Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 23, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Governor Janet Napolitano


  • Gov. Napolitano appears on HORIZON for her regular visit to discuss the state budget, the employer-sanctions law and her endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama
Guests:
  • Janet Napolitano - Governor of Arizona
Category: Governor Visit

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon", governor Napolitano addresses Arizona's state budget shortfall, now at an estimated $1 billion. State lawmakers are back at work already dealing with several issues, including Arizona's employer sanctions law. And the governor announced her endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama. We'll talk about those issues and more with Governor Janet Napolitano next on "Horizon".

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Today governor Napolitano was joined in a political cause by television actress Kate Walsh, known for her role on the program "Grey's Anatomy." the two spoke to a group of ASU. Students called "students for Obama."

Kate Walsh:
I first met senator Obama last year shortly after he declared his candidacy that he was going to run. My boyfriend at the time, now husband, said I'm co-hosting a fundraiser for Barack Obama, would you like to come? Oh, yeah, I heard about that guy. I didn't know much more than what an interesting name, and I --I heard he was a dynamic politician, and I didn't know anything more. Honestly when I thought about the upcoming presidential elections, I will probably vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a Clinton and I'm a democrat and that's that. I went and heard him speak and I was blown away. He's amazing.

Janet Napolitano:
You may have-- you may read the paper. You may have seen a poll, and it says that Senator Clinton is ahead in Arizona. Well, let me tell you this about polls in this day and age, and this is why the polls have been so wrong in every primary so far. How many use a cell phone? Raise your hand. You're not being polled. They're not calling people who use cell phones. They only poll people who have voted before in a primary. There is a whole universe of people out there like you whose voices have yet to be heard, and your voice needs to be heard. So we need your help. Get out there. Let's persuade, let's persuade positively. Let's talk about our guy, and let's talk about his vision, leadership, and let's talk about his ideas, let's talk about the need for change in Washington D.C. let's go to your friends, neighbors, get them involved. Make sure that they vote on February the 5th, or if they want to vote by mail, they get that ballot by Friday of this week. This is where your action really can help make change. Each person in this audience, every single one of you can be a change agent this next two weeks. Each one of you. And I've got to tell ya, it's not often in history that I would stand up at a podium and say that. It is true. Every vote counts, every vote needs to be counted and let's put Arizona on the Obama side. Thank you very much.

Ted Simons:
Here to talk about why she has endorsed Barack Obama for president as well as the state's budget and other issues is Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

Ted Simons:
You are fired up out there.

Janet Napolitano:
We have a campaign going on. I was very intent on this. All presidential elections are important. This is a particularly important one. It is a real crossroads for our country. Hard fought in both parties right now. People are engaged. You go into a restaurant people are talking about it, in the magazine, popular media and so forth. It has grabbed the country's attention. I like being part of that.

Ted Simons:
Why Barack Obama and why did you decide so soon in the process?

Janet Napolitano:
Well, I, you know what, it was a tough call. The easiest thing would have been to remain neutral or keep in the middle of the river, as I said, but I kept thinking about it, but the election this fall is really going to be about change and the need to really have a different approach to things in Washington D.C., the static partisan bickering, nonproductive, non-activity back there, we can't sustain it. We need change. Who better to carry that message and to be the leader of change than Barack Obama? So, while I thought we have great candidates on the democratic side and I am prepared to campaign for Hillary if she wins, or John Edwards if he wins. To me, the best for the future and for the fall is Barack Obama.

Ted Simons:
One argument is change. The other argument is experience. Does Obama have enough executive experience?

Janet Napolitano:
Well, yeah, I have heard -- I was thinking to myself the other day, I've heard this experience argument before. It sounds very familiar. Then I remember I heard it in 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for president. Experience is one thing. It is a factor. But what we're really electing is a leader. Somebody who can get behind the podium when the economy is crashing, saying this is the plan and this is how we're going to fix it. Somebody who can get people from different areas of the country and different parties around the table and say let's get a health care system that works with people. It's leadership we are looking for. You can hire experience. Leadership is a quality that comes with a person. Senator Obama is an incredible leader.

Ted Simons:
You did campaigning yesterday with the senator.

Janet Napolitano:
Yes, New Mexico yesterday.

Ted Simons:
When you were around him and you see the crowds and that kind of energy, describe it.

