Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 6, 2008


Host:

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
It's Friday, June 6th, 2008. Tonight we'll discuss the latest developments on the state budget.

>>Ted Simons:
Politics takes center stage. Senator John McCain now knows who he's facing in the fight for the presidency and we'll talk about Governor Janet Napolitano and talk she could be considered to be Barack Obama's running mate. That's next on "Horizon."

>>Ted Simons:
Good evening. I'm Ted Simons and this is the "Journalists roundtable." Joining me this evening are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune, and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Well, Mary Jo, the budget is still not resolved and sounds like baby steps or cat's feet.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
This is the State Budget with $1.9 billion deficit and three weeks to go? Not a lot has happened and they have been in bi-partisan talks which they resumed a week ago Thursday and then worked until 1:00 Thursday and took their three and a half day weekend. Hard to get information on discussions. They agreed on $300 million in fund sweeps and the rest is to be decided.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's the problem because in some ways we are negotiating the shape of the bargaining table. The Republicans want to negotiate how much we can get in cuts and then borrow what's the small amount necessary. The Democrats want to decide how much we will borrow particularly for school construction and decide how much we will cut. The fund sweeps is easy. Everyone knows we have funds out there. We got money in the Rainy Day Fund and 4 million out of Game and Fish Fund and everything else. The rest is the problem and not agreeing how they're going to approach the budget.

>>Ted Simons:
Is it a major stumbling block? Would it be a bonding? Would it be agency cuts? Or a combination?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
It's a combination of how deep do you cut. How much do you borrow. That's the opposite of teeter totter. Not a lot of work has been going on Senator Tim Bee left for a fund-raiser for his own congressional race in Washington D.C. Talks did to go on without him. He was telling his fellow senators they might have proposals for them look at on Monday.

>>Howard Fischer:
If it doesn't move along with the June 30th deadline, the Republicans and leadership says let's put both proposals up on the board. Let's put the Republican proposals with very sharp cuts on the board. Let's put the governor's proposals which is only about 300 million in cuts out of 1.9 and maybe soon to be $2.2 billion deficit and see if even the Democrats even support it. Because the governor's plate is heavily dependent on borrowing. She likes bonding. But, she's talking the last years and borrowing last year's 400 million with 800 million there. And delaying 300 to 500 million in money owed to schools this coming year to the following fiscal year. Advancing some of the money that would normally paid in the following fiscal year into this year. It's basically a shell game. And then she's got her revenue enhancers: the 90 million for photo radar that somehow if we allow lottery to advertise and people will spend more and presumably lose more because the State would net S10 million. She's got all these great little games.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
But all of these discussions are going on behind closed doors. You've stopped rank and file members. They don't know what's happening--They are bored witless. One of the lawmakers Sam Crump from Anthem stopped me and it's come down to this we are calculating how many bills we have to dollars of gallon of gas. There's a group of Republicans that figure out how many miles do we drive down to the State Capitol everyday to do nothing. I think they came up they get 1.5 bills passed for each gallon of gas.

>>Howie Fischer:
Some of the bills they are running out and other things they decided to leave until later for different reasons for example questions whether we should have a state guest workers program. Let's put that off. Whether we should impose impositions on railroads in new sightings. The whole gay marriage issue which Tim Bee said I want to deal with after the budget which made the Center for Arizona policy very unhappy with California having legalized gay marriages in a week. There are issues out there. But the budget is sort of a plug and once the plug is pulled, there's all of these other things that have to come through.

>>Ted Simons:
Talking about the plug here and agency cuts and services cuts. Are we talking cuts or elimination?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I don't think--as much as some members might like see programs and agencies eliminated, when's the last time that happened? They are talking about cuts and job layoffs are almost inevitable. Today the governor's office confirmed yes they extended the hiring freeze but reiterated that the hiring freeze on state employees runs through the end of this calendar year and they'll pick it up again. The governor put an end date on it. Everybody's expecting a lot of belt tightening. But I still think there will be something to tight the belt around.

>>Ted Simons:
That goes to a common theme here as willing to cut in terms of buildings but not people.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's easy to talk about that, you know, for example, last budget year the money supposedly for the Building Renewable Funds For the Schools fix roofs and air conditioners. They didn't fully fund that. That's easy to talk about. You can't do it simply by saying we're not going to build new buildings; we're not going to repair certain other ones. You have to get into services. I'm with Mary Jo. We won't eliminate services. We may decide, for example, go back and say we are not having as many people staffing whether C.P.S. or daycare subsidies or something else. You can't get out $2.2 billion hole without doing something else. Remember, people say, gee, it's a $10 billion budget. Well, no. 4.5 billion of that is a state aid to schools-It cannot be cut. In fact us has to be increased 2 percent. Another billion of that is the state's healthcare program which is voter protected and with the economy going bad people more people qualify for free healthcare. You're not going to cut Department of Corrections. So you're down to cutting 2.2 billion out of a $5 billion budget.

