Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 10, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

state of the State Reaction


  • senate President Ken Bennett and House Speaker Jim Weiers join Michael Grant to give the Republican reaction to Governor Napolitano’s State of the State address.
Guests:
  • Ken Bennett - Senate President


View Transcript
Janet Napolitano:
The state of Arizona is strong and getting stronger. [Applause] I stand before you today proud of the ground we have covered together, proud of the work we are doing. I am determined to build on our work, not rest on it, to make Arizona stronger still. An Arizona that is safe, strong and prosperous for every Arizonan.

Michael Grant:
Governor Janet Napolitano sets the stage for the 2006 legislative session. We'll talk with the senate president and the house speaker about the speech and their own agenda for the legislative session.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. The governor opening the legislative session with a couple of ideas often credited to conservative lawmakers cracking down on illegal immigration and tax reliever for business. Other topics the governor discussed, increased education funding, state employee pay and funding for domestic violence shelters. What was the general response from those in charge of the two legislative chambers? Let's find out. Joining me no is senate president Ken Bennett and house speaker Jim Weiers. Happy New Year to both of you.

Jim Weiers:
Thanks, Michael, same to you.

Ken Bennett:
Thanks.

Michael Grant:
Let me open up on a subject that the governor did not cover in her address and that's English language learners and the Flores case and the fines that could start. What is the legislature going to do in the next two weeks on that?

Ken Bennett:
Well, we will be meeting as we have been for the last couple of weeks with her to talk through those issues and see if we can find a compromise of the principles that we feel very strongly about, which is accountability and dealing with the fundamental issue of the lawsuit which was an arbitrary and capricious funding system. We sent her a bill last may and part of the budget package that she vetoed and we'll come back and talk about a lot of those same issues. But I think we're going to be fairly firm on making sure that there's accountability to go along with the funding to make sure that the job gets done and that we really address the issue of arbitrariness.

Michael Grant:
Mr. Weiers, I think consistent with what Mr. Bennett said, I heard the legislature is going to tweak what it did around the edges last year and send roughly the same bill back to the ninth floor and then the big question becomes, will the governor veto it or perhaps would the governor let the bill go into law without her signature. I have heard anything half correct?

Jim Weiers:
I think you heard a lot of it half correct. [Laughter]


Jim Weiers:
The question is, do you come back in and compromise on principles? Never. The bill sent up to her last year, there was a lot of problems on the governor's part, we think. We're not sure of the veto message. We only had a couple different items that she had pointed to. One is saying that we did not sit down with the minority caucus, which is not true. We went as far as we could get. There are points you agree to disagree. And in doing that we're saying we're not going to throw money at a problem. The arbitrary capricious as Mr. Bennett pointed out is really at the heart of what this lawsuit is about. To put another 400 million in there, as has been suggested, no. You still have the same problem with just more expensive price tag. That doesn't make any sense.

Michael Grant:
Part of the issue here is asking school districts to account for sources of money that they receive in relation to this subject area from others, the federal government, correct?

Ken Bennett:
Not just the federal government. There's also some fairly extensive funds from Arizona taxpayers in the form of local property tax for desegregation funding or other grants and programs. So part of our fundamental principles has been that if there's a cost associated with educating English language learning students, one, we should be focusing on actual costs not some cost study and then based on those actual costs we should account for resources the districts already have within their control and not be double funding those amounts but simply filling in the balance needed from state funds. So it will be accountability and resources and also making sure that the job's getting done, not just pouring more money into an unsuccessful program.

Michael Grant:
Any estimate on when you think a bill will get to the governor's desk?

Ken Bennett:
We plan on having a bill on the governor's desk before the 15 day deadline that the federal court has issued. And that's 13 days from now. So we'll make that, I think.

Michael Grant:
Mr. Weiers, we've got two or three clips from the governor's address. First just give me your general reaction to the speech yesterday.

