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October 8, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

In memory: Sam Steiger

  |   Video
  • Five-term Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger passed away September 26th at the age of 83. Reporter Don Harris talks about Steiger, who may best be remembered for shooting a couple of burros.
  • Don Harris - Reporter
Category: Community   |   Keywords: in memory, memory, sam steiger, arizona congressman, congress, ,

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Ted Simons; Sam Steiger, a five-term Republican Congressman from Arizona, passed away September 26th at the age of 83. Steiger held many elected offices in Arizona, but he may best be remembered for a shooting incident in 1975. It's something "Arizona Horizon" had a chance to ask him about over the years.

Video: In 1975 he shot two burrows he says were on the attack. A columnist report he shot them in the bump.

Sam Steiger: Bernie WYNN started that lie. Everybody bought the story. You can't kill a burrow shooting it in the Rajneesh end. I guarantee it. I dropped these two burrows as they were running at me. And I shot them in the head.

Sam Steiger: I could find the cure for cancer with this. They'd still remember me as the guy who shot burrow. I want to you know I haven't shot a burrow in two or three weeks.

Reporter: Were you in fact in real danger?

Sam Steiger: Of course I was in real danger or -- I wouldn't have slain the little beasts if I wasn't in real danger. What happened was there was 100 burrows terrorizing the neighborhood for about three years, and nobody was doing anything about it. They had been run off from so many people's gardens they were aggressive, and they learned they could intimidate people. And when they would run back at people the people would leave. I didn't leave when they ran at me.

Reporter: When asked what legacy he would like to leave, he answered just how you'd expect him to answer.

Sam Steiger: Not for shooting those damn burrows. I really don't dwell on that. I don't care. I really don't care. And I'm not being cavalier about it. I will be remembered for the painting the crosswalk or shooting the burrows, and that doesn't bother me.

Ted Simons: Joining me now to talk about Sam Steiger is Arizona capital times reporter Don Harris who years ago covered Steiger's career for "The Arizona Republic." It's good to see you again.

Don Harris: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Who was Sam Steiger?

Don Harris: He was funny, he was controversial, he was colorful. The best part of him, he was quotable. And he left us some great quotes. And you know, he was very likeable unless your name was John Conlan. John I don't think liked him too much.

Ted Simons: Talk about that. People will hear that -- every time there's a rough primary, oh, we gotta remember what happened in the '70s. What happened in the '70s?

Don Harris: Well, they didn't like each other. Period. And they were both congressman, both Republicans running for the senate domination. And Conlan threw out a phrase something about vote for me is a vote for Christianity. Well, Steiger was Jewish. And Goldwater jump in addition to that and basically said, you're throwing religion, anti-Semitism into this. That really colored the race quite a bit.

Ted Simons: And a bruising race to the point that the democrat wound up winning.

Don Harris: Well, yeah. And Steiger won by about 10,000 votes out of about 200,000. And, yes, DeConcini won. I had talked to people who thought the reason Steiger won was because he was more colorful and likeable. I did cover the very first debate between Steiger and DeConcini, and DeConcini made his opening remarks and they were typically bland I guess you could say. And he said he hoped that any animosity could be behind them, there would be no more name calling, let's focus on the issues. Sam got up and said, I agree with Dennis but I can't help it if he's a tool of organized labor.

Ted Simons: And off they went. We should note earned a purple heart in the Korean War, was decorated veteran. Obviously many years, a lawmaker for many years, and rode some highs, was part of the Mecham administration.

Don Harris: He was. He was part of that and will controversy followed Sam wherever he went. And he was accused of making a threatening telephone call to somebody on the board of pardons and paroles. And he -- I remember the quote distinctly, Sam said "that conversation never took place." A couple days later a tape recording of the conversation surfaced. And he was charged with extortion, eventually it was overturned.

Ted Simons: Also painted a crosswalk in downtown property, we talked about the shooting of the burrows there. The colorful character aspect. What is his political legacy and do we see -- we look on this program essentially we sometimes shake our heads at what politicians do. It seems like back in the old days there was a lot of that kind of stuff going on just folks speaking their mind and who cares what happens.

Don Harris: That's right. And Sam -- I believe Sam was quoted as saying he would always tell the truth, mostly, anyway, because if you lied, then you had to pay attention to what you said and he says I'm too lazy to remember. So I try to tell it the way it is.

Ted Simons: What about his political legacy? With a do you think?

Don Harris: He was an Arizonan even though he was born in New York. I think with just -- the fact he shot the burrows, there was kind after side light to that, he said he shot them because they were charging him but there were reports they were shot in their hind quarters.

