Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 3, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

LBT Telescope

  |   Video
  • The Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona is the world�s largest telescope. Arizona universities own 25 percent of the telescope. The device is expected to provide images 10 times sharper than the Hubble Telescope. Richard Green of the University of Arizona will tell us more about it.
Guests:
  • Richard Green - Director,L.B.T.
Category: Science

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's the world's most powerful telescope and located on Mount Graham in southern Arizona. The large binocular telescope has produced some of its first images, and is expected to allow astronomers to peer deep into space and time like no other telescope before. I'll talk to the director of the L.B.T. But first, here's more on the telescope.

Mike Sauceda:
At the town of Mount Graham in southern Arizona the 8.4 meter mirror has been joined by its giant twin. The first binocular look into the deep cosmic past. Working side by side, the L.B.T. Mirrors have captured their first ever images of a spiral galaxy lying 102 million light years from our milky way. First binocular light inaugurates the unparalleled capabilities of the large binocular telescope.

Richard Green:
The telescope will be used in two ways. Our first step is to use it as two telescopes working in parallel, analyzing the same field of view on the sky. The other way, combine the two beams into one coherent picture, achieving the resolution as though we had an almost 70-foot telescope. And that will give us pictures 10 times sharper than Hubble.

Mike Sauceda:
Equal to its massive collecting power is an innovative design that that supports changing suites of optical instruments. First up a pair of wide field panoramic cameras used to capture these first light images. The telescope works twice as fast by simultaneously recording the same image in separate spectra. These technologies are the first of many to come, giving astronomers unlimited option for discovery.

Richard Green:
We think this telescope is going to discover really interesting systems of planets around other stars, map the dynamics of the inner regions of gallon competition around mass sick black holes, map the outer solar system and understand how our solar system was formed, make a big dent in understanding the assembly of galaxies in both the early phase of the universe and in the middle age of the universe when the galaxies like our milky way came together

Mike Sauceda:
The L.B.T was created by an international consortium which includes the University of Arizona and other Arizona universities, the Instituto Nazionale de Astofiscia, LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Ohio State University and the research corporation.

Mike Sauceda:
L.B.T.'s mirrors are light adapting quickly to changing temperatures. Computers align telescope component during complex rotations and adaptive optics produce distortion-free images. The large binocular telescope will take astronomers where no telescope has gone before.

Richard Green:
I can't predict what the great discovery of this telescope is going to be. We'll be rue time studying earth-like planets with oxygen atmospheres, you know, on a 10 to 20-year time scale. Who knows? The best discoveries are the surprises. And that's the real excitement of the world's best telescope.

Ted Simons:
And here now to tell us more about the telescope is Richard Green, director of the l.b.t. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Green:
I'm glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
We learned a lot in that piece but I want to kind of ask similar questions and then maybe go a little bit further. The basics again, what makes this particular telescope so special?

Richard Green:
It has two of the world's largest telescope mirrors. Each one of them has light-gathering power ten times greater than Hubble. But because they're mounted together on a common mount and steered together and point to the same place in the sky, that makes them unique. They can make a huge field of view in very sharp focus.

Ted Simons:
And you're talking 10 times -- eventually 10 times as sharp as Hubble?

Richard Green:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Wow! Does that make Hubble obsolete? Is this the new golden age for mountaintop telescopes?

Richard Green:
Certainly it will be a new era for these giant telescopes. This is the pathfinder for the next generation of giant telescopes. A telescope in orbit does unique things. It captures radiation blocks by the atmosphere. So they compliment each other.

Ted Simons:
What kinds of images are you seeing now and plan to see in the next few years and what do you plan to learn from those images?

Richard Green:
We're celebrating the very scientific beginning of this as. So right now we're taking pairs of panoramas of wide field views of the sky, and that ranges -- the science that people are doing right now ranges from mapping the solar system out near Pluto all the way to discovering the most distant quasars that formed just after time began.

Ted Simons:
And it mentioned in coming years because it sounds like this is a work in progress. What kind of tinkering, changes still need to be done?