>>Ted Simons:
I want to get back to the agency cuts and such, the longer you wait the more they are under the gun to try to adjust to whatever happens.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Correct. Yeah a couple of state senators pointed out Wednesday, the last day of work; we need to give agencies some notice because they have to do a little bit of planning and know what's coming at them.

>>Ted Simons:
Dennis, I know and I think you wrote about this and we heard about this, Tim Bee's absence we have heard and talked about a little bit. This plays to what's happening in East Valley regarding Thayer Verschoor and Eddie Farnsworth and a fight there, does it not?

>>Dennis Welch:
We're talking about a budget process and it's June. Every year we're sitting at the table talking about this. Oh, what will we do? We have two or three weeks left, blah, blah, blah. It is an election year and coloring everything down there. There's been talk about games being played particularly in the senate. They want to make senate leader Thayer Verschoor they want to make him look good for the coming election. He will face a stiff primary challenger Eddie Farnsworth, his friend former political ally out there. His hard campaign, going to go after Verschoor real hard. He's going to question his Republican credentials out there particularly on the budget he passed last year.

>>Howard Fischer:
The problem becomes we talked about this year after year, the people who turnout in primaries are the committed voters--maybe people should be--no, I'm sorry. On both political extremes. So if you are going to survive the primaries, same thing we saw on the presidential level, you go for the red meat of your own party. Thayer and Eddie will fight with who is more right wing to see who will do that. I don't know. They are both fairly conservative. Thayer is the in funny position because he's the majority leader--he's supposed to lead the entire group. He doesn't have the luxury to say, no, I'm going to vote "no" on everything. That's his problem.

>>Mary Jo Pizl:
Correct and the gain here is that Verschoor-because he's in leadership and signed off on budgets that has far more spending and far less cutting that Farnsworth voted for, voted against and Farnsworth can point to his record as being an opponent of vastly increased spending. And that will set the groundwork for the primary battle.

>>Dennis Welch:
I was going to say, yeah, I would agree. It's hard to distance yourself. He is in leadership and his name is attached to these budgets particularly last year's that upset a lot of rank and file Republicans as being well the governor's budget that she got what she wanted and he helped it down the river.

>>Howard Fischer:
This is back to where we started with the budget process and there feeling the heat from the right wing is the people holding out I want to make all the cuts first. And so, you know, the September primary is affecting what's happening here on June 8th.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
And there's other lawmakers especially in the Senate saying, look, they are trying to get through a budget with 16 Republican votes and that's to make Thayer look good for this. That's very difficult to do. Senator Jake Flake is laid up with broken ribs up in Snowflake. He will come down for budget vote. But they can't get the more moderate members caucus members to sign off on a budget with lots of deep cuts.

>>Howard Fischer:
Senator Karen Onon is basically gone by the third week. She had planned this vacation for a long time. She's a lame duck. She's not running for re-election. She is I'm so out of here. If you are counting on my vote, you better do it before the 21st.

>>Ted Simons:
Dennis, we talked about the political acclimations and had 200 something folks vying for state legislature there. Any surprises? Anything come to mind?

>>Dennis Welch:
We have quite a few people are running unopposed. I think there's like nine out there that won't have any challengers be it in the primary or general elections. Its look like right now. In the East Valley where we look at there's couple of interesting districts particularly Russell Pearce's old district-He's going to be running for the Senate. His old District 18 is bunch of newbie's out there. Some will not pick up where he left off on immigration. I talked to a few of them out there and they said listen, let's tone some of the rhetoric down. Particularly now when we look they chair powerful committees and this, that and other thing.

>>Ted Simons:
Nine unopposed unusual at all?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I haven't gone back and looked at it. It's probably a function of term limits. I think most of are lawmakers who won't be term limited until next year. Most challengers prefer an open seat as opposed to going against a tried and true incumbent. Why bother to battle with Carolyn Allen when you know she will be term limited.

>>Howard Fischer:
And the fact is if you want to run for office, you want to run when there's money to be spent and give things out. Lousy time to run for a $24,000 job that used to be 100 day job that now is becoming 180 days per year. Why would you want this?