Ted Simons: And he said you can't kill one if you shoot it in the highland quarters. It must have been a lot of fun covering something like this.

Don Harris: It was. There was a debate, DeConcini-Steiger debate in Yuma back before when it was shot around the state. So The Republic sent me out there to cover it. It was fairly calm. One of the panelists wanted Steiger to disclose his financial wherewithal, and he said, well, I won't tell you how much I've invested but I can tell you where, but I'm still not as wealthy as Dennis. One of the sidelights, this is a Yuma station, KVUL I believe it was. The station manager was the emcee, the moderator. Lou Dobbs.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Don Harris: So there's hope for people in small markets.

Ted Simons: And there's home for all of us I suppose. Thanks for having. We appreciate it.

Vote 2012: Prop 116 (Personal Property Tax)

  |   Video
  • Farrell Quinlan, Arizona State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, explains Prop 116, a constitutional amendment that was referred to the ballot by state lawmakers. Prop 116 raises the personal property tax exemption on newly-acquired business equipment and machinery. The measure has no organized opposition.
  • Farrell Quinlan - Arizona State Director, National Federation of Independent Business
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, prop 116, personal property tax, taxes, ,

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Ted Simons: Our vote 2012 election coverage continues tonight with a look at proposition 116, also known as the small business job creation act. This constitutional amendment referred to the ballot by the legislature would give businesses a larger personal property tax break on new equipment and machinery. Currently the first 68,000 dollars of property is exempted from taxation, prop 116 would exempt the full cash value of business equipment and machinery up to an amount equal to the annual earnings of 50 workers in Arizona. Here to explain all this is prop 116 supporter Farrell Quinlan, state director for the national federation of independent business. Prop 116 has no organized opposition. It's good to see you here. Thanks for joining us.

Farrell Quinlan: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Why is this necessary?

Farrell Quinlan: Well, because it's part of the constitution, this has been an issue that's been sort of festering over the last few decades. Taxing the equipment and machinery a business owns has a very counterproductive effect on job creation. We're essentially punishing a business for investing in the things that are necessary for creating new jobs, and in this environment where we have sluggish job creation and our unemployment rate is around 8 or more, and you have -- if you add in the underemployed and the folks who have just given up you could say one in five Arizona once would rather be working right now. So we're trying to give small businesses especially the incentive to go out and invest in new equipment and machinery and that will we believe create thousands of new jobs.

Ted Simons: Again, as we mentioned, currently it's 50,000 plus inflation which gets you up to the 68,000. How does this 50 workers at an annual earnings -- how did that come about?

Ferrell Quinlan: There is a formula; it's the $50,000 plus inflation factor. We were looking at other formulas, and since we had to go to the voters anywhere we wanted to make sure this measure was tied to jobs. Wages track with inflation and the overall economy. So that will grow as time goes on. We've learned within our constitution there's a 300,000 or 350,000 dollar absolute limit on indebtedness, which is the a ridiculous number now, but 100 years ago it was enough to built the cap capitol. Today it's ridiculous. Then you force policy makers to play games. We're trying to stay away from a dollar figure number and go to a formula that is linked to something that means something to jobs.

Ted Simons: And this will only apply to new equipment, equipment already in existence, no go, correct?

Ferrell Quinlan: Everything that's on the books right now stays under the current rules, everything purchased January 1st onward would be subject to a new hire exemption level. So if you're a business and you do nothing, you're not going to get hurt or benefited. Only companies that go out and invest in new equipment and machinery will get any tax benefit on that investment.

Ted Simons: Estimated cost out of all this, out of the general fund? What are we looking at? I've read anywhere from six, seven, $8 million.

Ferrell Quinlan: There is a function of a formula that evens out any disruptions in the property tax system and the state general fund takes care of that. That's what the $8 million annually comes in. But that's a very small amount of money compared to the $10 billion that the state of Arizona spends every year.

Ted Simons: What about the cost much just trying to figure out what's new equipment and what's old equipment? Do we have the resources for that sort of thing?

Ferrell Quinlan: Right now every piece much equipment is already cataloged and valued and already has a date. Because there is depreciation over time. It's just a question of creating a second column with after January 1st of 2013, and just putting things in that column. So everything already has a date, it's just how you account for it.

Ted Simons: So maybe a few new workers but not too many?

Ferrell Quinlan: In materials of compliance costs?

Ted Simons: Yes.

Ferrell Quinlan: It's literally I'd say it's -- it's an Excel spreadsheet.

