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August 23, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Job Growth

  |   Video
  • ASU Economist Dennis Hoffman talks about Arizona’s job growth that’s leading most of the nation.
  • Dennis Hoffman - Economist, ASU
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: economy, job, growth, ,

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Ted Simons: Arizona is growing jobs faster than most states and may be headed toward its best annual increase in job growth since 2006. That according to an analysis of federal employment data by ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. Joining me now to talk about the number and the numbers is ASU economist Dennis Hoffman. Always good to see you.

Dennis Hoffman: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: Top 10 cities, metro areas for nonagricultural jobs, Phoenix tied for fourth with Seattle and San Diego. Surprised there at all?

Dennis Hoffman: No. We've been in the top 10 statewide for the better part of the last I don't know nine, 10 months. I think we've been in the top 10. Phoenix dominates the state so it wouldn't surprise, you know, that the metro ranks really very highly. It's a good group to be in.

Ted Simons: Phoenix numbers seem to be improving again. Will that growth -- what are we watching for here with the continued growth if there is continued growth?

Dennis Hoffman: Never buck the real estate trend, right ted? So, you know, we do have the rollercoaster. The real estate rollercoaster prevails in Arizona. It's pretty clear we've hit bottom and we're starting up. You know, the pace of expansion has yet to be determined but it's likely that Arizona will be among the top 10 job creators, say for the foreseeable future.

Ted Simons: In terms of metro regions, Phoenix ranks fourth, tied for fourth. San Francisco was number one, Houston number two, Denver number three. What are those cities doing right?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, this is really interesting. These cities are coming at this a little bit differently. And I want to go to a thesis but forward by Enrico Moretti, a professor at Berkeley who wrote a great book. It's a great read, the new geography of jobs, and he points to these high-tech cities as job creators over the next decade. And, you know, it's San Diego, it's San Francisco, it's Seattle, it's Austin, Boston, those kinds of things. So those kinds of cities are very consistent with the Moretti thesis. Now, Houston is getting tail wind from energy, clearly. Phoenix is getting tail wind because we're finally finding some, you know, footing let's say with respect to our construction industry, construction has been a horrible drag for the last five years. We're doing some other things right. I think in all fairness, the commerce authority has its act together. It's a very organized economic development strategy for the state, and I think we're seeing some positives coming from that.

Ted Simons: As far as state rankings, Arizona is number four here. North Dakota, California, Oklahoma, California ranked two as a state, we've got San Francisco ranked number one as a city and all I hear is that everyone’s leaving, California, jobs are being created there more than other places. What's going on?

Dennis Hoffman: Yeah, flies in the face of that argument that we both heard that, you know that high taxes are going to be the bane of anybody. There's another example in here. Illinois' not doing great but it had a massive tax increase over the last couple of years. And it stands, it's about middle of the road or a little bit below average and Wisconsin, who was thought to be the beneficiary of a lot of these jobs that were going to flee away from this high-tax state, it's just not happening. Wisconsin's losing jobs. So California is one of Moretti’s poster children frankly. It's -- despite some cost and 14 it's more costly clearly to do business in California than it is in other states, but despite that, that's where the opportunities lie. That's the opportunities in technology, the opportunities to leverage highly skilled labor. Infrastructure investments have not been bad, world-class university systems. So it's all part of the recipe.

Ted Simons: So if those are the opportunities that California -- I know medical is big in Houston as well along with the tail wind for energy, but the opportunities in Texas and Houston in particular, what are the opportunities here, what kind of jobs are we talking about here and I know you did a study regarding educational attainment in Arizona and how we're still lagging in terms of higher education.

Dennis Hoffman: If you peel back the onion a bit on our jobs, our job success and even our top 10 ranking right now, we're still not generating the high-quality jobs in sufficient numbers. You know, hey, we just need a few more Intels right? Intel is a tremendous asset for us and companies like that, there's others. The Boeings, the Ratheons, the Honeywell, provide great opportunities for the state of Arizona. The key is we're in a tight competition for jobs like that. Everybody wants jobs like that. And businesses like that are going to move where they can find skilled talent, highly educated people, sometimes, lucrative markets to sell in but most of these are export-based. They want great infrastructure in terms of communication, transportation, that kind of thing. Education is absolutely the key. So what we did is we looked at what Arizona might look like if we could raise the labor force share of college graduates, especially in this 25 to 34-year-old group, and we found we could add $9 billion to the Arizona economy.