Jim Weiers:
It's amazing. The governor sounded more republican than a lot of people would have ever given her credit for. I did make a statement that her speech writers could have taken off. All they did was look at what we had said before, myself before the chamber kickoff luncheon, these are the same things we had said in many of the areas. The only thing she's not suggesting is that we do moon launches from Arizona. Everything else has been covered in her speech. It's nice to say you want to take care of everything. We haven't got a clue as to the price tag that she's looking at. Because as she came back through, it was I'd like to do this, I'd like to do that, not for another 4 or five days will we actually get her proposed budget.

Michael Grant:
Mr. Bennett, if you look at this not as a state of the state address, if you look at it as a kickoff campaign address for the 2006 election, not providing a whole lot of detail and still staying at the 10,000-foot level is a fairly good political strategy, isn't it?

Ken Bennett:
Well, I don't think anyone has ever doubted her ability to strategize politically. But as the speaker mentioned, the details as to what she's actually proposed in the state of the state address will really come out in the budget that she releases. It should be out by Friday or Saturday. But she's now said that -

Michael Grant:
Or better.

Ken Bennett:
The constitution says it's supposed to be out five days after the beginning of the session which would be Saturday but apparently we don't count weekends so now she's saying next Tuesday. We're anxious to see the details.

Michael grant:
As thousands demonstrated of the capitol lawn in support of immigration rights, the governor talked about a 4 part, $100 million security package. The governor outlines the first element.

Janet Napolitano:
Today I am proposing a four part plan to crack down on illegal immigration. My plan is tough. It's realistic, and my budget includes $100 million to fund it. The legislature should adopt this plan. And for the first time approves the funding it takes for the work we need to do. First, we're going to come down hard on the criminals that have made human trafficking their business and human suffering their stock in trade. These human traffickers are vicious criminals who exploit misery and prey on fear. We're going to find them and bring the full weight of the law down on them.

Michael Grant:
Mr. Weiers, I guess what I found perhaps more surprising about the four point plan was the governor's suggestion that the national guard should be used on the border.

Jim Weiers:
Oh, no. You've got to be wrong. She's denied that. This is a horrible idea. We actually went through the archives. Even in a statement that she made here on KAET, horizon, not a good idea, can't do this, referred to it in the nos and the knots. Has never been affirmative to this. Now all of a sudden it's at the point where it's a great idea. She did come back and say as condition f. The feds would go ahead and pay for this. So that gives her wiggle room.

Michael Grant:
She was also offering it as a transition device between more promised federal support on the border and now.

Jim Weiers:
Well, to come back and say that you're going to give the feds a bill and that bill is going to be paid before I go forward with anything, that's not going to happen. I mean, there's not a person sitting within that chamber that knew that would happen. Will there be more federal funds for anything? Sure. But case in point. There was -- remember there was an emergency in Arizona on the border? I think it was $1.7 million. And emergencies are bad. Solutions are great. We still can't figure out where a lot of that money's gone. As close as we can tell there's been a couple hundred thousand dollars spent of it. That means the emergency must have been taken care of bite now.

Michael Grant:
mar. Bennett, she seemed to be indicating that perhaps there would be a renewed request for additional funding for that program, which as you know was targeted at the border counties and the more local impacts that they have on law enforcement. Did you read her comment the same way?

Ken Bennett:
Well, I think it included that. But as I think the speaker is trying to point out, to have declared an emergency last summer as she did and met that emergency with 1.5 million and now 100 million is needed, which happens to be the number that we spoke of last week at the chamber luncheon that Jim mentioned, I was kind of flabbergasted that she picked the exact number that we had suggested a week earlier. But here's an area where we have some surprising agreement. And it must include much more than the kind of expenses she wanted the 1.5 to go to. Because as Jim says, only about a couple hundred thousand of that has been spent.

Michael Grant:
Let me go back to the National Guard thing. That sure sounds tough. And that plays well on the front page. But is it smart? The National Guard is equipped and trained to do a whole lot of things. And I would quickly add does a whole lot of things very well. I don't know that I think of it as being well equipped and trained, though, for border security.

