Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 17, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: roundtable, top stories,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of capitol media services, and Amanda Crawford of Bloomberg news. Well, anti-union measures were debated at the capitol, I want to get to that and a variety of other things, but first, lest we forget we had the state centennial at the lender owned capitol this week. Talk about the festivities. We have had one viewer writing in and saying where were the lawmakers? With all the celebration going on?

Mary Jo Pitzl: On Tuesday, statehood day, the 100th birthday, the lawmakers were tucked nicely inside their buildings, which as you pointed out, are not yet owned by the state, and busy at work in committee hearings because this was the last week to hear bills. And really, I saw maybe two or three sticking their nose out during the festivities. They were from 9:00 to 3:00. A bunch of music and dancing, and story-telling acts, and with the highlight being a performance by Wayne Newton.

Howard Fischer: The fact, is this was, for a 100th birthday, I was underwhelmed. First, there was this big run-up, trying to get stuff started, and couldn't get any money, and couldn't get the excitement, recession, and so, what we have to show for it is hey, we have repaved Washington street, and we in red and blue bricks, and.

Amanda Crawford: And copper paid for by an insurance company. It is funny, it was for the centennial.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They wanted to fix it.

Amanda Crawford: Right.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But mother nature took care of that bill, so what's interesting is that I think one of the lasting legacies of the centennial celebration will be the, the, a makeover of Washington street, and that was made for by a Federal grant. In this day, which issues Federal assistance.

Ted Simons: And Wayne Newton, he wrote that he opened the show, the celebration of Arizona, with viva Las Vegas?

Amanda Crawford: He did, and that was not lost on, on many of the audience members, now, he had a packed crowd. People, every seat was full, standing room only between the house and the Senate, but, to open his set with viva Las Vegas on Arizona's 100th birthday is another sign that Nevada and Las Vegas have stolen a lot of Arizona.

Ted Simons: Is he a north high graduate or did he graduate from north high?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Apparently, he attended north high but I think he moved away before, before or during his senior year.

Ted simons: Ok, and with all this going on, we mentioned the fact that the capitol still, governor wants to buy it in the worst way for symbolic reasons only because financially it doesn't make that much sense, but now, what's going on with that? Why hasn’t that gotten any traction at the capital?

Howard Fischer: Well, you have answered your own question that it doesn't have any financial sense. Look, last year, the state borrowed a billion dollars, including 106 million for the house, the Senate, and tower, not the old capitol because there is restrictions on that, and it was set up as 20-year notes with the possibility of paying back after ten years, ok, makes sense, and we have, we have some extra money, and the lenders are willing to put it aside now and give us the deed back, but we don't save anything, we're paying 160 million --

Mary Jo Pitzl: There some money in interest.

Howard Fischer: You don't. That's the point. Because the lenders will guarantee a certain amount of interest whether they get the money back in two years or get it back in ten, which is why the money is being put into the, the, you know, the lock box. It was symbolic. And the Governor said to the lawmakers, I would like to burn the mortgage on the state of the state, well, that did not happen.

Ted Simons: Is she pushing hard enough? Could she push harder? Is the legislature saying, push all you want, it ain't going to happen?

Amanda Crawford: I think this will be a tool in the budget negotiations. We have a Governor and legislature on the same political party but not always on the same side when it comes to budget negotiations, and there are things that they very much want and things that you want, and I think this will be one more chip on the table when it comes time to negotiate. The bottom line is we have the centennial of the state in a capitol building that we did not own, and whether you think it made sense to sell the capitol building, you said something about it making sense and she I think a lot of people would argue it never made sense to ever put those out to borrow money against them. If she leaves office her legacy could be the Governor who, who sold the state capitol buildings. And I think that at a personal front, that she was pushing for that, symbolically, for the centennial. But also, she doesn’t necessarily want that as her legacy.

Ted Simons: Does she keep pushing now that the centennial has come and gone?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Remember, we're just at the start of the centennial year. I think it might be back burnerred. There is a couple more years in Governor brewer's term and there will be more fish to fry. This is a symbol of the disconnect, the differing agendas of the Governor and the legislature, that they have. They want to save as much money of this little, what they believe is a temporary surplus as possible. The governor says, we're going to save most of it, but I want to see it, I want to see the purse strings. We have had some tough times in recent years, and this was her, her pet cause, I suspect it will be a back burner.

Howard Fischer: Except for the fact that on may 31, 2013, the one cent sales tax goes away unless the initiative manages to extend is it. That's a billion dollars. That's the financial cliff that everyone is worried about. Yes, the economy is improving and income taxes are. But, 100 million, in the bank, helps make that a much smaller cliff because even if we keep that, we still are going to be in the red in, for fiscal year 2014.