Richard Green:
We have lots of steps to go. It was a major achievement to get the two mirrors to point to the same place and track together. But now we have to tune that up to be 100 times more precise. When we do that we can then lock up the light waves that come from each side, and that's going to give us the 10 times sharper picture.

Ted Simons:
Wow! That sounds incredible! Real quickly the history of this telescope.

Richard Green:
It was conceived back in the early 19 80s as one of the ultimate achievements of -- the pyrex mirrors that were being developed at university of Arizona in Tucson. And as time went along this concept became more sophisticated. They realized they'd have to compensate for the blur of the earth's atmosphere which we do with a large mirror that's 36 inches in diameter at about the thickness of a hair. It's like a tissue. And we change its shape 1,000 times a second to cancel the atmospheric blur. So all of these things developed with time. As you know, there was a period of controversy about mount graham as a site. That was resolved in favor of the observatory. And in 1998, construction began in ernest. And we're 10-years later enjoying the scientific fruits of all that effort.

Ted Simons:
This is an international collaboration is it not?

Richard Green:
Truly is. Half the interest, half the development funding of the telescope and half the observing time goes to europe. The italian national astronomy effort has a quarter share and consortium of german institutes that represent german national astronomy also have a quarter share.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. As far as Arizona is concerned, how does this benefit Arizona in general and Arizona science in particular? Considering our history now with astronomy, it's pretty strong.

Richard Green:
It's very powerful. So having the world's most powerful telescope is a real draw for the faculty who are here at Arizona state, university of Arizona, N.A.U., and is a real draw to attract the best and the brightest coming in. The other thing I'll note is that the Arizona art, science and technology academy just issued a report that showed that the economic impact of astronomy and space science in Arizona each year is $253 million in the state. So we're a major industry in the state of Arizona on top of everything else.

Ted Simons:
And are those numbers increasing?

Richard Green:
They are. There's about a $1.2 billion capital investment in astronomy and space science around, and another 600 million in plan.

Ted Simons:
Wow! Well, it sounds like a terrific job, a terrific instrument. And you seem pretty happy about it. You seem very excited.

Richard Green:
We're just thrilled. The data are starting to come in. I'm actually part of a team searching for the highest ratio quasars and we'll have a camera before long we can pursue.

Ted Simons:
Congratulations. It sounds very special and very exciting.

Richard Green:
Thanks.

Tax Issues

  |   Video
  • April 15 is just around the corner. Bill Brunson of the IRS and Dan Zemke of the Arizona Department of Revenue will talk about the latest changes to tax laws, electronic filing and the Bush stimulus package.
Guests:
  • Bill Brunson - Spokesman, Internal Revenue Service
  • Dan Zemke - Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Every year, new tax laws are implemented, and more and more people file electronically. This year, the big news related to taxes is the economic stimulus plan. I'll talk to a representative from the I.R.S. And the state department of revenue, but first, here's more on the stimulus plan and some tax filing numbers.

Mike Sauceda:
If you are still filing your taxes the old-fashioned way you are now in the minority. In Arizona over half of those filing will do so by computer. Nationwide that figure is 60\%. Just about 134 million individual tax returns filed. Arizona's expecting nearly 3 million returns this year. Over 60\% are expected to include refunds. Part of that is due to a 5\% reductions in state income taxes last year, part of a two-year, 10\% reductions approved by the legislature. Of course the big news this year is the economic stimulus package. More than 130 million individuals who file taxes will be getting checks starting in may with checks continuing to be dispersed through the summer. According to the I.R.S. Website they will use the 2007 tax return to determine eligibility and calculate the basic amount of the payment.

Mike Sauceda:
In most cases the payment will equal the amount of taxes owed on the return with a maximum amount of $600 for individuals or $1,200 for taxpayers who file a joint return and a minimum of $300 for individuals or $600 for tax payers who file a joint return. Parents and anyone else eligible for a stimulus payment will also receive an additional $300 for each qualifying child. Those who receive social security benefits, railroad retirement benefits and certain veterans benefits may have to file additional forms to receive the payment. Most taxpayers will receive two notifications before receiving the payment.

