Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The second regular session of the 49th Arizona legislature convenes Monday. Here to talk about the session's potential impact on the attorney general's office is Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard. Budget cuts to your office?
Terry Goddard: Absolutely, the dominant factor of the upcoming legislative session is the budget. I need to fight every day to keep further devastation from the law enforcement ranks and it's something that we've been hit very hard and I'm very concerned that further slicing is going to really hurt the security of Arizonans, and that's a big deal.
Ted Simons: Governor Brewer says she's not happy about it either and wants to work with the office to get funding back in there.
Terry Goddard: I hope that's what it means. I'm still waiting for the phone call. There's a lot happening, I want to be hopeful. I want to be positive and upbeat because I think we need to start this year, this new year with a much more positive attitude about trying to put Arizona right. We're halfway through the fiscal year. Still don't have a balanced budget. $1.4 billion out of whack. That's intolerable.
Ted Simons: You sound like a man who is about to announce his candidacy for governor. Want to do it here?
Terry Goddard: I'm getting close. I hear that people are fed up with the lack of leadership at the capitol and this is something that is -- is -- grating on people's nerves and they're tired of it.
Ted Simons: Why would anyone -- considering what's going on in the state, why would anyone want to be governor of Arizona?
Terry Goddard: I'd be happy to go into that, because, you know, this is -- this is a fabulous state. We're having some very hard times and I think the challenge, and what I have to take very seriously on whether or not to get into the race, whether I can bring a level of leadership and new answers to help get Arizona back on its feet. But I'm confident we're going to recover. The question is how well and fast we do it and the lack of leadership, the vacuum that has afflicted the state capitol is something we have to get past.
Ted Simons: One of things that concerns folks, we're talking on this program about federal healthcare and we'll have congressman Shadegg and Steve Forbes talking about the federal plan. The governor wants you to look at that plan because there's concern we're going to get hit upside and sideways. First, are you going to review it?
Terry Goddard: The governor sent me a letter on New Year's Eve saying I should look in what we call the Nebraska exception and I wrote back saying, it's not law yet. There's nothing really to look at in terms of a constitutional challenge. I like -- like many, many Americans and Arizonans feel that cutting Nebraska a special deal is intolerable from a pure equity taxpayer point of view and I'm confident that's going to get written out of the law before it gets to the president. If it doesn't, I'll take a hard look at it as to whether we can make a constitutional challenge.
Ted Simons: The other attorney general who signed on to the letter, showing concern about the healthcare, mentioned the arbitrary and capricious nature of states having to pay for other states and these things is in their mind unconstitutional. Is that something you will look into it?
Terry Goddard: The letter had a conspicuous lack of legal authority. And we've had capricious actions by congress in the past. I don't like them but I'm not sure they raise to a constitutional standard. What I think is important is we focus on the capricious acts in Arizona. The slicing and dicing going on that really need to be protected. State parks, for example. I don't think Arizonans sit comfortable with finding our real treasures closed and maybe even sold.
Ted Simons: Speaking of arbitrary and capricious, there are some who see that in the county and some are criticizing you in not being aggressive and pursuing investigation into their activities. How do you respond?
Terry Goddard: One of my hopes are for the new year is that we can have peace in Maricopa County. There used to be peace in the middle east, but we've moved it closer to home. I watch with real anguish about what's going on in Maricopa County and there used to be a balance of powers between the supervisors and the sheriff and county attorney and that's been disrupted. And by appointing the chief justice to be a special master in this issue has put a much needed perspective and perhaps calm into the equation and I certainly want to wait and see how the process works. It's not for the attorney general to come in and be a nanny for county government, anywhere in Arizona and that's clearly a last resort.
Ted Simons: Up to and including going after the judges as the county attorney seems to be doing in terms of bribery and such. Still, the attorney general's job is to wait until something more concrete, more necessary of an investigation?
Terry Goddard: Well, I can't talk about investigations in public. Unlike some other people that like to do that. I believe I'm ethically bound not to. But the bottom line is that we've got a very important principle of the rule of law at stake. And it's very important that we not attack judges. There are procedures for appeal if a judge makes a mistake. So this attack on a judge I think is inappropriate. Just as important as the former judge was served with an interview day, he stood up and defended his client in public. We've had other attacks on parts of the criminal justice system that make us all very uneasy. Like looking at former chief justice Ruth McGregor's performance very carefully. She has a calm demeanor and great perspective and she's just left the bench and no ax to grind in this area and I think she's one person who can bring a new perspective to the war and lack of maturity. We don't have people acting like adults in Maricopa County and taxpayer money is being spent in the millions of dollars on fights between county agencies and in this time of tremendous budget shortfall is intolerable.
Ted Simons: I know that consumer fraud is a big issue. As far as the legislative session is concerned, what would you want to focus on most, concentrate on most?
Terry Goddard: There are a couple of consumer protections I want to see. We've had thousands of Arizonans taken advantage of who want to modify their loan and tried to work with their mortgage company without success and then scam artists come in and do nothing. We -- but there's more. And I hope the legislature will pass something that says upfront fees for these services will not be allowed. That will do a great deal to drive them out of town. The other thing is payday loans. There's been an effort to make them permanent in Arizona. That's going to come back in this legislative session because this is the year that payday loans are scheduled to be sunset.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
Terry Goddard: My pleasure.