Ted Simons: Some concerns, we're going to talk more about this in our next debate, of shifting property tax burdens to homeowners, residential, basically shifting the burden. How do you respond to that?

Ferrell Quinlan: We had the joint legislative budget committee do an analysis of this and they found there was a, quote, almost negligible impact to homeowners 0.3% annual impact on the -- which could be in some ways a shift, and what they said is in a typical residential property, it could be as high as a $3 shift. However, they also said that the amount of change was so small that it's not even factored in terms of when they -- when the jurisdictions look to adjust the rates. It is such a small amount, it's not even enough to move the needle. It's a theoretical shift because the amounts are so small.

Ted Simons: As far as less revenue for local governments, I know there's concern there as well. Less revenue for everything. How do you respond to that?

Ferrell Quinlan: The real problem is the fact there is less money coming in on personal property tax because we've seen a 56% drop in Maricopa County, for instance, in the acquisition of new equipment and machinery since 2008. So there's no mystery why we're not growing jobs because we are not making the investments our private sector is not buying the equipment and machinery they need to create those jobs. So what we're hoping is to get us back on a more normal situation where we're acquiring new equipment.

Ted Simons: Basically when people say it sounds like the money will be shifted from one thing to another, it could be social services, it could be benefits, the whole nine yards, you say not necessarily so.

Ferrell Quinlan: The local property tax is local. So it's mostly at the local government and school district level. And what we've seen is we've had no opposition from the school districts or local governments. The realtors and prop 13 Arizona folks were very sensitive to any changes the homeowner of property taxes are not opposed to this. In fact the prop 13 Arizona folks are in favor of it. It is an antiquated tax. It punishes the kind of investment we need to create jobs and we've seen across the board support. We've got 30 votes out of 30 in the senate, and everyone in the house who voted, voted for it. You've got the house minority leader and the senate majority leader on the same team, you don't see that very often. I guess it's the exception that proves the rules.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. Thank you for joining us.

Ferrell Quinlan: Thank you.

Vote 2012: Prop 117 (Property Value Taxes) Debate

  |   Video
  • Prop 117 is a constitutional amendment referred to the ballot by the Arizona Legislature that would limit - to 5% - annual increases in property value which is used to calculate property taxes. Hear from Arizona Tax Research Association President Kevin McCarthy, who supports Prop 117, and Maricopa County Treasurer Charles “Hos” Hoskins, who is opposed to the measure.
  • Kevin McCarthy - President, Arizona Tax Research Association
  • Charles “Hos” Hoskins - Maricopa County Treasurer
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, prop 117, property value, taxes, debate, ,

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Ted Simons: Our vote 2012 election coverage continues with another tax related ballot measure. Prop 117 is a constitutional amendment referred to the ballot by state lawmakers. It would limit the annual increase in assessed property values to more than 5%. Here to talk about what effect that will have on property taxes is Kevin McCarthy president of the Arizona tax research association which supports prop 117, and Charles "Hos" Hoskins, Maricopa County treasurer, he is opposed to the measure. Good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Kevin, again, why is this proposition necessary?

Kevin McCarthy: Well, we think it's very necessary. Arizona is infamous for having one of the most complicated property tax systems in the country. This doesn't fix all the problems but we have a one-time opportunity to fix a couple of complications we think are particularly problematic. We are the only state in the country that confuses taxpayers, for instance, with two sets of taxable values that their property is taxed on. These were measures that were put in the Arizona constitution back in 1980. One of those taxable values is unlimited in how much it can grow, which means tax exposure can be extreme when you have surges in the real estate market. The other limited value is limited to 10% a year. And if that wasn't complicated enough it's limited to 25% of the difference of this year's secondary and last year's limited value. In my 26 years in the business, if you want to lose credibility with taxpayers in terms of them understanding the system, develop one that does that. So one of the first things 117 does is we're getting rid of the two taxable values. We'll have one simple assets of assessed value and that will be limited in growth to 5% a year.

Ted Simons: Why not simplify things, say 5% ball game.

Charles “Hos” Hoskins: Well, I congratulate them for attempting to simplify things, but it also has some side effects. Experts agree that whenever you limit growth of value, it ends up switching the tax burden to residential property. And if you go online and search for property value limits, you'll find many references that says that it will shift the burden, it sometimes is confusing, and it creates inequities within a class. And that is a pretty serious issue. That could end up being unconstitutional.

Ted Simons: Let's -- we have two things there. We'll get to the inequities, but the idea of shifting to residential. Is that a valid argument?