Ted Simons:
Here now to tell us about tax law changes and the economic stimulus package is Bill Brunson, spokesman for the I.R.S. And Dan Zemke, spokesman for the Arizona department of revenue. Thank you both for joining us on Horizon.

Dan Zemke:
Thanks for letting us be here.

Ted Simons:
You bet. Bill, before we get to some of the wherefores and whatnots some change we need to know?

Bill Brunson:
Probably the biggest one is you're going to foreclosure. What used to be is you had to add the indebtedness that was forgiven if you were not solvent and that had to be added back in the income. The law changed so if you're going through foreclosure you don't need to add the amount the mortgage lender is paying you. Another issue that's been around for awhile but the good thing is the I.R.A. Ability to still contribute to a 2007 I.R.A. As long as you do this before April 15th of this year you can contribute to last year's I.R.A. And still contribute to this year's I.R.A., an individual retirement agreement, the form of a pension fund. Then there's the ability for you to claim on your schedule a if you can itemize if you are paying premiums on mortgage interest that was after January 1st, 2006 through 2009, and this would have been something that mortgage lender would have required you to take out an insurance policy and that you're paying these premiums. That's something that most folks may not know that they can take as a deduction if -- deduction if they are itemizing on their return.

Ted Simons:
I know pensions have been altered a little bit. It sounds like medical deductions as long as you itemize?

Dan Zemke:
As long as you itemize you can take 100\% on your state return. The big thing they'll notice is the 5\% across the board cut so the highest tax rate is now 4.54\% for the state of Arizona. Also new this year, military -- excuse me, national guard pay and military reserve pay is not taxable by the state of Arizona at all. Just like ordinary military pay is not taxable.

Ted Simons:
All right. A lot of folks are interested in the stimulus package. And when they're going to get their checks and how much they're going to get their checks and look at you and go, how much are you going to tax me for my checks? Bill, help us.

Bill Brunson:
Basically all an individual has to do is file their 2007 tax return in order to get the stimulus payment. Payments will be directly deposited starting may 2nd for the next three weeks and continue on. That's the first round. If your going to receive a paper check you should start receiving that stimulus payment. Also known as the rebate starting may 16th. It's based on your marital status primarily. So if you're a married couple filing jointly, $1,200 single payment. Single head of house hold $700. A phase out starts at 75,000 for head of household, 150,000 for married couples filing jointly. Let's say you earn 76,000 as a single individual. You're over that threshold by 1,000. The reductions is 0.5. Instead of getting a $600 stimulus payment you'll get $550. Then there's also a group of individual that don't normally have a filing requirement that receive social security benefits, railroad retirement tier one. And there are some individuals that just don't make a lot of money but haven't been a filing threshold. As long as they have 3,000 or more of income in this area, then they will also be eligible for a stimulus payment. But they have to file that 2007 return and that stimulus payment for that other group, $300 for the normal Joe could be $600 if it's a married couple filing jointly.

Ted Simons:
And Dan, this stimulus package money now is not taxable, correct?

Dan Zemke:
That's correct. State of Arizona will not tax that stimulus money.

Ted Simons:
And I understand both of you guys now if you're looking for this, first of all you got to get your return in. And secondly, like maybe the back end of your social security money plays a factor here?

Bill Brunson:
Exactly right. The last two digits of your social security number will determine the order of distribution. If you electronically file have, a refund coming and that item is directly deposited in your checking or savings account the rebate will follow throughout and with those last two digits starting may 2nd for the last three weeks. If you file and have that return processed on or before April 15th and you have a deposit with a refund may 2nd or thereabouts for the next few weeks you should start receiving it. May 16th for those receiving a paper check. How does this affect your 2008 return? It doesn't. It's not an inclusion in the income. You don't add it in. Nor is it going to reduce any sort of credit or refund that you might be getting. Now, you do have to report on an amount that you'll receive. But all you're doing is reporting that dollar amount and that's it.

Ted Simons: okay.
Electronic filing. More folks are doing it. How important is it to go this particular route?

