Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 4, 2007


Host: Howard Fischer

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Richard de Uriarte - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Howard Fischer:
It's Friday, May 4, 2007. In the headlines this week, we'll discuss this week's immigration rally and what state lawmakers are doing about reform. Lawmakers continue to try and come to an agreement on the state budget. And, we've got our design of the state quarter. These topics and more next on "Horizon."

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Howard Fischer:
Good evening, I'm Howard Fischer and this is the Journalists' Roundtable.

Howard Fischer:
Yes, because we're going to be discussing the budget I've worn my pork tie. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are: Richard de Uriarte of the Arizona Republic, Doug Ramsey of KTAR radio and Le Templar of the East Valley Tribune.

Howard Fischer:
Thousands marched and rallied Monday for immigration reform. Richard, does this have any impact on efforts to change immigration laws?

Richard de Uriarte:
Well, it's very interesting. Because for all kind of reasons they were expecting a much smaller crowd this year. For several reasons there was a split within the organizing groups and factionalism. There's been concerns about the immigrant raid, that people were more afraid. It just goes to show you, when 20,000 people showed up and the line was very impressive, as you can see by all the pictures, that it's hard for us to really understand what's going on. These things are organized by individual decisions over the valley. They organized 15 to 20,000 people. They marched. They were hoping for, I think -- first of all is immigration reform on a national level. They also -- many felt that it is a protest for the immigration raids that have been happening, which ironically have spurred -- were attempts to spur immigration reform that they're hoping for. But they had a harder edge this year. I think especially you saw that in Los Angeles and in Chicago. Even here, the marches, the songs that they sang had a little harder edge.

Howard Fischer:
Sure. Let me ask Le, they want immigration reform. That's in the eye of the beholder there. S a strive bill out there which one of the people involved is Jeff Slate. They don't seem to want that because of the touchback provision.

Le Templar:
Partly because of. That there's also a wide concern that the enforcement mechanisms in the bill would go into effect and the other parts that are supposed to be part of comprehensive reform wouldn't. As they point out that there's a lot of caveats in how the bill was written in an effort to bring conservative republicans on board and bring something to the president's desk that we won't offer more visa offer opportunities for legalized citizenship in this country until the enforcement provisions take place and we have a secure border and we know who's coming into the country. Their fear is that the other stuff will get shoved by the wayside.

Richard de Uriarte:
Ironically, that boat has already left. Ironically a bill that passes a senate and house is probably going to be more conservative still than strive, which is more or less Kennedy-McCain and the senate bill that passed the senate last year and went nowhere in the house. This year, I think that what trying to do now is Senator Kyl and a number of senators are working on a compromise proposal that would have more triggers and more touchbacks and more provisions to often -- to give conservatives a little comfort zone, both in the senate and in the house, to go.

Howard Fischer:
Obviously, Doug, this is mainly a federal issue. Yet state lawmakers continue to try to monkey with. This there was a bill passed to deal with day laborers, one that I gather the governor didn't particularly like.

Doug Ramsey:
She didn't like it because it didn't apply to specifically day laborers. She said it applied to any adult. And it had a cutoff at the age of 18. The sponsor said that was to prevent people who were holding car washes to keep from getting arrested. She just thought it was too vague, too broad, and really didn't go after day laborers like the sponsors said it did.

Howard Fischer:
I guess the question is, representative Kavanagh suggested that perhaps she was being a little disingenuous. He said you don't see a lot of MBA's hanging around street corners.

Doug Ramsey:
He said all you see on street corners is illegal immigrants and prostitutes.

Howard Fischer:
Was it a little disingenuous on the part of the governor to say --

Doug Ramsey:
She has been a stickler on these types of bills. She wants something very tight, very well-written. I just don't think she thought this bill was that well-written.

Le Templar:
It is odd. Because the bill seemed relatively narrowly tailored, they had to be on public property, soliciting for work and obstructing the flow of traffic. You have to meet all criteria to be guilty of this class one misdemeanor. The governor didn't feel it was tight enough. Yet today she signed a bill saying that people who are determined -- discovered to be entering this country illegally can be held up to seven days just as witnesses in an effort to go after human smugglers, people who may have smuggled them in. Right now law is up to three days. And it's been asked to extend that, because there isn't time to prepare a case against human smugglers and they serve as witnesses.

Howard Fischer:
Was there -- I don't know what balance she's trying to strike here.

Richard de Uriarte:
Was there an effort to let the cities take care of this? Because Third Street and Thomas goes up and down to the general tone --

Doug Ramsey:
The governor specifically mentioned that. She said this is something they ought to go to the cities and try to get them to enforce it. I'm absolutely certain the folks around 32nd street and Thomas tried that and got frustrated and that's why they came to the legislature.