Ted Simons: Ok. Before we leave this, we kind of are alluding to the fact that the budget negotiations are going on, and we had the leadership on the other night, and President pierce was saying everything is great. Just fine. And, I don't know if that's true or not. Is there much of a disconnect going on down there?

Amanda Crawford: It sounds like they are not on the same page, and they are both, both sides are kind of, of, pushing that distance because you don't win in a negotiation by coming with your cards to the table in the begin and that's the stage that we are at. Where lawmakers want to do things differently than the governor does. And I think that, that, from what we're seeing both over the the negotiations over buying back the capitol, over the budget, the personnel system, the governorr Governor would like the legislature to be following her commands a bit more. To be listening to her priorities and following along, and they are not.

Ted Simons: And I was going to say, how much are they doing that? If at all?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, they agreed to hear her personnel reform bill. But, on the budget, things are not moving along, and it's mid February, but, you know, technically you don't have to have a budget until June 30, but as of earlier this week there was no agreement on what is the starting number that you work for, how much extra money does the state have to play around with for the next fiscal year? Until you get that agreement, it's hard to carve it out, how you’re going to spend the money.

Ted Simons: Are we seeing posturing for the most part here?

Howard Fischer: A bit. Some of it is, you have got a, a new senate President and house speaker with changes there, and a lot of folks saying this is our last chance at a supermajority to get what we want, and if we really wanted to, we could override the governor. So there is some posturing, but it comes down to what Mary Jo said, until you know where you are starting, you can't determine. We need more money from mental health, does that make sense? Everybody has their priorities in there, and then you have got folks who say, we would like further tax cuts. The funny thing, is we have not done a spending plan, we're putting out tax cuts.

Amanda Crawford: We're also, there is also a lot of talk by lawmakers about not having so much debt, and then they are not buying back the capitol, which at least symbolically, it erases debt. Even though you cannot get out of it for ten years. You have these competing priorities and issues.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the Governor. You mentioned the personnel plan. Finally unveil here, and we got someone pushing this thing with a, with representativede Justin Olson. This is pretty much as it was described earlier. At will employees for new hires. If you want a 5% raise, well --

Howard Fischer: Well, yeah. This is the interesting thing. Right now, probably, depending on which base you use, 75 to 80% of the folks are covered, and none of that would change. There is a certain amount of turnover. They will take some people off, supervisors above grade 19, and I.T. people, attorneys, and, but for everyone else, here's the deal. You can keep your personnel protections. No money. Or, somewhere we're promising you, remember, it's not in the bill, but trust us, we're the Government, we'll give you a 5% raise if you volunteerrarily agree to become uncovered. That's going to be an interesting sell. There are enough people who testified last night about the concerns about this. I will give you an example. We had a guy who was in the division of what was des, on the unemployment STATS who said there was pressure by a certain form of Governor who wants them to change how they put out the report, and they say they would have rolled over us.

Ted Simons: The cronyism, that kind of retaliation, perhaps, that kind of intimidation, that's what critics are talking about. How much has been debated on, this a conversation on this? What are you hearing?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, state workers, by and large, don't like it. They feel that, that it will take away what, what small protection that is they have, and they don't think, think a 5% pay raise is enough to give up the protections. Again, this is something that the Governor has, you know, structured as one of her legacy projects. She's going to, to push hard on this, she came out a little late last session, and so it did not go anywhere, and she's push it go this year, but I think you have got a disconnect between the workforce and, and, and, I think lawmakers are, are generally in a great mood with the idea.

Amanda Crawford: And 5% pay raise to a worker who a lot of studies have shown make less than the private counterparts, and there is a lot of dispute about that, but a lot of studies have shown that, and you are throwing out a 5% raise, and a bad economy for workers that haven't gotten any raise, and have seen their costs for retirement and health insurance go up. That's a big thing. We always hear from folks, you know, supporting this and these changes that we want the Government to run more like a private company. But it's not a private company. It is state taxpayer dollars at work, and we don't want, in general, the public doesn't want their public servants to be corrupted by political ideologies. To just be cast out because they voted the wrong way in the last election.

Howard Fischer: And this could be one of the issues. John Cavanaugh, a conservative Republican, was pointing out last night, he said, look, the way this is here, if my supervisor gets ticked off at me, I'm gone, so, I said, why not at least require some informal review by the department director, the H.R. division, or something else, and of course, the response from scot Smith is the deputy chief of staff, was don't worry. We're simplifying things, and it is going to have to be changes to make it acceptable to the Republicans.

Ted Simons: All right, and I want to get to the anti-union bills and, and quickly, they were heard this week, debated.