Ted Simons: So you're saying basically the cost of doing business might be one metric but that could possibly be overshadowed by the simple quality and quantity of talent.

Dennis Hoffman: Absolutely. And I've tried to make this point on a number of forums. You know, economic development, the recipe for economic development strategy is an array of factors, and absolutely cost of doing business, regulation taxes, but skills of the workforce, the ability of a business to leverage the local workforce and generate profits is an unbelievable magnet for those businesses.

Ted Simons: The numbers on the report we were talking about, the jobs report metro areas and state rankings, sales tax revenue in Arizona up year-to-year about 5%. Retail sales up close to 7% year to year. Does this indicate happy days are here again? Individual income tax up 7.5%. Is this a return to normal? Do we start a parade or get back to where we should have been in the first place?

Dennis Hoffman: It's a little different. We're not generating jobs and quality jobs at the pace that we do under normal Arizona economic conditions. Some folks are making money. It's clear, because the tax receipts are showing that. So the interesting thing in terms of forecasting going forward, its capital gains, we really have to watch capital gains. They're highly volatile, there are signs that they are back. I have models that are screaming up in terms of capital gain generation. But it's a tough number to get a hold of. You never really see it. You see its imprint in terms of the revenues immediately but you don't really know for sure it's capital gains until two years down the road.

Ted Simons: But when you hear retail sales up this much and sales tax revenue up this much, that's a lot of consumer activity, no one's going to pooh-pooh that but again are we seeing the institutional kind of capital gains, corporate income, these sorts of things which indicate a vibrant infrastructure for economy?

Dennis Hoffman: That's right, but there's some element of stability in that Arizona consumer. People aren't going to be buying automobiles unless they're feeling relatively secure. And, you know, what we saw in say -- in, '08, '07, ’08, ’09, or early part of ’10, nobody bought automobiles. It was a dearth of consumption of automobiles. In the last several years, they've been 27% year on year for a couple of years running. So this is very important. It's a sign that the consumer is getting their footing and they're becoming a bit more confident. You know, we talk about climbing a wall of worry here. And I think that there's some evidence that we're moving in a positive direction.

Ted Simons: I was going to say bottom line you see optimism here, what do we watch for now in the coming months?

Dennis Hoffman: Its good signs we're moving in the right direction, for long-run economic prosperity, if we want to be one of Moretti’s winners as we're talking about, again I'm a university prop. I'm trying to feather my own nest here but the data are so clear. We need to attract highly skilled workers. We need to have jobs for highly skilled workers. We need to continue to train highly skilled workers. We cannot be known for low-cost and low skill if we want to maximize economic prosperity.
Ted Simons: And if low cost and low skill continues to increase and educational attainment and the high paying jobs continue to be stagnant that’s not necessarily a good thing?

Dennis Hoffman: No, there's going to be winners and losers going forward. And that doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me.

Ted Simons: All right, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis Hoffman: Thank you, Ted.

Voter Initiative Short on Valid Signatures

  |   Video
  • The “Top Two Primary” initiative designed to change how Arizona’s primary elections are conducted might not make it to the ballot after the Maricopa County Elections Department found a high percentage of petition signatures are invalid. County Elections Director Karen Osborne explains what her department found during the signature verification process.
  • Karen Osborne - Director, County Elections
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: law, voting, initiative, valid, signatures, ,

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Ted Simons: A voter initiative to change the way primary elections are conducted does not have enough valid petition 2 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The so-called top two primary initiatives needed nearly 260,000 valid signatures to make it to the ballot. Organizers turned in almost 100,000 more than they needed, but in Maricopa County, more than 1 in 3 signatures could not be validated. Here to tell us more about that and the signature verification process is Maricopa county elections director Karen Osborne. It's good to see you, thanks for joining us.
Karen Osborne: Happy to be here.
Ted Simons: As far as this issue is concerned, this particular initiative, what were you finding in these petition signatures and petitions as a whole?

Karen Osborne: In the petition as a whole, we found that there were 4,314 signatures that were not valid. And about 3,000 of those, 3,200, were people who were simply not registered in Maricopa County. We make every effort in the world to find those people on the file. We go through two and three checks to try to find them, but they simply were not registered here.

Ted Simons: And in terms of registration information, they disappeared? They couldn't be found?