Dan Zemke:
Electronic file something very important for both the taxpayer's point of view and the government's point of view. It saves the government money in that it's all electronic. We don't have to open that envelope, pull out that return, do all those manual things that had to be done with the paper return. And from the taxpayer's point of view, if you're getting a refund you have the opportunity to have it directly deposited and get it in about five days -- as little as five days for the state and I believe it's 10 days for the federal refund. And it's safe, secure and fast.

Ted Simons:
Bill, rumors fly everywhere that especially when it comes to taxes. And some folks seem to think that if you file electronically you might have a red flag going as far as an audit. I take it that's not true?

Bill Brunson:
It's just the exact opposite. Because of the accuracy of the electronically filed tax return you're looking at an error rate of less than .5\%. Paper returns have about 13 to 15\%. So if you're going to get a corespond end audit it's going to be for a paper return more so than an electronically filed tax return. What Dan was saying earlier about the cost to the government themselves, it costs about 29 cents to enz file to process an electronically filed tax return, 2.65 for paper return. So by filing electronically you're saving the federal government money which in turn saves your tax dollars.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly 10 seconds. If you ask for an extension is that a red flag for an audit?

Bill Brunson:
No. And it's going to be an automatic extension through October 15th. Don't wait until the last minute to file a tax extension if you want a rebate check. After January 1st we cannot cut a check.

Ted Simons:
Gentlemen thank you so much, great information.

Voter-approved Initiatives

  |   Video
  • state lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow voters to decide whether lawmakers can make changes to voter-approved initiatives. State Representative Russell Pearce, who is sponsoring the bill, will discuss it, along with Representative Chad Campbell, who is against the bill.
Guests:
  • Russell Pearce - State Representative
  • Chad Campbell - State Representative
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. The house passed a bill that would put on the ballot a measure to give lawmakers more power over voter-approved initiatives. Right now it takes three fourths of the legislature to make substantial changes to any voter-approved measures, thanks to the voter protection act passed in 1998 in Arizona. That means that during tough budget times, it's almost impossible for the legislature to reduce spending on voter-mandated programs. House concurrent resolution 20-44 would change that, if approved by voters. Here to talk about the resolution is its sponsor, Representative Russell Pearce. Also here is representative Chad Campbell, who is against the measure.

Ted Simons:
Thank you both for joining us here on Horizon. Russell, your bill, what do you want to see changed?

Russell Pearce:
It's really not a change. It's returning some opportunity to deal with -- we have a $1.2 billion deficit for '08 that ends in June 30th. We have a $2 billion deficit that starts July 1st. So we have over $3 billion in deficit. That's not enough money to take care of what's in line to be spent. You know, and what we have is only a third of the budget that we can deal. With what I'm proposing is the ability in bad times, when the governor's office agrees, O.S.B. Her budget office and legislative budget office, if they agree that we have an insufficient amount of revenue to pay our bills, then we'll put the entire budget on the table and make tough choices. New Jersey just did. This most liberal governor in the nation, Governor Corzine. He says they have been reckless in spending, spent 7\% while their revenue increase has only been 3\%. For 20 years they've bonded against Medicare, against pension, they've destroyed the ability to take care of the people's business without huge increases to taxes. He recognizes it. How come he gets it and we don't?

Ted Simons:
Chad, if the governor's office and lawmakers agree that there are things that can be modified during tough budget times, should they be looked at?

Chad Campbell:
Not with this package, no, Ted. I disagree with that. This is simply going after prop 105. You mentioned in the opening comments voters passed prop 105 in 1998 for a reason. That was to protect the voter initiatives they worked so hard to pass and that they obviously support because they're voting at the ballot on these measures. Further more in 2004 we passed proposition 101, which really at least in my eyes addressed this problem. Moving forward from 2004, you can no longer pass an initiative and say give us money from the general fund. You now have to find your own funding source if you want to pass an initiative. That money is not part of the general fund and it's not our right as legislature to go in and steal people's money that they worked on to pass their initiative and the people have supported.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, why shouldn't some of these -- these are initiatives and they're voter-approved and we all realize that. Why shouldn't they share in cuts during troubled times?