Howard Fischer:
If Phoenix isn't going to enforce it, is this a chance to give Sheriff Joe to get a chance to go in and round up people.

Le Templar:
I think Phoenix will try to enforce it. They've been trying to help the business owners there. One of the things we talked about is, we can cite them if they're on your property. But once they stand on the public sidewalk, unless we can prove they're impeding the flow of traffic and it's becoming a public safety hazard there isn't as much as we can do.

Richard de Uriarte:
This bill still cuts in polls. I don't know how it cuts Election Day. But the people are nervous about this. But by the same token, at 36th street and Thomas they have cleared a lot of it up. You still see stragglers but it's not this gigantic flow that you used to see on bell road, that you used to see on Thomas and 36th. Okay.

Howard Fischer:
Shift gears here a bit. Talk about the state budget. Today is day 116 of the 100-day legislative session. Well, Doug, budget, deal or no deal?

Doug Ramsey:
Well, they shook hands, they hugged, they said they had a deal. And then bob burns of the appropriations committee said, no, I'm not going to allow these bills to be voted on, the budget bills, because there's a couple of things we don't have resolved yet. So the budget is on ice right now over the weekend. Senate president Jim Bee calls it a cooling-off period. People are upset about some school choice measures. And the positions are pretty hard.

Howard Fischer:
That's the interesting thing. One would think school choice measures, since it does not expand the credits themselves, shouldn't be a budget issue. Yet this seems to have gotten wrapped up in the whole issue of funding.

Doug Ramsey:
Well, one of the measures would allow somebody to take a tax credit for making a donation to a private school until April 15th of the following year, the same way you do with your I.R.A's. Also it would allow to have those deductions taken out of your paycheck over the course of the year through payroll deductions. You could have your state tax withholding reduced at the same time. Well, like the governor's people are saying, hey, that means that money is getting into these private schools a year earlier and it's making it easier for people to make those donations so the total is going to be greater. And this is money that comes right out of the state general fund, money that people were looking for the public schools.

Howard Fischer:
Okay. But Le, truthfully, how much of the governor's option is to whether -- opposition to whether it's 4 or 5 million more versus her opposition to using any state money for private and parochial school?

Le Templar:
She's going to fight any effort to divert more money to private and parochial schools until she's forced to do otherwise, which she was last year. But to her credit, let's be honest, republicans wouldn't be pushing for this if they didn't think more people would take advantage of the tax credit. So she's the one being more honest in the situation and saying, we don't know for sure what it is but there'll be some budget impact because we would expect more people to take the tax credit and make the donation if we made it easier for them to.

Howard Fischer:
Sure. Obviously, Richard, even if this thing gets resolved in the senate as Doug talked about, the cooling-off period, then okay, we go to the house which has only worked with republicans who has a whole different plan.

Richard de Uriarte:
You know, it is very interesting. Because even though that fight -- a lot of what I saw in the senate was really worked out with the governor. The governor kind of gave on prisons with the senate and they worked together. The house has always a clearly different dynamic. There you're talking about a democratic caucus that is not as divided -- or is more divided and doesn't march. The house is talking more tax cuts, less discretion -- maybe perhaps more discretion, less money for schools on aiming specifically for teacher pay raises. And there are other elements. But mostly on tax. Although they're not far apart. They'll just fight over it.

Howard Fischer:
Doug, one of the things that Senate President Tim bee said is we don't need big tax cuts this year because we actually have some left over from the last year. Does that wash?

Doug Ramsey:
What was it, 600 million carried over from last year to this year? This is the second year of a 5 percent income tax cut. And there are several other tax cuts that were two-year tax cuts. This is the second year. What do they have? 7 million I think is the senate figure, 60 million in the house in new tax cuts this year. But, you know, like Tim bee said, 600 million is still a lot of money. That's still a pretty big tax cut to come out of a $10.6 billion budget.

Howard Fischer:
Does it come down to what did you do for me today?

Doug Ramsey:
It looks like that's the way it's going to be. Senator Bee said this is just a holdup in negotiations with senator burns. But we've been around for a lot of years. We've seen this back and forth go on. It usually takes a week or two and gets settled. But it's already may. We went to the end of June last year. It looked like it was going to be a real smooth process. In fact, the governor has said flat out she'll sign the budget that the senate has right now without any further amendments. So this could be over with fairly quickly, and it could take quite awhile.

Howard Fischer:
It was mentioned that one of the issues here is teacher salaries. There have been some teacher raises in the past, questions about getting it into the classroom. How much of an issue is it? The governor wants to raise teacher starting salaries to at least $33,000. There's a question about local control and everything else. Is this a proper role for the state to set this?