Karen Osborne: They were -- perhaps they were canceled because they moved. They could have been in the -- in any of the situations where they thought they were registered but they weren't. People in a situation where you're in a parking lot, they call it like-me signatures. They say are you registered to vote, yes, I am, and they are not registered to vote. There are 3,200 people that we made every single effort to go back and look and look and look. Common names, we went through those names time and time again to try to find them and match up that signature.

Ted Simons: Is that often the thing that invalidates most petitions, is that a biggie usually?

Karen Osborne: It does, and that's throughout the state. That is the biggest category that any of us have.

Ted Simons: Okay. What other irregularities with the signatures not matching, addresses, dates, these sorts of things? What were you finding out there?

Karen Osborne: We found duplicates; there were 82 duplicates, people signing more than once. We found signatures, addresses that were not any place in Maricopa County. We found -- that's the normal. There were 147 people I believe that signed the petition and then registered after. So you have to be registered before you sign the petition.

Ted Simons: Indeed and I know it's a big concern to the group that's pushing the proposal. We're going to have them on in a second but as far as the numbers are concerned, again, out of the ordinary, unusual, do you see initiative petitions all the time? Was this standing out for some reason?

Karen Osborne: This petition was very similar to the ones we have had this year. But when you have the more neighbor to neighbor circulation of petitions as in Glendale on their tax issue, that one we got done testing not very long ago and it was only 20% invalid. So I think it's more the atmosphere of the circulation. But it is not just that Maricopa has one rate and Pima has another. Coconino has a rate that’s 10% behind Pima. So it just depends on what the atmosphere of the circulation was, because we all checked the same thing. We checked the signature, where you registered in that county on that day.

Ted Simons: And critics will look at this and say because there was so much more in Maricopa County than other counties, something must be different here. Has the verification process changed, has it evolved, are there new computers, are there stricter guidelines?

Karen Osborne: No, the method for checking signatures remains the same. It has always been a little higher here than in some of the other counties. But it is the same process. We use the same computer system. We use the same standards and methods; we look at the signatures the same way. This is -- most of the signatures this time on some of the other petitions had a higher invalidity rate than this one ended up having but we are just one of the 15 counties.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask because it sounds like a lot more. You said often Maricopa County has more invalid signatures than other counties. It is always 10%, 11% more invalid as it was this time?

Karen Osborne: It has been on this generation of issues that have come up. We were 10% more invalid than Pima on several of the statewide petitions that have come up.

Ted Simons: Last question, there's some groups out there who are coming together and saying we found criminals doing this, felons doing this, all sorts of folks. How much access does the public have to these petitions so that they can go over them themselves in certain ways and find out, get their own results? If they can do that, what are you doing? [ Laughter ]

Karen Osborne: Well, we can always use their help. No, the people that are talking about who circulated the petitions, we don't even get the back of the petitions. That doesn't come to the county level because you don't have to be registered to circulate a petition. You don't even have to live in Arizona but you have to register with the secretary of state and be able to be able to be served process. That is one thing that has changed over the years and it is -- the people who do the circulation can come to our office during the time they're circulating, use our computers and check to see are these people registered? In some cases, they go to the political parties and look at their files, but our file is dynamic. It's minute by minute and we always think that's best.

Ted Simons: And the bottom line is nothing has changed, it's not more strict than in past validation processes and its basically -- nothing is all that different this time around, just the numbers are bigger in Maricopa County by 10, 11%.

Karen Osborne: It is what it is.

Ted Simons: It's good to have you here.

Karen Osborne: Thank you, thank you.

Voter Initiative Short on Valid Signatures – Part 2

  |   Video
  • Joe Yuhas, a spokesman for the Open Elections, Open Government campaign, the group backing the “Top Two Primary” initiative, talks about the County’s findings and the possibility of a legal challenge.
  • Joe Yuhas - Spokesman, Open Elections, Open Government Campaign
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: law, voting, initiative, valid, signatures, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: And indeed, joining me now to talk about the high rate of invalid signatures for the top two primary initiatives is Joe Yuhas, a spokesman for the Open Government, Open Election Campaign, the group that is backing the initiative. Good to see you again. We just heard from Karen Osborne, county elections officer. It sounds as though you guys just had a big batch of invalid signatures. What’s going on?

