April 28, 2011
Host: Ted Simons
House Speaker Steps Down
- Speaker of the House Kirk Adams discusses stepping down from his leadership role to focus on a run for Congress.
Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon," we'll talk to Kirk Adams, who had a busy day. He stepped down as house speaker and announced plans to run for Congress. Also on the show, we'll hear what advocates have to say about budget cuts to social services. That's next on "Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State attorney general Tom Horne decides to turn over the investigation into alleged misconduct by public officials in the Fiesta Bowl fiasco to Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery. Horne said in a press release this afternoon that he has a conflict because as attorney general, he represents some of those accused of wrong introducing. Also making news today, Kirk Adams who stepped down as speaker of the house and resigned from the legislature to announce his candidacy for Congress. At apples will seek the congressional seat vacated by Jeff flake, who is running for senate. Here to talk about his plans is Kirk Adams. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Kirk Adams: Thanks for inviting me.
Ted Simons: Busy day. Are you ready for all this?
Kirk Adams: I think so. Yes.
Ted Simons: Why are you running for this position? Why do you want to represent Arizona in Washington?
Kirk Adams: Our country is at a fundamental crossroads. I truly believe that if we don't tackle our biggest challenges we face as a country, now there may come a day when they are insurmountable. If you looks at what we've done within state government in the last three years, we have taken on those toughest challenges, tackled the biggest problems. You can agree or disagree with the choices that we've made, but we've been willing to make those choices. Right now what we need most of all in Washington are people who are willing to make those tough choices, and that's what excites me about running for Congress.
Ted Simons: And I ask why you're making this move, why you are thinking that you are the best qualified as opposed to someone else. Why should voters choose you?
Kirk Adams: Over the last three years, under my leadership in the Arizona house of representatives, we've confronted those big challenges, taken on tough issues, we haven't shirked from those issues. That's exactly what we need right now in Washington, DC. When you consider the federal spending, the federal debt, and Frankly you'd be generations of inability to tackle the tough problems. For too long we've had politicians kick the can down the road in Washington, DC. It's time we elect a crop of politicians that are ready to address those problems and bring forward real solutions, not unlike what we’re beginning to see with representative Paul Ryan.
Ted Simons: Let's get to representative Paul Ryan. Your thoughts on that, and specifically the ideas of lowering tax rates for the wealthy, and replacing Medicare with private insurance subsidies. Why are those good for America?
Kirk Adams: I think there's a lot of parallels with what representative Ryan is proposing and what we've actually done here at the Arizona state legislature. There are three things we need to institute at the federal level. First, we need to dramatically reduce federal spending. We have to do that if we're ever going to get our debt under control. Second, we have to focus on economic growth. We're not going to simply be able to cut our way out of this. This is the same thing we were saying three years ago at the Arizona house. We also have to grow the economy. Thus the need to reduce the tax burden on the job creators and third, we need to tackle long-term spending reforms. I've done that here in Arizona with our pension reform and other items in the budget that we were success until implementing. Paul Ryan is doing that by addressing the need in entitlement reform. It's the same thing. And so I think you put those things together, I think that's the direction this country needs to head. I think he's on the right track and I also believe, Ted, whether you disagree or agree with what Paul Ryan is proposing, you've got admit someone is finally stepping forward with the plan, a plan to reform what needs to be reformed. And I think that's very admirable.
Ted Simons: But, if the reform includes cuts 25% to education, 30% to transportation, whatever the numbers are, you said a whole flock of them, a lot of stuff is getting cut. Again, how is that good for Arizona, how it is going for America?
Kirk Adams: The reason why it's not good for America, if we continue to mount the debt and the deficits that we are mounting right now, we will be in a world of hurt and the sooner time period in a lot of us would like to admit. The math at the federal level simply does not add up. And if the day comes where we issue more debt and the Chinese or the European union or whoever else it may be, no longer wants to buy that debt, then we've seen nothing like what we will see at that point in time. So it's absolutely critical within these next few years we begin to address these problems. Now, that being said, just like we did here in Arizona, you can't do this all in one fell swoop. It took us a three-year period of time for our much smaller Arizona budget to put us on the right path. It's going to take us a long period of time to put the federal budget on the right path, but we have to start down that path now. We can no longer kick the can down the road.
Ted Simons: The president says that in order to avoid these pitfalls you refer to, you need to raise the tax rate slightly. Not crazy, slightly on the top wage earners in America. He says otherwise, and with all these cuts, let's put both of his ideas here, that Republicans and the Paul Ryans of the world are look at shrunken America, a limited America. America that is slowing down, that looks to the past instead of has big ideas and bold ideas for the future. How do you respond?