Le Templar:
It would seem not to be. But the question is what is school -- if they're not giving it to teachers, which is the largest portion of their spending. Let's be honest here. They're not giving money to raise teachers how are they spending it instead and how is that benefiting the education of students? I think that's a legitimate question for lawmakers and the governor to be asking. But you would prefer they don't issue a hard mandate that every dime you get has to go to this one use and you can't look at your own lock local situation and do things slightly differently.

Doug Ramsey:
Look what happened last year in Tucson, Tucson Unified School District. They took the money and used it for benefit increases and state retirement and things like. That it didn't go into straight teacher races. That's what lawmakers had intended when they passed that money, appropriated the money. They were pretty upset with Tucson unified.

Richard de Uriarte:
The old -- the level of government you're on is doing a good job, the level below you needs to be watched, and the level above you is always a crushing burden on you. But I think that argument that those in favor of a direct increase for teacher pay, by working on the argument that tomorrow the education won't be better off for giving teachers $5,000 extra. But over a long haul, if you're going to attract teachers, police officers, firemen, in a time when they can do a lot of other things you're going to have to pay them over a long time. It's got to be -- teaching has to be a career, not a way station to marketing.

Howard Fischer:
Let me ask you -- a process question here. I know that sound like the thing that makes people's eyes glaze over. But one thing that's different in the senate this year is both the senate president and the minority leader are both from southern Arizona. Different mentality down there. People of course say it's the water down there. How has that changed things versus having Maricopa County leadership?

Richard de Uriarte:
You know, I think it is important. I think it's not just a process or personality. Because ultimately, leadership is personal. And personal relationships have a lot to do with a lot that goes on. And I think that Doug, you were talking earlier about Marcia Arsberger and Tim bee want to have a different theme than the last few years. He may have some ambitions for congress. He wants to show that you can get it done. Marcia Arsberger is not a bad person to negotiate with.

Doug Ramsey:
We may be alone in talking about. That I've said this who's agreed with me.

Howard Fischer:
Now that we've gotten rid of that pesky valley leadership, it seems like -- and I'm painting with a broad brush here -- east valley leadership is a harder edge. It the politics of east valley or the people it needs to appeal to?

Le Templar:
People there elected from Republican Prime Ritz where the voter is looking for the -- primaries where the voter is looking for the most conservative candidate out there. If he wasn't as willing to negotiate I think he'd be clearly out there undermining Tim Bee. He's not. He's been part of putting this package together. So East Valley lawmakers can make nice, too.

Howard Fischer:
It's personality.

Le Templar:
Yeah, it's personality. That's where you do fine. Bob Burns, the one person who's standing on principle here, is from the West Valley.

Howard Fischer:
So it's Peoria's fault. You can write to le at "The Tribune."

Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about a few other things going on at the capitol. Pay day loans. This has been a fight for years. You can now go into a store, write them out a check for $500, 15 percent, you can borrow it for two weeks. Mary McClove seems to think maybe it needs a little reform.

Doug Ramsey:
She had a bill that was going to go a little bit further than what was on the table right now. This is going to allow somebody who takes out a two-week loan and can't make it back -- pay it back to have 12 additional weeks without any additional payments or interest or fees. It's also going to allow somebody -- lost my train of thought again. Go ahead.

Howard Fischer:
Yeah. And it raises the question, though, Mary says this is a reform of the system. Yet at the same time, she's talking about going to the ballots to wipe out pay day loans.

Doug Ramsey:
We're on a ten-year cycle here. There was a law seven years ago that allowed pay day loan stores to exist in Arizona. That's going to expire in three years. That's one of the tradeoffs on the bill that's on the floor right now. That's going to be renewed, the authority for these pay day loan stores is going to be extended. And Mary McClure doesn't want to see them around. She wants to get rid of them so she's going to go to the ballot.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the question, Richard. If you go in and you know that borrowing $500 for two weeks is going to cost you 15 percent, which is like an annual percentage rate of somewhere around 400 percent, should the state say you can't borrow that?

Richard de Uriarte:
You know, that's as old as the state itself. Usury rates have been back and forth for generations. Not just in the pay day loans. You know, I tend to come off as saying you got to protect people from themselves sometimes.

Le Templar:
But the real criticism of pay day loans as it works in Arizona is not the first time that you walk in and you borrow the additional $500. If you don't happen to have the cash to pay it back in two weeks, you go and get a second loan and then you're paying 30 percent where you were paying 15 percent before. This week you're getting a loan to buy groceries, next week a loan to pay the rent, the third week to make the car payment. You have far more debt than you can afford. The bill seems to try to get at that. Along with the extra time it says you can only get one lone at a time. Can't get one unless the first one is paid off.