Chad Campbell:
Again, Ted, because their money was not intended for general fund use. And the voters are saying this is a priority for them. If the voters want to pass a children's health care plan then we should protect that voter intent. That is our job.

Ted Simons:
Russell, it sounds like what you're suggesting here is subverting the will of the people. They're saying x and you're waiting wait.

Russell Pearce:
This goes with the will of the people. If we plan a trip and we can afford it, finances change and we can no longer afford it we ought to rethink that. This makes the people recognize this was a well-intended initiative. There's only one that falls outside -- none of the others have found additional funds. They simply impact the general fund like access. It has grown by over $1 billion since 2003, over 1 billion. One out of five people. There's places to trim. The point is this goes before the people. It's not subverting anything it. Goes before the same people who made the other choice. A review of what they did and said, but in these cases, we're not limiting to 105 we're saying in bad times when you don't have enough money to pay your bills, why should we borrow like the governor said $2.3 billion for our children, sweep funds. He talks about stealing funds? We've got 300 million the governor has recommended we take from other funds. This goes on and on and on. We're going to bond for schools, sweep money, bond for construction. It goes on and on.

Ted Simons:
All that aside, what you're basically saying is that voters in 1998 and the other part that Chad mentioned they had said, we want our voice heard and we want our voices left alone.

Russell Pearce:
They didn't say that. They said that if all things are well. It's just like you and I. We plan something with our money. We have a right to live with that money. But things change. You order cable TV, you want digital, high resolution and all of a sudden you can't afford to pay for it, maybe you need to rethink and back up. This is the vote of the voters.

Ted Simons:
The argument, things change.

Chad Campbell:
Things do change. But the will of the voters doesn't change. They have spoken several times on this issue. In 1998 the first time in 2004 the second time. And I don't remember seeing any clauses there where they said if things are good we want this to happen. There was never a clause in the initiative at least where I can remember where the voters said that. Again I want to point out that this is not our money. This is the money that voters have said it's for this purpose or this purpose. We have to protect the intent of the voters. That is what we're here for. At least in my eyes that is a priority for the legislature. The voters say they want a program, then it is our responsibility to protect that program and make sure the funding is going there. I also want to address something that Russell said and that is the fact that we can solve the budget crisis by going after this initiative, this money that's tide up in the initiative. This is something we've talked about in the legislature and outside the legislature for years. Most of the funding that's tied up that is off limit to us is either federally man date spending or form you laic driven funding. Education spending is a great example of that. It's not programs tieing our hands now. It's mandated funding like through federal funding. It doesn't come through the initiative process.

Ted Simons:
Is your bill mixing mandates here? It sounds as though the voter initiatives that have passed aren't necessarily the biggest problem.

Russell Pearce:
No. You have two-thirds of the budget that is off the table because the voter initiative and entitlement programs. They all belong on the table. What's protected is the department of corrections, public safety. Those are the programs that will be hard to skip when you have no other place to go. Or he talks about taking money. We're taking $300 million from funds that are not federal funds that are fund from other programs. And those people don't have a right to say this we're putting back to the voters. They can decide. You're right. This is their government. I believe that. What I don't want is taxes, bonding, debt. Leaving the debt for our children and grandchildren because we don't have the courage or the guts to do what's right and that's stop reckless spending. We've grown 14.5\%, the real growth 3 to 4\%. That's reckless.

Ted Simons:
I want Chad to respond to that.

Chad Campbell:
I keep hearing bonding. I want to point out we are the only state in the country that doesn't bond for school construction right now. I'm not sure if the other 48 states are wrong and we're right. But I'm betting we're the ones on the wrong side had here. I want to point out. This is very important. These short-sighted and for lack of a better word schemes are not going to solve our problems. We have to invest in our future in the proper way attracting businesses here, making the infrastructure here, making sure our economy is diverse and strong enough to survive both the good times and bad times. We get through both of those and that's how we solve this problem. Not going after the voters.

Ted Simons:
I got to stop you right there, it's amazing how the voter initiative got to bonding. Everything comes back to bonding.

Ted Simons:
All right. Thank you both for joining us here on Horizon. Appreciate it.

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