>>Ted Simons:
Which brings us to Tim Bee and the Senate President and his wanting congressional district 8 and in doing so upsetting a lot of folks at the legislature. Mary Jo, how much of an impact is his absence on what is and not being done? That's a, b, is he being helped? Is the fund-raiser doing anything in the long run for his campaign?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
You know, money in the bank is a good thing to have when you're running especially against a popular incumbent. He's only been gone from the Senate two or three days where he missed business and couldn't conduct business. It's been widely speculated that, you know, he's trying to be cautious on what he puts forward on the agenda because he wants to look good on how he votes on things and couple of measures like the gay marriage amendment and temporary worker. He's a co-sponsor of those measures and he hasn't brought them forward. He's waiting for right confirmation. The Senate has a lot of absences. They had a member out for surgery and another one with broken ribs and another recovering from heart surgery. So when you are trying to make sure you have enough votes to pass these key pieces of legislation, you have to take a look at that.

>>Dennis Welch:
The atmosphere, too, when you are missing votes the senate president becomes kind of a lightening rod. They put their frustration on this and they need somebody to blame.

>>Ted Simons:
Let's move on Governor Janet Napolitano. Howie, you think she will be the vice presidential candidate?

>>Howard Fischer:
In your dreams. Barack Obama needs somebody with foreign policy experience. I'm sorry; going to Mexico is not foreign policy experience. He needs something because his congressional experience is very limited; he needs somebody that can work with Congress. That ain't Janet. Truthfully we went back to look and last time we had unmarried person who was vice president who wasn't widowed was 150 years ago.

>>Ted Simons:
Almost as long as an African American candidate.

>>Howard Fischer:
Could be. She doesn't bring anything to the ticket. What that he will suddenly take Arizona? If Barrack's only 11 points behind, I don't see what she brings to the ticket. Now, the real issue is could she become attorney general. If he's elected, then she goes to Washington. That's causing the heartburn among her Democrat friends.

>>Ted Simons:
Let's talk about the Democratic response here with the Governor Jan Brewer.

>>Howard Fischer:
You want to scare a Democrat those three words: Governor Jan Brewer.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl: This is all the more reason to work really hard and get a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. If Governor Janet Napolitano should depart for whatever reason at least you still maintain the Democrats who, you know, control one leg of the stool. I note I hear her name mentioned for the Department of Homeland Security because of her association with a lot of border issues. I wouldn't pigeon hole her for A.G.

>>Ted Simons:
Should the governor leave for Washington under any circumstance, do the Democrats go directly to voters on everything now?

>>Howard Fischer:
That's one of the things they have to do. Minimum wage, the threat of a higher workers' comp. initiative got the Republicans off their derriere. That's the way to do it. Is it possible the Democrats could get 30-30 in the House and therefore get powers sharing? Yeah, it could happen assuming the Democrats don't kill themselves in the primary. Is the end of the world? No. Look, you have had situations where Fife Symington and Jane Hull ran with Republican majorities. The Democrats figured out how to get things done and build a coalition. They have to do better job of building the coalition not only with the moderate Republicans and business communities. The Democrats right now with a few exceptions ignore the chambers, ignore NFIB. If you can build a coalition with then and show in your interest to support a Democratic proposal, then you have a power.

>>Ted Simons:
Would the governor leave considering the ramifications?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Oh--

>>Ted Simons:
V.P. relatively obvious, attorney general relatively obvious, homeland security?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl: It's a cabinet-level position. It's a national position. I'm not in her head. If your president calls on you to come serve the country in a very high profile position, really how can you say no?

>>Dennis Welch:
What do you have left if you are Governor Janet Napolitano to do? You are entering the lame duck status. You have two more years and can't run for re-election. The President of the United States comes by and says I want you to be my attorney general.

>>Ted Simons:
Attorney General and VP one thing, but Homeland Security be the new Michael Chertoff?

>>Howard Fischer:
There's ability to make changes there is. Much of homeland security is the southern border. Chertoff has been using the power saying we don't need stinking environmental laws and building 700 miles of fence. He's pushing the Real I.D. and Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Education this is a woman who went for all-day kindergarten. The short answer to your question would she go? In the New York minute.

>>Dennis Welch:
There's got to be something on the table that made her get out on the road and go stump for Obama. Here's a governor that doesn't stump for anybody. The last election cycle she didn't help anybody out. There's something you would think she's eye balling.