Kevin McCarthy: It would be the reverse probably in Arizona. If you look at historical trends, in the last real estate boom, residential property increased in value at twice the rate of commercial property. So if you wanted to look in Arizona and say, could this have some interplay between locally assessed homes and businesses, the reverse argument is made. This is the classic argument to try to defeat any effort of tax reform is always to try to have taxpayers look inward and tell themselves, the standard trick is to suggest this is bad for homeowners. You'd have to ignore how bad the current system is for homeowners first to be able to develop such an argument.

Ted Simons: A trick, he says.

Charles “Hos” Hoskins: It is at this time bad for homeowners because homeowners have held their value better than commercial property. Especially in the retirement community. What this would do, this prop 117, it would lock values in at -- where there would be a disparity between the market value of residential property and other property, so residential properties would be subsidizing those other properties for many years until that 5% could catch up.

Ted Simons: How many years?

Charles “Hos” Hoskins: And that would also be more noticeable in the retirement communities because they are closer to full market value. If there is a 30% difference between the market values of residential and the other properties, just on a straight line, it would take six years to catch up and they would be subsidizing those properties during that period of time.

Ted Simons: Again, sounds like another shift of the burden here.

Kevin McCarthy: No. In fact, the retirement communities in Arizona were damaged as much if not more by the rapid growth in values than any other property. What tax payers need to do is look at their bills. Intuitively all property taxpayers know if you allow an unlimited increase in the taxable value and you have what occurred in Arizona in 2000 homeowners saw a 60% increase in their value in one year, during that period of time, we had a record increase in tax levies. Folks who benefit from that system, tax collectors, tax consultants, they're going to try to confuse and divide taxpayers. But intuitively taxpayers know when their value skyrockets so does their taxes. That's something 117 will stop.

Ted Simons: Protecting against real estate booms. Valid argument?

Charles “Hos” Hoskins: Not entirely, because it will allow tax rates to increase. Mr. McCarthy was quoted in an article recently that was published that says there's nothing in 117 that prevents increases in tax rates. So if you limit the growth in value, you increase the tax rates, because the process starts with the levy of each of the districts. School districts, for instance. And then you take the taxable value within that school district and divide it into the levy and you get a tax rate. If you limit that and the budget goes up or increases more than 5%, the tax rate goes up. So it will increase -- there's nothing to prevent tax increases in prop 117.

Ted Simons: Last point on this, sounds like something's got to give.

Kevin McCarthy: There's all sorts of things to prevent taxes when -- last time value skyrocketed, 150 jurisdictions in Arizona didn't adjust their tax rates down a penny. We had record tax increases as a result of that. If taxpayers know one thing, they've heard it once they've heard it 100 times, it didn't increase your antioxidants because it left the tax rate the same. That won't happen with 117. They'll have to be honest, they'll be -- there will be transparency, they'll say we want more money than that and there will be need to address the tax rate accordingly.

Ted Simons: Doesn't sound like it could be fair, sounds like it could be unconstitutional against -- is that integrity real? Is that possible?

Kevin McCarthy: Let's talk about the constitutionality. Certainly the -- HOS could have availed to himself through all these arguments when it was referred through the Arizona legislature. The whole referral senate bill, senate concurrent resolution 1025 was analyzed by all the lawyers at the capitol that. Wasn't an argument that won the day. We picked 5% for a reason. 5% unlike the studies that the treasurer will refer, to tracks about the normal growth trend in Arizona. We think the 5% growth trend will ensure that there are not distortions between classes, but it will, that is 5% limit will make sure when we have a real estate boom, those values are brought into the system slower.

Ted Simons: No disproportionate shift he says.

Charles “Hos” Hoskins: That is contrary to numerous experts. These people are Ph.D.s, they're professors in universe, they're internationally recognized. I agree with these experts. There will be shifts, and I encouraging anyone that has any question about it to do their own research. Go online, look for property value limits, and there's a website that just came up, it's where there will be information on that. I do agree with these people that it will do three things -- it will increase taxes by shifting -- to homeowners, it will shift the burden, and it will create inequities and no I'm not really convinced it will be any more simple.

Ted Simons: OK. Not more simple. Just a simple fact that it's supposed to be simplified -- it doesn't sound like he's buying it.

Kevin McCarthy: He's not, but gladly in the light of day at the Arizona legislature a bipartisan group much legislators who think this system desperately needs to be reformed didn't see it any of the ways the treasurer does. This doesn't shift taxes from businesses to residential property. And I would encourage all the taxpayers out there, get your bill out. See if you benefit from a system that allows for 60% increase in value and a skyrocket can bill along with it.

Ted Simons: We need to stop it there. Gentlemen, great discussion. Thanks for joining us.