Kirk Adams: I completely disagree. What the president means when he says you have to raise taxes, the actual effect of that is raising taxes on small business owners. Those are the job creators. They need to have more of what they earn to save and invest in capital equipment, and in hiring new people for -- to run that equipment in their factories and so forth. It's not unlike what we did in Arizona. Even during a recession, we recognize it was important to reduce the tax burden to free up capital to make those investments, even at the time where we are cutting government spending. You have to do both at the same time because you need the economic growth as much as you need the balanced budget.
Ted Simons: We're going to have folks later on in the program talking about social service, how they were affected by legislative cuts this session. Critics say the lawmakers and you're leader in the house, balanced the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in Arizona. Lots of things were cut to folks who are not doing too well right now. How do you feel about that? Was that -- is that the best thing for Arizona?
Kirk Adams: You know, I recognize that there are reasonable people who disagree on these issues, and I respect their opinions. But the fact of the matter is from my perspective, it's a mathematics problem. If you don't have the revenues to match the expenditures, you have to make those tough choices. And this is why I'm prepared to run for Congress, because when you're in the arena, and you are facing the protests and the criticism and the name calling, and you still have the ability to make those tough choices, I think we need that now more than ever in the United States Congress.
Ted Simons: You have already said that you would be against ear marks as the predecessor in the -- in this particular vacancy in this particular congressional seat, was adamantly against ear marks. Why is that? It looks like your opponent Matt Salmon is saying he's going to fight for money that he can get to Arizona because Arizona needs the help, and Arizona could use the improvement. Why is that a bad idea?
Kirk Adams: I don't want to characterize Matt's position. I'll let him take care of that. But I will say that the earmarking process has been corruption in Washington, DC, and has bred a host of Washington, DC lobbyists. And we can't go down that path anymore. But I think it's also important to note that reforming ear marks is not the total solution. You have to begin to address entitlements, address entitlement spending. If you don't, in the same way within state government whey to address Medicaid, if you don't begin to address it, you cannot solve the problem. This is why when you see people like representative Ryan step forward with the courage to say, OK, here's the truth, we can't afford this, we have to fix it, here's a reasonable way to fix it now, so that it's not more harsh in the future.
Ted Simons: I don't want to veer too much off on this idea, but there are folks who would say that you give people option, the free market, and give them the choice, and give them vouchers, however it occurs, people are people. And they're going to choose the least expensive, they will probably underestimate the concerns they may be facing in the future. Some of them are approaching an age where they think they're going to be just fine, and in a couple years, they're not just fine, because they're aging. With all that in mind, is it wise in this particular instance to have so much of a free market influence?
Kirk Adams: I think that sells people short. People are consumers of all kinds of products. They may rational and good decisions as a group. We should trust their ability to know what best fits their needs. So, for example, in the Ryan budget when he proposes premium subsidies, if you will, for Medicare, that's the right kind of approach. It maximizes individuals' freedoms to choose for themselves what plan fits best for them. At the end of the day when that consumerism and that market heats up, we will drive costs down, and that I believe is the number 1 failing of Obamacare, it does nothing to drive health care costs down unless you count rationings, which eventually results from Obamacare.
Ted Simons: There’s so much more we could talk about, but I want to get to a couple other things, we've got a couple minutes. SB 1070, has that been good for Arizona?
Kirk Adams: The answer I believe is yes. And ultimately I believe that SB 1070 will be upheld substantially in the United States Supreme Court. We have the concurrent responsibility with the federal government, we jointly enforce other laws and other areas of statute and federal statute, there's no reason why states should not be allowed to jointly enforce existing federal law. And so I do believe at the end of the day, SB 1070 is productive. But it's not the solution either. It's not the complete solution. I firmly believe the illegal immigration problem is primarily a resource problem or a lack of resources, meaning the federal government not putting enough resources on Arizona’s southern border. If we were to do that, we would dramatically alter this entire conversation.
Ted Simons: Last question, if SB 1070 is such a good thing for Arizona, why were the plethora of immigration bills floating around the senate in particular, why didn't you push harder for those? Why didn’t those things make it in the legislature?
Kirk Adams: Those bills were nothing like SB 1070 They were covering entirely different subject areas. SB 1070 was not enforcing existing law, not changing the constitution or not creating a new law. It was about enforcing existing law.
Ted Simons:Here's my last question. Is Arizona a better place now than it was when you assumed leadership?
Kirk Adams: I think the answer is a resounding yes. But more important than the present, Arizona's future is brighter today than it was in 29 when you assumed the speaker -- 2009 when I assumed the speakership. We passed the largest permanent tax reductions in the history of the state, we brought long-term spending reforms to pension and to the budget and we've dramatically reduced state spending to finally bring a sense of stability to state finances, and that is a great foundation to build on for the future.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us tonight.
Kirk Adams: Thank you.