Joe Yuhas: What a fine job Karen and all the staff do at the Maricopa county elections department. They have a monumental task to complete, and in a 10-day time period to take that sample and conduct an analysis and determine because we are the largest -- Maricopa county is the largest county in the state, whether this measure moves forward. We take issue. We take issue because first of all, we conducted our own validity check as we gathered petitions over a much more extended period of time, October of last year. That validity check matches all of the other counties in the state, except for Maricopa County. There's some anomaly here and we're not sure what it is although actually and in the last 24 hours, we've discovered what it is, and that sample that Karen talked about, the 4314 voters' signatures, we found an 80-year-old woman who was deemed to be invalid because she didn't put a one in front of the two for 2012. We found indications of voters -- the signatures that were declared invalid because they weren't registered to vote. The fact of the matter, the first 80 we checked, we found 13 of those were actually registered voters. We're deploying our volunteers across the county from Wickenburg to Queen Creek who are getting signed affidavits from voters in which the election officials have said that signature doesn't match their voter registration form. They're signing an additional document saying in fact that I did sign that petition. This we believe is going to earn us back the signatures we need to qualify for the ballot.

Ted Simons: And yet the process according to the elections director, nothing has changed here, the guidelines aren't any more strict than they used to be if you put the one there, if you put the one in the wrong place, those apparently have not been countered in the past. The anomaly she says exists as well with other -- how do you explain Coconino County and Pima County having such disparaging numbers?

Joe Yuhas: My chart here shows that the validation rate, keep in mind that Maricopa county's numbers are 67%. Coconino's rate is 86.9%. Pima County is at 77.9%. In fact, the statewide coverage is nearly 79%, ted, and that's what we don't understand. Why is it that there is a 12% difference, 12 percentage point difference between Maricopa County and the rest of the state. Why is it that a higher number of voters are disenfranchised as a result?

Ted Simons: What's the answer?

Joe Yuhas: Well, we're going to find out. We're conducting an analysis now of the results of that sample that Karen mentioned at 4314 signatures that were deemed to be invalid, we're preparing to take action, that action may be, once again, going to the courts, we're accustomed to that, the history of the of open elections, open government initiative to date has been one illegal impediment after another. The lobbyists and the political bosses don't like this measure so we're ready to tackle the next legal challenge.

Ted Simons: So with 1 of 3 signatures ruled invalid here in Maricopa County, 1 in 4, they can't find the registration records of these folks, and again, nothing seems to have changed according to the elections director. There's nothing unusual here in terms of how the varication process was done. What do you tell the judge?

Joe Yuhas: Well, I can't speak for previous campaigns that may have failed to qualify because of whatever criteria was used. I can only talk about our situation, the issue of unregistered voters. We only had the opportunity to secure the records yesterday morning around 10:00 am. We only had the opportunity to check 80 of the so-called unregistered voters' signatures. We found 13 registered voters in just that group of 80, as Karen pointed out, most of these are allegedly to be unregistered voters but we're finding frankly that the registration is actually there. So we're going to continue -- this process that we've started, which ultimately I believe is going to lead to action in the court.

Ted Simons: Who did collect these petitions?

Joe Yuhas: The campaign did, a collection of paid and volunteers. But frankly, the campaign bears responsibility here. An escape is led by some of our state's most respected business and community leaders who recognize that hyper partisanship is bringing our governmental institutions really sometimes to a grinding halt. So we can't take our eye off the ball here. Our goal is to not only put this measure on the ballot but also change the way our elections are conducted so that we don't continue down this road of hyper partisanship.

Ted Simons: I asked who collected the signatures because while you were looking at the county elections department, what they did, how they did it, those particular formulas and processes, I'm wondering if you were asking the folks who did the petition gathering, did you do this right? Did you just walk up and take, zre you investigating that angle as well?

Joe Yuhas: Not only now but frankly, over the course of our petition drive. I mentioned earlier we conducted our own internal validation process. We didn't just check 5%, Ted. We checked almost 35%. Again,statewide. And we're finding that our internal validation rate is matching the 14 other counties in the state. The only exception is Maricopa County. We need to find out why.

Ted Simons: And you are going to court?

Joe Yuhas: As we continue to gather the information, as we review. We had an opportunity yesterday to secure the report for Maricopa County but I think we're -- I think we're reasonably confident that's the direction we're going.
Ted Simons: That’s happening pretty quickly doesn’t it?
Joe Yuhas: It does, because next week Karen and all the election officials across the state their process of preparing for the November election, the printing of ballots, the publicity pamphlet. That's why we're working as hard as we are.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Joe Yuhas: Thanks, Ted.