Ken Bennett:
Well, I think that's a good point. And when the speaker and the governor and I toured the border two or three months ago, we toured one of the facilities of the National Guard. And my recollection is that they were pretty clear that they are not trained to perform most of the functions that would assist in a lot of the border security. But maybe she's found something else.

Jim Weiers:
That was an engineering division, too.

Ken Bennett:
Yes.

Jim Weiers:
As I think a lot of them are in Arizona. I didn't mean to interrupt you. We did -- one of the things that we had seen prior to that visit, I have gone down and watched a demonstration with radar. And there happens to be a company, local company, Arizona company out of Scottsdale that has a product, as they say, and obviously we're going to find more out about it. We've been talking about this for 5 or 6 months that literally could close the border when it comes to detection. That doesn't mean you close the border for crossing. But if you know when they're crossing, who's crossing, it takes a lot of cost out of the people going back and forth looking for what's happening rather than being able to send to those positions once they've been identified.

Michael Grant:
Will the legislature send back to the governor the bill she vetoed last year allowing local law enforcement the option to enforce immigration laws?

Jim Weiers:
Yeah. I don't know what we're going to be sending back. She's already said she did not want -- there is something she said is an option. They did not have to take it as a shall. It was a may. And to come back and say that I vetoed it because there was no money on it, let the local sheriff's office or local P.D. make a determination. To come out carte blanche and say it's not good because it doesn't have money attached, let them decide. Let them make that determination. It was simply one of those things that we said if you and the citizens in that jurisdiction think it's important enough we'll allow you to do it.

Michael Grant:
The governor says that a lot of law enforcement people have come to her and said they don't want the option.

Jim Weiers:
We've had a lot of people come to us and said they wanted it. I guess it's which door they went in.

Michael Grant:
Have you heard both?

Ken Bennett:
I've heard both. In fact when we were touring the border and we were on the Indian reservation, their chief of police specifically requested and suggested that would be a good idea. Because right now they're at a bit of confusion as to whether they have the authority to enforce what would be a state law. And they clearly know they don't have the authority to enforce federal law. So he actually suggested that it would be a positive step in hi mind. But that, I'm sure, is not an unanimous opinion among all law enforcement. I think some of the money will be provided and we will have a bill back on her desk to allow local law enforcement to help on this issue. This is a huge issue to Arizona and local enforcement is going to have to be part of the solution.

Michael Grant:
The governor outlined several education initiatives. They deal with all day kindergarten, teacher pay, training and development for teachers and student aid. Here's what she had to say about that.

Janet Napolitano:
To make our education system the very best it can be, I call the legislature to do four things: expand voluntary all day kindergarten so it is available to every parent who wants it for his or her children. [Applause]


Janet Napolitano:
Increase teacher compensation so that we begin to pay teachers at a competitive rate for the critical work we ask them to do. [Applause]


Janet Napolitano:
Provide professional development and ongoing training to keep our best teachers in the classroom. [Applause]


Janet Napolitano:
And support increased funding for our community colleges and universities, including increased student aid, so that all Arizonans, young people and people already working who need new skills, have access to a world class higher education. [Applause]

Michael Grant:
Mr. Weiers, legislature had agreed to I think a five-year phase in plan for all day k. The governor said it ought to be a two-year plan. Does the legislature go along with that?

Jim Weiers:
We don't know. Anytime you're going to advance something or accelerate it there's going to be a cost. There's a lot of things that people don't quite take into consideration. On the physical plant when you're looking at the schools, there's district out there that said we know we don't have the money or space at this point to kick this thing up into the ranges as quick as you're asking. If you force us into a situation -- and again people say it's not forced, it's that we want or we should or something, it's not as a shall, it's a may. But you know, it's odd that when you take that argument and look back in to what we were discussing when it came back to enforcement on the agencies, the down fusion is that that's okay. I say no because there's no money connected with it. And we have not been able and we won't be able to until after the governor's actual budget comes out within the next couple of days to find out how in the world she plans on paying for all of this.