Legislative Wrap-up: Social Services
- Find out how state budget cuts to Medicaid, child care and cash assistance may affect Arizona’s most vulnerable populations. Guests include Jacki Taylor, CEO of Save the Family; Eddie Sissons, Executive Director of Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health; and Timothy Schmaltz, director of the Protecting Arizona's Family Coalition.
- Eddie Sissons - AZ Foundation for Behavioral Health
- Timothy Schmaltz - Protecting Arizona's Family Coalition
- Jacki Taylor - Save the Family Foundation of AZ
Ted Simons: Social services in Arizona took some big cuts in the last legislative session as lawmakers worked to balance the state budget. Health care, child care subsidies cash assistance all suffered. Here now to talk about the impact of those budget cuts is Timothy Schmaltz, director of protecting Arizona's family, a nonpartisan alliance of social and health community agencies. Also here is Jacki Taylor, CEO of save the family foundation of Arizona, and Eddie Sissons, executive director of the Arizona foundation for behavioral health. Good to have you aall here. Thanks for joining us. There's so much to cover here. Let's go service by service. Eddie, let's start with AHCCCS. 520 some-odd million dollars cut. The impact?
Eddie Sissions: I think it will have a significant impact. If CMS, the federal agency that oversees state Medicaid programs, AHCCCS is a Medicaid program, if they approve this, we'll see thousands of individuals lose health coverage. Our first population that could be -- have the door slammed shut could be as early as this Sunday, when we have individuals who have a medical expense spend-down. That's 5,000 people, gosh forbid if any of us have an accident – blow through our health insurance and have hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical costs. Those people will simply be one the path to bankruptcy.
Ted Simons: Describe -- give us a definition of this.
Eddie Sissons: It's basically a program that's targeted to those people who have high unexpected health crises in their lives. Sometimes they have no or very minimal health insurance, so if I really did have that horrible car accident and had just minimal health insurance or had just started my new job, and didn't have health insurance, I can rack up that bill fast. These are individuals who would have short-term health insurance through the AHCCCS program. It's a program that would sort of compromise a few years back.
Ted Simons: AHCCCS says dropping some 130, maybe thousand folks saves actually saves coverage for kids, for pregnant women, for the disabled, etc. How do you respond to that?
Timothy Schmaltz: The reality is that that they've done nothing but cut for the last three years. Kids care, kids care parents, they've cut child care subsidies, all kinds of emergency assistance. And in the end, you don't save any money. People -- the big question that nobody answers about all of these AHCCCS cuts, behavioral health cuts, frankly is, where do all these people go? At some point one person said they go to emergency rooms. That's the most expensive place. All of these cuts, frankly, are pennywise and pound foolish. They're an attack on families, they're -- they've cut vital services, they've abandoned families. Literally at a time when families needed a help up, and basically families were just abandoned in the middle of this recession.
Eddie Sissons: I think the other point, besides those who are facing the first door closing, we've got thousands of individuals who are called the childless adults. Individuals who particularly for our population, often are involved in behavioral health community who have episodes of homelessness, who have lost jobs, who are stranded. And those individuals will basically if they don't stay engaged and enrolled in the program, they will be off of the AHCCCS program. Totally.
Ted Simons: As far as homelessness and people we're seeing that, you know, have the complications in life, where do they go from here? What happens to them?
Jacki Taylor: They come to programs like ours, and we have all the tools to effectively get people out of homelessness, off cash assistance and on to independence and self-sufficiency. But by cutting these very basic supports, it cripples us in doing our work. Childcare is an excellent example. With the cuts -- the cash assistance cuts, we are severely limiting the amount of time that a person in poverty could access child care assistance, and without child care assistance it's impossible for them to even look for work, much less maintain work. If you can imagine as an example, if you are fortunate enough to get a $10 an hour job, which nets you $20,000 a year, you can spend as much as $10,000 a year on a licensed quality child care facility.
Ted Simons: The idea of the child care subsidies, how much has been cut, how many families are affected here.
Timothy Schmaltz: We're down 19,000 children. Just imagine every seat in the arena filled with a small child who is not getting child care. We're down 19,000 children. These are children of working parents, low-income working parents. It don't make any sense at all. As Jacki pointed out, it stops people from getting into the marketplace because we're denying this. And it's just crippled the other social -- it's one much those basic elements much helping people get back on their feet. So we're down 19,000 children, we've denied 16,000 children who have applied.
Ted Simons: The lawmakers will say that the time limit especially for this, cutting down the time I know it went from five to three, now it's from three to two, but just going three to two they say saves $8.5 million that can be used elsewhere. How do you respond?