Doug Ramsey:
We're supposed to create a database to do that and people are required to check that database to make sure you don't have a pay day loan without some other lender. That's one way the bill addresses.

Le Templar:
It seems we can offer some protection to people while still maintaining free market opportunities.

Howard Fischer:
If the Marion McClure is successful, is the alternative the guy on the street corner who may bust your knee caps but they charge you less interest?

Le Templar:
Under the table there's no regulation. People in this situation who can't go to the bank and borrow money for these purposes are going to be borrowing it from somebody. And it would seem to make more sense in a regulated industry where there's protection for them and that they can access to the temporary cash they need to get them through what is hopefully a temporary crisis.

Howard Fischer:
Richard, Andy Tillbin has an interesting idea for schools. Right now it takes kids about four years to get out of high school. Took me a little longer but we'll talk about that later. He says if you can get out in three, three and a half years we'll give you $1,500 to go to any university, college, trade school. Good idea? Waving money at high schoolers to say, get out early?

Richard de Uriarte:
To me it's a great idea. It's just like a payment to get the -- it's a good incentive. I think we should use it in more fields. Juvenile delinquency, liquor. All these things that you don't want kids to do. Give them money. It's the only incentive that seems to work around here.

Howard Fischer:
Wait. Let me back up a step. What are you giving them money for to not do with liquor? You don't get drunk and we'll pay you in.

Richard de Uriarte:
Yeah.

Howard Fischer:
Okay.

Richard de Uriarte:
I think Joe Kennedy offered that to his sons.

Howard Fischer:
I like. That I like that.

Richard de Uriarte:
John Kennedy had a glass of scotch on his 21st birthday.

Le Templar:
If that's what this bill did, I could see it making sense. What this bill actually does it says if you graduate early we'll make $1,500 available to you over two-years to go on to some post-graduate education, community college, university, trade school, vocation. Not a lot of money to stretch over two-years in some post school. You have to generate all this new bureaucracy to hire people to track who qualifies for the grants, where the grants go. Because you can take this money anywhere in the country. You don't have to spend it in Arizona.

Richard de Uriarte:
Asking government for efficiency?

Le Templar:
Well, I like your idea better of just giving the cash to the student. You get out of here early, there's a check with it. I would point out part of what representative Tillbin's plan is the student is worth so much money to the school, roughly 5,000, $5,500. Take the scholarship grant money out, what's left over, 4,000 or whatever, that stays with that school. Whenever they would lose the money they can use it on the education for the students that's left. That's part of the motivation. My guess is you'll see that 4,000 eaten up by administering the scholarship program.

Howard Fischer:
I do want to talk about Arizona's quarter coming out next year. Grand Canyon, saguaros, rising sun or setting sun depending whether you're looking eat or west, a few chollo at the bottom. Le, good choice or does it represent the state?

Le Templar:
It was the obvious choice. Both the treasurer and the governor when this came in with an internet poll among the five choices, most people would say that we wanted the quarter. It's the only quarter we'll probably ever have. One thing, statement about the state those are things people know Arizona best for. We in "The Tribune," Ed the governor to take a risk and go with the Navajo -- do something different. But she went with the obvious choice. Can't really blame her.

Doug Ramsey:
There are reservations in three different states, though. Not exactly all Arizona, though.

Le Templar:
But I was just wondering if they polled not just internet poll but if the governor called to really check all over and get a more representative sample.

Howard Fischer:
It was the same person voting 2,000 times the same way. Because they didn't bother locking it out. The other part of the question, Richard, it's nice the saguaro, the grand canyon. Some people say if you really want to represent Arizona you should have a bulldozer knocking over a cactus.

Richard de Uriarte:
Well, yes. Arizona was settled -- certainly the valley was settled by speculators and developers.

Howard Fischer:
Well said. Fair enough. I appreciate it. Gentlemen, it's been a great discussion. Next week we'll take a look at what else is coming up. We'll be back to talk about the budget and everything else. We'll be right back.

Larry Lemmons:
Both the state house and the state senate have released budgets this session. Both budget releases claim to be bipartisan but as the two houses crunch number thinking? Two political pundits go head-to-head on our weekly segment one-on-one Monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's "Horizon."

Howard Fischer:
We'll look at a rough road Arizona has that draws tourists from all over the world, the apache trail. Wednesday we'll look at plans to merge school districts in the state. Thursday a conversation with the head of DPS Friday we'll be back sitting around the table with another edition of journalist's roundtable. Coming up next on now, an exclusive report on ground in Iraq as the American journalists try to get to the troops. That's next. A few things coming up tonight, Washington week in review. If you hang around long enough you'll get to hear about Rock Hudson, the man, the myth. Stay tuned. We'll talk to you next week. Howard Fischer for
"Horizon." Good night.

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