in charge of the instruction of that curriculum and once again it would be a prescribed curriculum. The community college could use their resources, capital and human, in order to deliver those services, but if the university wasn't satisfied that the faculty was adequate or the laboratories weren't sufficient, the community college could buy that from the university. Once again year three the student only pays a community college tuition. Year four comes sticker shock, the student then goes to the university that first admitted them way back when they were a senior in high school, pays the full tuition of whatever it is that year, once again no wiggle room in the curriculum. They have to take the prescribed courses and at the end of that year, a select number of bachelor's degrees, they would get the bachelor's degree. All this time year one, they would pay let's say it's $75 a credit hour, they would pay, you know, 2200 bucks for the tuition. Year two, 2200 bucks for the tuition, year three, 2200 bucks for the tuition, year four, 7,600. So you can see how there's the savings all the way along.
TED SIMONS: How do you make sure the kid that goes 3-1 through that process should be adopted? How do you make sure that that degree isn't looked any lesser upon than the kid who goes all four years in a university?
ERNEST CALDERON: The university would guarantee it. First of all the student would not be getting the bachelor's degree from an unknown entity. Something that was a community college that just became the college of some sort. They would receive a degree from a well-known branded university, one of our three universities, all three were founded in the 1800s. All three are very well respected nationally. The brand would guarantee it. So it would be the university that would have to ensure that the community college in years one and year two would provide quality education and it would be the university to also ensure in year three that their curriculum was followed. All of this would be done in conjunction with the community college. In planning with them, it would be a win-win. Community colleges would get a third year of students that they wouldn't normally get. Community colleges could then at the beginning of the equation tell the universities we need enrollment at Phoenix College, so we want you to place your students that go through your three plus one at Phoenix College.
TED SIMONS: And that sounds a little – that third year sounds problematic. How do you convince universities that you've got folks that are capable, more than capable on campus, Tempe, Phoenix, east west, for these third year students but instead we're going to use those resources overlapping, duplicating whatever the case may be for some community colleges? It sounds like there might be a money problem, resource problem, am I wrong?
ERNEST CALDERON: You're not wrong. We're only wrong if we look at this being a university centric plan. What I'm suggesting is that we make it a customer centric plan. We say universities, yes, this is going to affect your revenue stream. But you need to know Arizonans are less concerned with the revenue stream than they are concerned about getting accessible affordable education. And once again, this is only in a limited number of majors and it would be a finite number of students. Arizona we're not having a problem increasing enrollment. We're a growing state. So this would only be one option of many options of providing greater accessibility.
TED SIMONS: What about the idea that it's not university centric, but it is university controlled in the sense that the collaboration is there, why not just open the thing wide open, let the universities do what they do, get some independent colleges out there for competition and see what comes what may?
ERNEST CALDERON: I'm totally in favor of independent colleges coming in to Arizona. The more the merrier. We have to double our production of bachelor's degrees by 2020. At this rate with the lack of funding, lack of support for higher education, it's a daunting task. The more the merrier, that's true. Let's bring in as many private colleges as possible. That would be helpful.
TED SIMONS: As far as universities are concerned, is there a will to lose? Obviously there's still a collaboration, so there's still control there, but not as much, and you mentioned per student funding ratios and these sorts of things, referred to it at least. Are the universities going to be willing to go along with something like this?
ERNEST CALDERON: I want to say this as diplomatically as I can. I'm very proud of the university system. I'm very proud of the people who have made it a great success, but this is a policy issue for the Board of regents, and it's time for the board of regents and I think you've seen this in the last month or two, to step up and direct the universities to do some things that -- to make them more accessible. Michael Crow much to his credit in Arizona State is already penciling things out, new innovations, he'll take this idea and I'm sure he’ll metamorphosize it into something different, but it might be better. It's time to direct the universities to do some things not built on 1950s or 1960s model but do something built on a new model. For example this whole idea of seat time, you have to be in a seat on campus, it's antiquated. Look at the success the University of Phoenix has had with adult education. Why can't we allow Ted Simons, who's been a draftsman for 20 years but doesn't have a bachelor's degree, to test out of the math that he would take if he had to go in and sit in a class for two years to prove to somebody that he knows the math that he's been living daily. We should have competency examinations so that Ted the draftsman could take the competency exam, pass it, maybe pick up 12 hours over because of his knowledge, then take the next highest level the university course in the same subject, pass that, which shows the doubters out there that he can be a good classroom student and instead of getting three hours he gets 15 hours. If he does that in a couple of disciplines, that's a year of college that's saved. We have to think outside the box and make it more accessible for the adult learner, for people that don't want the big athletic program as part of their college experience.
TED SIMONS: Which brings up the last question, will universities and community colleges be able to not only work outside the box, but collaborate, share, I mean, there's so many different questions here, so many folks have to get along. There's so many concerns, can they do it?
ERNEST CALDERON: They can do it, Ted, but this is what's going to be required. It won't be done and you probably read some of the criticisms that have come out, just from this idea, some people are concerned, particularly south of the Gila, concerned about who's going to get credit for this. If we can all put aside the desire to take credit for this and work together, it can be done. I'm very encouraged by Leah Bornstein in Coconino and Lucas Glasper in Phoenix that they want to work together with us.
TED SIMONS: Thank you so much for joining us on this very interesting idea.
ERNEST CALDERON: It's good to be back.