Eddie Sissons: Well, I agree, it might be able to be used someplace else, but recognize the individual who comes into the welfare program, you don't get a lot of money, darling. This is not sitting home and watching soap operas. This barely getting by, and you need all those other supports. And what we also don't look at is that increasing percentages of people impacted are what are called child only households. If my adult daughter started having problems, I took over raising her children, then I would have -- I might have to at some point seek out some cash assistance. Now we're also limiting those grandparents.
Ted Simons: Because the grandparents are being included as far as wage earners, correct?
Eddie Sissons: That's right.
Ted Simons: Is it 300 some odd dollars a month?
Timothy Schmaltz: No, less than. 220 for two.
Ted Siomns: 220 for two?
Timothy Schmaltz: It was cut by 20%. We took the poorest of the poor and cut 20%. That's the main point here. What we've done is, we've devastated the safety net in Arizona. Under the guise of -- we don't have enough money and we've abandoned families who are very hurting. And some of us believe that budgets are moral documents. They're not just fiscal documents, they're moral documents. They reflect our values. And the last few years, we don't care about families. If you're down on your luck, tough.
Ted Simons: The idea that there's a 1.1 billion dollar budget, we had lawmakers coming in here on a weekly basis saying, we simply can't afford it. We had other lawmakers who would say that some of these programs make people too comfortable. They'll just stay on the program, they need encouragement to get off any kind of assistance, especially welfare assistance and these programs. Is that a valid argument?
Jacki Taylor: I would challenge any lawmaker to live on $220 a month are with two to three children. I think it's virtually impossible. I think that's a convenient excuse to make a case against cash assistance. Cash assistance is a tool that helps people get on their feet and move into self-sufficiency. It's certainly not a way that anyone can exist on a long-term basis without other income.
Eddie Sissons: Let me share another thing. What we find is as individuals come up to the time limit, it is five years now, the three year, and soon to be two. They can get a hardship exemption. What we find for those that are granted, the single largest reason is that the individual, either the parent or someone in the household, has a disability. Either physical or psychiatric disability. So what I would say under those circumstances, what are we doing to help that person overcome his or her disability, if they've got a disabled child and they want mom to work, are we doing respite care, are we doing something that helps her be able to go out to work and still care for that child? Or if she's got the disability, does she need to be on supplemental security income? What are we doing? Why are we just, sort of parking them there and saying, oh, you're bad for being there.
Ted Simons: Tim? We hear about fraud, and we hear about abuse all the time.
Timothy Schmaltz: Frankly, first -- to your first question, those are all old stereotypes that are full of the bigotry of the past. The fact is people swallow their pride to come on to public assistance, and they work very hard to get it. And during this recession, we've seen unemployment grow, we've seen food stamps grow, we've seen some of these basic programs grow. People are not taking advantage of this through fraud and abuse. In fact, the Goldwater institute, when they did their piglet study, didn't cite any real waste and fraud in any of the health welfare programs. They had one little paragraph. So the fraud and waste abuse is just old stereotypes and frankly, it's bad information.
Ted Simons: The idea of cash assistance, go back to this time limit thing, where now you can only be on it two years. One lawmaker, I won't -- one lawmaker said it wasn't meant to be open-ended or last forever. It was meant to be something as a stop gap, as a bridge to later in life, to get back to work, to get back to business. Is that -- is that valid?
Jacki Taylor: I think that is valid. And personally, I don't have a problem with a time limit, I think it's a good thing but I think it's become so restrictive and perscriptive in that time limit, it's not feasible for instance in the case after single mom who has no other resources, and two to three children, a two-year time limit is not sufficient to bridge that gap. She can't even -- I'll give you an example. At our center we have a stellar career development center. We are very effective at helping people seek and attain employment at above $10 an hour. That is our goal. But our mothers with small children who can't qualify for cash assistance can't even come and effectively utilize that center because there's no place to put the children.
Ted Simons: Real quickly, you wrote an op-ed piece, and you were talking about how it seemed like some lawmakers were mocking the poor, and there was scorn for the poor. These sorts of things. Waging war on the poor. That's pretty tough stuff.
Timothy Schmaltz: Yeah. Well, that's what's happened in the last three years. We have to kind of talk tough about this. The fact that these programs aren't sustainable is because you won't face as policy and leaders, you won't face the fact we need additional revenues. And when the people were asked when the governor herself led the charge and asked the people, we approved additional revenues. These cuts were taken on the backs of these most vulnerable and as I said in my op-ed, we did, moved from a war on poverty to help people to a war on the poor.
Ted Siomns: Very quickly.
Eddie Sissons: I just would say that we've got to recognize that just because we cut the program, the need, whether it's a person who is homeless, can't afford child care, needs health care, those needs are still there They're going to be met and us as a community are going to have to pay for it one way or the other.
Jacki Taylor: And surely we pay now, we pay later. In one form or another.
Ted Simons: We're going to have to stop it there. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jacki Taylor: Thank you.
Ted Simons: All right.