Michael Grant:
What's the current estimate on full policemen implementation on full voluntary all day k.?

Ken Bennett:
Based on the first two years that we've done, which were about 10\% pieces each and totaled combined about 30 or 40 million. I think the remaining step, if you wanted to do it all in one year, would be in excess of 200 million more.

Michael Grant:
All day k. Seems to be -- and I have reviewed various polling sources here so I don't rely strictly on one polling source -- seems to be an enormously politically popular idea. Is there anything in this for the legislature really to resist this idea?

Ken Bennett:
Well, I think one of the reasons why it's popular is that the legislature several years ago put over $30 million a year into a k.-3 funding program that basically allowed districts to decide however they wanted to spend that money. Many are using those dollars to already provide all day k. Even by the governor's budget office's only admission, when she suggested all day k. A couple of years ago, almost half of the state was already providing all day k. And most of what we have funded already and would fund over the next couple of phases is a replacement or dollars that were already being used for that purpose. So it doesn't surprise me or many of us that it's popular, because it's already out there. It's just a matter of, do you want to replace it with other dollars.

Michael Grant:
Well, Mr. Weiers, doesn't the story read this way? The governor proposes all day k. And legislature rejects it and you guys end up on the short end of the stick?

Jim Weiers:
Yeah. If that's the way that the question is, then that's the way that it's answered. One of the things that we did and that kind of caught everybody all guard -- we weren't trying to be cute or come in under the radar -- but we did send out a questionnaire to all the school districts asking them for their prioritization. I think that's where you start is if you have a limited amount of money that you're going to be able to spend, you can't say we're going to do everything lousy. Let's go ahead and give a little bit to everything so that at the end of the day you have a bun of things that are funded lousy. It was really surprising the districts that did respond before there was a political group out there that said, what are you doing? You're crazy by answering this because what you're doing now is answering a question which you should never do. All day kindergarten was not even at the top 3, 4, 35, 6 of options at the top.

Michael Grant:
I want to get to tax reliever. But real quickly what about the proposal for a $30,000 base pay for all teachers?

Jim Weiers:
Well, when you have standard amount that comes into basic aid, the districts make the determination where they're going to be spending the money. There are districts that can -- there are different starting wages all across. If you're going to unify across the board and say 30,000 is, are you then going to go ahead and cap as to what you can make? Are you going to say at 5 years, 10 year, whatnot?

Michael Grant:
So you don't think it's a good idea.

Jim Weiers:
I don't know how you do it. 30,000 for a teacher? A lot of districts that I know of start at 30, 31,000, any way.

Michael Grant:
What about mandating a $30,000 base pay for all teachers? Good idea, bad idea?

Ken Bennett:
I think good teachers are worth much more than that, whether they're starting or well into their career. Most of the districts as I think the speaker is allowing to have always said that we want to make that decision. We want to control our salary schedules and things like that. And. Are already in excess of 30 as a starting and nearing the mid 40s as an average. And so it's kind of a dichotomy of you want to have a statewide teacher pay schedule? Most of the districts have not received that very well.

Michael Grant:
Sounds like that's a non-starter. The state's economic health is another topic the governor addressed. $100 million again seems to be the magic number. That amount also figuring in her tax relief package.

Janet Napolitano:
Three years ago, business leaders came to us and said, if you can provide us with targeted tax relief, we'll reinvest in Arizona and create good jobs. So we worked with them and it's working for Arizona. We reduced the property taxes for businesses. And the sales factor bill that you passed into law last year is responsible for bringing a $3 billion Intel fabrication plan to chandler and thousands more jobs to Arizona. [Applause]


Janet Napolitano:
We've helped business which helps our people in turn by creating jobs. And with smart, targeted tax relief, we can continue to help families meet the climbing costs of daily life starting with healthcare, school supplies and gasoline.