Weatherization Assistance Program

  |   Video
  • Federal stimulus dollars are providing a huge financial lift to a program that helps low income Arizonans save money on their utility bills while making their homes more energy efficient. We'll take a look at this program that saves energy, lowers utility bills, makes homes safer, and keeps people employed.
Category: Government

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TED SIMONS: Arizona's getting millions of dollars from the federal government to expand a program that helps low income people remain in their homes by cutting their utility bills. As David Majure reports, the program is also creating jobs.
DAVID MAJURE: High energy bills are a pain for a lot of people, but they're a problem for those who simply can't afford them.
SHIRLEY HERNANDEZ: Last year my highest bill was over $800, like $829.
DAVID MAJURE: During the summer Shirley Hernandez was paying an average of three to $400 a month for electricity. That's a fortune for a single mom on a fixed disability income of almost $1,800 a month, with a thousand dollar mortgage payment.
SHIRLEY HERNANDEZ: It was either pay my house payment or pay my electric bill. I'm a payment behind on my house, because it was too hot. Too hot.
DAVID MAJURE: Technicians from the foundation for senior living are trying to make Shirley more comfortable and save her some money. They recently did an energy audit on her house looking for ways to make it more energy efficient. Using the latest technology they measure how air tight the house is, then they track down leaks that make air conditioners work harder.
MAN: Watch the air just go right out the door.
DAVID MAJURE: It's all part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program. In Arizona it's administered by the State Department of Commerce.
CHARLIE GOHMAN: A large percentage of the clients are either elderly, on fixed income, disabled, but now we're seeing a lot more people that are unemployed, you know, losing their jobs, but historically it's been elderly,disabled, people on fixed incomes. An average person might pay five, 6% of their income on utility costs, for a lot of the low income people they're paying 20, 25%.
MAN: 3580.
DAVID MAJURE: The program's been helping low income Arizonans for decades, but it's never had the funding it has now. Over the next three years the federal stimulus plan will pump $57 million into this program that had been operating on less than $5 million a year.
CHARLIE GOHMAN: We're expanding the amount of work that we can do probably by a factor of 10.
That means going from 800 homes a year to 8,000 or more in the next three years. All of that work requires many more workers.
CHARLIE GOHMAN: So that's the biggest thing is just we have to go out and ramp up so we're doing an awful lot of training.
MAN: What this reading means --
DAVID MAJURE: The training takes place at the foundation for senior living's training center in Phoenix. In the past it trained about five people every two months. Now it's training more than 30 a month, putting a lot of construction workers back to work doing home energy audits.
CHARLIE GOHMAN: And that's what this stimulus is really doing, we're training a lot of people, putting a lot of people to work in a really important industry.
DAVID MAJURE: Back at Shirley's house the technicians have identified a number of problems including leaky air ducts and an air conditioner that needs replacing.
VINNY PEDALINO: So we anticipate phenomenal savings in this house, sealing duct work and replacing air conditioning systems, just that even though we'll do more than that, those are the big things, duct leakage is probably the number one most cost effective thing.
DAVID MAJURE: The weatherization program will pay for those repairs as long as they're cost effective.
CHARLIE GOHMAN: The common things we do are the duct sealing. Air sealing, sealing up all the holes between the house and the outside. You know, insulating the attic, shade screens on windows, we do an awful lot of replacing equipment.
DAVID MAJURE: On average for every dollar spent the program generates $1.30 in savings, Shirley should see a difference on her utility bill after all the work is done.
VINNY PEDALINO: It's hard to make predictions on this stuff, but I'm pretty confident we're going to cut her bill in half if not a lot more than that.
SHIRLEY HERNANDEZ: You’re out of here? Ok bye, you guys, thank you very much.
SHIRLEY HERNANDEZ: I'm blessed. I don't want to lose my house, so thank God, I didn't know what I was going to do.
TED SIMONS: The weatherization program is available for people with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, $40,000 a year for a family of four. More information is available on Arizona Department of Commerce website at Look for the link to energy programs.