>>Ted Simons:
John McCain trying not to eye ball President Bush too closely here. He knows his opponent. It's pretty much set here. How does this change the dynamic for the McCain campaign?

>>Dennis Welch:
It's politics 101. You run against your opponent and run to the middle and try to distance yourself from the Bush policies that Obama will try to, you know, attack on him at every turn.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things McCain won't answer the question straight. I was listening to go an interview where somebody said do your ties to George Bush hurt? It wasn't yes or no. He said well, you know, I've been asked that a lot. I think people know me. That's not an answer. He recognizes he needs Bush to raise money. I love the fact when they came to Phoenix, we talked about this. They didn't come to the Civic Plaza but they went to a private home up at the Biltmore so we wouldn't see the kissy huggy pictures on the evening news. It's ugly picture. We'll talk about how it relates to the Gay Marriage Bill later. The fact is he needs the President's blessings to bring certain elements of the party that don't trust him. Does he want to be seen as supportive? He's taking pains to point out that I would have supported the war but I would have run it differently.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
But Howie, that's a strategy he would have had if Hillary Clinton were the nominee. I think what's different about Obama is that he will probably hone in on Obama's relative lack of experience. He will hit the foreign affairs business and push the war. The U.S. is not going to leave Iraq until we've won. He's already tried to take apart Obama's pledge to get U.S. out of Iraq no matter what.

>>Dennis Welch:
He will hit the economy. John McCain admitted he doesn't know the economy very well and will take a beating on that.

>>Ted Simons:
Speaking of the economy the Arizona Consumer Confidence drops 16-year low. The all-time lows were '82 and '90. Howie, this is not just important in terms of everyone's pocketbook but also the budget.

>>Howard Fischer:
The budget. We have a budget 48\% of the general fund revenues comes from sales taxes. You buy fewer cars, cheaper cars, you put off the couch purchase, you don't buy the new blouse, sales tax revenues go down. The Consumer Confidence Index which is the variation done by the national board asks people what's your feeling about how things are for you now and your business and how things will be in the future? What's fascinating are the number of people who say worst now than six months from now. That's disconcerting because when people think that maybe they won't have a job or their spouse won't have a job, they pocket money. Look at state employee. We were talking about state employees. If you are a state employee right now, you are banking all the vacation time and pocketing all the money and you're not buying the extra six-pack of beer.

>>Ted Simons:
Are we hearing the governor's office say that is limited slow down and things get quicker better than others suggest?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think we heard some echoes of that with the latest revenue numbers came out and suggesting that the maybe the state in the coming fiscal year might have to face a deeper deficit. In her budget she calls it a "pessimistic and unrealistic view."

>>Howard Fischer:
But the numbers keep multiplying. We've got another set of figures this week. State Gross Domestic Product, variation on national GDP we went from close 7\% to less than 2\% less than the national average in '07. I recognize that's going backwards. But the trend is going in the wrong direction. That's total value of goods, services and wages in Arizona. It's not looking good. I think, you know, assuming it's $2.2 billion deficit this year, even if it flattens out, we could be looking at 1.5 billion next year.

>>Ted Simons:
Dennis real quickly before we go, Howie says no way, shape or form the governor could be a vice president candidate. I didn't get anything from you from that. Do you think that there's no chance whatsoever?

>>Dennis Welch:
Oh I don't think there's any chance that she will be a VP candidate at all.

>>Ted Simons:
So no one here thinks that there's a real possibility?

>>Howard Fischer:
You will replaying the tape if somehow that happens.

>>Ted Simons:
Oh baby that's why I am getting this right now-I want to bank this thing.

>>Dennis Welch:
I don't know what she would bring for a V.P. pick.

>>Ted Simons:
You would think that Obama and Governor Napolitano against John McCain in Arizona, I would think that would be relatively close--

>>Howard Fischer:
Oh great so we pick up Arizona's 10 electoral votes.

>>Ted Simons:
And New Mexico and Colorado and Nevada.

>>Dennis Welch:
Look at it from a political and governing standpoint. How will she help him work his way through Congress? Maybe he needs a Sam Nunn or Tom Daschle.

>>Howard Fischer:
Shoot, she can barely deal with the legislature.

>>Ted Simons:
Maybe she'll run with the John McCain. Who knows?

>>Ted Simons:
The United States Supreme Court has already made some major decisions this session. Get a review of major decisions made so far and a look toward the end of the session in a Supreme Court mid-term review with ASU Law Professors Paul Bender and Cathy O'grady. Monday night at 7:00. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

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