Michael Grant:
Mr. Bennett, you and the speaker had suggested $250 million in tax relief. But let's not focus on the amount here. Let's focus on the approach. The governor seemed to be suggesting with her figure that it should be targeted. I got the impression perhaps tax credits and others for high tech, nano- tech and other tech. I think reading your and Mr. Weiers's comments, you feel more broad based tax relief would be appropriate, perhaps, lowering of the income tax rate generally. Am I somewhere in the ballpark here?

Ken Bennett:
I think that's been one of our themes, is if you're going to do some tax reform or cutting, try to do it in a way so that you not only reward the people who are already here doing the job of making the state go, but that you make Arizona a more attractive place for businesses who are looking at bringing high paid jobs somewhere. And if we can address, for example, the marginal tax rates on income tax or if we can -- I think we've got another group at the legislature that are kind of focused on the property tax side where we are still relatively high as far as business property taxes. If you can do something that rewards the people that are already here and makes Arizona more competitive and attractive and bring even more and better, higher-paying jobs in, then maybe we've really done something instead of targeting it so narrowly that you kind of reward a few people, some of whom are already doing it such as the small business. In my busy pay health insurance for my employees.

Michael Grant:
She wants to reward you.

Ken Bennett:
Reward me but it's not going to change my behavior. My behavior is already there.

Jim Weiers:
The real problem with that, I think it goes against common sense. And I've said this as long as I can remember. Two elements of society should be fair across the board, and that's taxes and justice. Regardless of who you are and what you make, you should be able to expect the same quality going. In coming out. In Arizona right now, 20\% of the people in Arizona pay 80\% of all the state income tax. So to come in and say that we're going to do targeted income tax or targeted this or targeted that the next question is, would it be any fairer if you did targeted justice? No.

Michael Grant:
Here I think is the counter balance to that, though. She credited the legislature for the change in the sales tax factor. And you can probably point at that as a significant contributing factor to Intel locating the $3 billion fabrication plant here with a lot of jobs.

Jim Weiers:
Absolutely.

Michael Grant:
So sometimes focus stuff does work.

Jim Weiers:
It does, but if you're looking at the individuals -- and I know that there was a poll done by the Arizona republic that says virtually everybody does not care if their taxes go up. Nobody wants to have their taxes removed or reduced. Well, it all depends on how you come back and form the question. You can always get the question answered the way that you want based on how you again, you set that up as, would you want a tax break if it only meant that you would be paying x amount, x amount, and if in fact this did take place there would be no more fire or the schools wouldn't get this, of course everybody is going to say it's not worth a couple dollars here or there. But that's not the reality.

Michael Grant:
I think it started out as burger and chicken dinner in the early 1990s. Focused tax relief. The three day sales tax holiday. Good idea or not for back to school?

Ken Bennett:
She must have been on the phone with former senator Scott Bungaard because he proposed that a few years ago and it

Michael Grant:
All right. Gentlemen, I suspect that we are going to be checking didn't go very far. But it's an intriguing idea that I think we'll give a look at gl.
in with you periodically throughout the legislative session.

Ken Bennett:
I look forward to that.

Michael Grant:
Senate president Ken Bennett we appreciate you joining us. House speaker Jim Weiers, happy New Year.


Michael Grant:
You can see some transcripts of horizon or find out about upcoming topics on the website. That address is as PBS .org. You can chick on horizon and follow the links. AsPBS .org.

Producer:
On Monday, governor Janet Napolitano kicked off the 2006 legislative session with her state of the state address. What are leading democrats saying about her plans? We will talk with two of them Wednesday at 7 on horizon.

Michael Grant:
On Thursday Arizona state university law professor Paul Bender is going to join me to talk about supreme court nominee Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings which are ongoing in the nation's capitol. Friday state capitol reporters will be here to talk about events including the governor's state of the state address. Thank you for joining us on a Tuesday evening. I'm Michael grant. Have a great one. Good night. ¶¶[Music]¶¶
Michael Grant: If you have comments and horizon, police contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of Horizon. ¶¶[Music]¶¶


Michael Grant:
Horizon is made possible way by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you. Closed captioning performed by lns captioning.

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