Howard fischer: One of them was was heard this week, and there were four different bills, and two of them that dealt with the payroll deductions. One of them would have disallowed payroll deductions entirely, and that one is, is, put aside, the bill that got out of committee, says that, that you can have payroll deductions for unions but you have to, to sign up every year, and the argument is, you have got a subscription to sunset magazine. It is not automatic. Now, look we all know what this --

Mary Jo Pitzl: I’ve been getting Sunset two years.

Howard Fischer: Yeah. The argument is that they are trying to, to make people think every year about what the union is giving them, and the unions, from, from the perspective of Republicans, are a pain in the butt. They are the people there, and they have pac money they use against them. They lobby things, and anything they can do to weaken the strength is important.

Amanda Crawford: And there was a fiscal note that came out with that bill that this that processing, doing this every year, would cost local Governments money. I think it's an interesting trend that we're seeing. I think we talk about the photo radar, but you hear so much about control from Republicans when it comes to the Federal Government. Don't tell us what to do. The union bills apply to cities. We don't have recognized unions of bargaining power at the state level, so it's the state telling a city, we're going to tell you, you cannot talk to the unions. We're going to tell you how to process union dues, and so it is exacting a control on local Governments that it would cost them money in this instance.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But this goes back to the whole argument about the tenth amendment, the state's rights, and the legislature, the Republicans contend, look, the states are pairamount, and that's why they rebuffed the Feds, and all the power not given to the Federal Government goes to the state.

Howard fischer: And there is revenue sharing. You talk to Rick, and he said we can tell the cities what to do. We give them 15% of our revenues so therefore, we're the boss.

Ted Simons: I'm hearing the collective bargaining, the ban on collective bargaining may be in for some tough sledding?

Howard Fischer: I think that there is a problem partly because of this issue of local control. One of the proponents is Jan brewer, from her time as a county supervisor, and she has vetoed bills last year that would interfere with local control, and a lot of folks are saying, look, if the City of Phoenix says it makes sense to talk to the firefighters, makes sense to the at that you can to the police, and makes sense to negotiate and have meet and defer with the teachers, why would you want to ban that?

Ted Simons: All right, we'll keep an eye on those because you could get a real fight if this thing continues, and get the sense that no one is up for that, but --

Howard Fischer: But, remember, this also is not Wisconsin. They are not taking over the capitol.

Ted Simons: There is a move to lower the minimum wage yet again, now this 12 is for, this is confusing, there is for part-time workers? People under 20? Both? Some?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah, about six years ago, voters said, established a minimum wage. It's not been popular with lawmakers so house majority leader Steve courts came in with a proposal, if it's kids, if it's under age 20, part-time, and temporary work, let's allow employers to hire them at a lower rate. And at a lower rate, it's not going to last forever, and there is, there is -- they claim that there is evidence that the higher minimum wage has forced companies to get rid of people and become more efficient and do more with less and squeeze their bottom line. And the bill was amended to also include all tip workers because most tip workers get, you know, their tips are in addition to the $7.65. The minimum wage. It has to go back to the voters, and given how overwhelmingingly the, the establishment of the minimum wage passed six years ago, even representative Jim wire says, he likes this bill. And he likes the idea of putting the, the concept but putting it before voters, he thinks it will fail.

Howard Fischer: And you have to start looking from a practical standpoint. If you are under 20, you have got people who have families under 20. Students asked to pay higher higher tuition, but we're going to let you earn only $3 an hour.

Amanda Crawford: How do you get passed that with discrimination? You are talking about someone who is a legal adult, 18 and older, so we have a legal definition that differentiates between people under 18 and over 18, and this picks a different age of 20. And I was one of those people, married at 19 and supporting myself. So, you know, to talk about discriminating and giving someone less money, but Mary jo talked about how BUSINESSES lawmakers are saying that the businesses have to do more with less, and this bill is looking at that waitress who supports her family in saying, if this bill passes, you get to do more with less. And that's the change. Do we think businesses need the helping hand or the person who is making them a wage or living off tips, waitresses don't make a ton of mope. Their tips are not enough to pull them into the upper middle class.

Howard Fischer: I think I hear a former waitress.

Mary Jo Fischer: No, never been a waitress. In a way, it does, you know, there was one restaurant owner who testified that their wait staff makes $25 an hour, not a bad wage, but these are not folks working at Chick-fil-a or McDonald's.

Howard Fischer: Yeah. And they tip at McDonald's these days? If I get extra fries, you get a tip.

Ted Simons: Ok. And we have a bill calling for an armed volunteer, armed volunteer force at the border because, and correct me if I am wrong, hezbolah is training down there.

Howard Fischer: If you listen to Sylvia Allen, she said that middle eastern terrorists are, in fact, lining themselves with the Mexican drug cartels, and that's part of what's leading to the violence along the border. The idea of, of what -- it's, essentially, parallels the idea of a posse. We have one here in maricopa county, and they are out sometimes writing up illegal immigrants, and sometimes they are patrolling the malls at Christmas. This is, obviously, takes it to another level. Where you are going to be talking about training people, and hopefully, training them, and that's one of the issues in there, to go out and not just sit there and spy and report. But, actually, detain and arrest people.

Ted Simons: Pursue.

Howard Fischer: Pursue.

Ted Simons: And arrest people.

Howard Fischer: And that's the thing, and be armed and that presents a set of interesting issues. Sylvia's perspective is look, maybe it's only 300 people, but we have got to do something.

Ted Simons: I think one of the criticisms is that it appropriates 1.4 million for something that sounds like it will cost more than that.

Amanda Crawford: I think that there are major questions about liable, and that's what the critics are bringing up like the Senator said, if these guys do something wrong, and you have to look at the idea there is a volunteer force, and potentially, or armed volunteer force. Who volunteers to go be in the militia on the border? When you think about that. You come up with a list of people who feel a certain way about immigrants. Likely. And who come from an ideological perspective, and we have had many instances of professional trained border patrol agents who have, have abused immigrants, and I don't want to get into comments of people deserving it. I will not weigh in on that, but I think that there is a liability issue that, that is what some of the critics are talking about. And you are going to volunteer to go round up Mexicans on the border. Are you going to get people that want to take laws in their own hands and do things that are wrong?

Mary jo Pitzl: Am I correct that they would only be deployed at the Governor's stand?

Howard fischer: This, actually, they, amend, passed the bill creating a state guard, but no money, and the governor may. This actually directs the Governor to appoint the head of the special missions unit, which is different than the state guard or the National Guard, and then that person would be empowered to go ahead and, and take volunteers, and essentially, force the issue So, it would be there, but yes, they would be under the Governor's command.

Mary Jo Pitzl: She could not deploy them?

>> See, that's interesting 16 because they are trying to force the hand a bit.

Ted Simons: Where's the National Guard? We do have a National Guard. Where are they in all of this?

Howard Fischer: Well, the National Guard is, to a certain extent, the ones that we have, and they have been phasing them out, have been under Federal control and pay and there in a support mission. They are there with their binoculars and in the rooms with the TV monitors.

Ted Simons: But how would this volunteer militia dynamic work with our National Guard? They monitor them, who is monitoring who?
Howard Fischer: It would be separated. That's the point. Something within the control of the state, and something that the Feds could not say, we're going to nationalize your state guard or your special unit. And the idea being that, that theoretically, Jan brewer would want to send someone down there to, to look strong and maybe sell a few books.

Amanda Crawford: And the Hyperbole around there is worth looking at. It's being followed as fighting terrorists from the mideast, Al-Qaeda and hezbolal, I was privy so a conversation at the national Governor's association conference this summer, and with, between Governor brewer and the head of the border patrol, in which she was drilling him on this issue. How many terrorists have you arrested coming into Arizona? How many middle eastern terrorists how many drug cartels, and he was adamant there is no connection. That this is not happening, and you have a bill being sold on a premise that border patrol is saying is not happening, and that there are not bodies at the border when there are twice the number of patrols on the border now than before, but critics of the Obama administration don't want to acknowledge this.

Ted Simons: Does that really matter?

Amanda Crawford: I don't think it does.

Ted Simons: Does that really matter?

Amanda Crawford: I don't think so.

Howard Fishcer: But, the issue is, you have got two truths here. One, the border is more secure than ever. Yes. 20,000 border patrol as opposed to 10,000 under the bush administration, and the other truth, people are getting in, and they are still coming here, and they are still, there is crime along the border, and if you are a rancher living along there, you better be armed, so there are two truths and neither one sees the other.

Ted Simons: And we have only got a minute and a half left here. We still have immigration measures. They are stuck. Anything happening with these?
Mary jo Pitzl: No, this was the final week for bills to be heard, and the immigration bills have not moved. That doesn't mean they might not pop up later in a striker bill, but there doesn't seem to be much.

Howard Fischer: These are the same bills that went down last year, with the same Senate, and in fact, the Senate has changed. They replaced Russell Pearce with Jerry Lewis so if you could not get them last year, you will not this year.

Ted Simons: Go ahead.

Amanda Crawford: And the key point is the target schools and hospitals, and that's the concern. When you are talking about a hospital that, illegal immigrants would be reported, reported to authorities, if they show up for care, and that creates a whole level of problems that the hospital community doesn't want to deal with.

Ted Simons: And the fact that these bills are assigned to three committees --.

Howard Fischer: Well, certainly, and Steve pierce said, if there is support for something, we'll push it out, if not, he's not looking for this fight.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They were assigned to committees whose chair people voted against these measures last session.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. Thanks, guys, we appreciate it.

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