Janet Napolitano:
Unbelievable. Friday I announced my support, I flew up to Las Vegas and we did a rally together. I was going to meet him at a high school. As we were driving, I'm in the car. There are all of those people out on the street. It is a line of people waiting to get into this high school on a Friday night in Las Vegas. There were at least 3,000 people in that line. The gym was already filled. 2,500 in there. Obama came, the first thing he did, he went out on the line at the high school, talked to people. Why our country needs him as the next president of the United States. Then he went into the gym and that place was rocking, and he gave a speech and for an hour answering everybody's questions. He respects people enough to say let's have a dialogue. Let me hear your question, they're not scripted, and here is my answer.

Ted Simons:
Are you getting heat from the Clinton camp with your endorsement?

Janet Napolitano:
She is also very qualified to be president of the United States. If she wins the nomination, I will campaign for her. Two very different candidates, it came down to me is what really is this election about? To me this election is about a new change in our nation's capitol that we've got into some bad habits and the habits need to be broken and I thought he was better of the two to make that argument.

Ted Simons:
Your state of the state address. You started the address by saying the state of Arizona is strong. It sounds like we have budget problems. It sounds like a housing crisis that might be worse in other parts of the country. Another review magazine comes out saying spending is this, enrollment is that. How is the state of Arizona strong?

Janet Napolitano:
We are strong. We are strong in our people. We're strong in our fundamental economy. Compared to, for example say to Michigan, where their economy is down, but they don't have the assets to bring it back because the whole underpinning of their economy is gone. It is overseas basically. That is not us. We're going through a housing downturn. What we are working on is to make our economy less housing dependent. That's happening. You can see it in the development of the biosciences. In the high tech people coming in. You can see it in a number of different ways. It takes time to do that but it's happening. When I say the state of Arizona is strong, I'm not overlooking. We've got problems, challenges, no doubt. But we have the assets here to surmount those challenges and to move forward. I don't want people to lose sight of that.

Ted Simons:
Probably the budget right now is number one in terms of getting this thing down. Critics say smoking mirrors, accounting maneuvers and these sorts of things. How do you respond to those who say we can't borrow our way out of this?

Janet Napolitano:
First of all, we are not borrowing our way out. Cutting spending, using some of the rainy day fund which we have been setting aside. When I became governor, we had zero. We now have $700 million. We have to use some of it this year and next year, keep another $200 million in reserve for 2010 should we need more then. We are not borrowing. We are paying for buildings by -- over time as opposed to with cash. I say to people, the people who criticize me for wanting to pay for buildings over time, how many paid cash for their homes? They didn't pay cash for homes. Their businesses didn't pay cash for buildings. They pay for them over time. Not only does that make sense to, particularly when cash is strapped as it is a little bit now -- children today who need the money for what goes on in the classrooms, they will be shared by generations of children to come. Everybody bears the cost. You spread it out over time. We bond for roads. We bond for other building construction. We ought to bond for school construction by doing that, by bonding for school construction, taking from the rainy day fund, cutting spending, a targeted smart approach that continues to invest in k-12 education, protects and invests in higher education. We pay for the health care mandated by the voters. Pay to house our prison inmates, which is a fixed cost that you've got to do. And we don't raise taxes.

Ted Simons:
The bonding issue seems especially divisive obviously in the early stages of all of this. The other side argues why add to the debt burden with what in the past has been paid for by cash. When did this business of paying for it by cash start and how long has it been going on?

Janet Napolitano:
That's an interesting point. We bonded for school construction until recently. We bonded under republican governors, we bonded under republican legislatures. This is an argument that is a disguise. What the real point is underlying this argument is they want less money available to spend for things like teacher pay and smaller classrooms and health care and taking care of domestic violence victims and growing our universities. All of the things I'm trying to do to move us forward. If you have to pay cash for schools, you can't do those sorts of things. Everybody knows economically, fiscally -- let's not talk about this as debt. We are a low debt state and under my plan we remain a low debt state. What my plan does is it allows us to spend and invest cash now that we need to, not only during this budget situation but to prepare for the economic upturn when it comes. That is what I mean by keeping people focused. We're down now, but history shows we will be up again.

Ted Simons:
That is another point of contention when will that economic upturn happen? It sounds like manage our way through it, others are saying it could be two, three, even longer away. What information are you getting as far as when this up tick could happen?

Janet Napolitano:
Well, no one really knows. Let me give you, you know, let's say that the downturn started last may and we are predicting downturn through fiscal year '09. That is a two year downturn that would be historically long for Arizona as it is. We are setting aside money for '10, in case it lasts longer than that. I'm predicting a 30 day downturn, 60 days that is nonsense. I am in the two year zone. I used a group of economists, as did the republican leaders before me. They give me pessimistic, baseline, and optimistic, and by the way none of our projections include any sort of a federal economic stimulus, and it looks sure that will happen in the next month or so.

Ted Simons:
Where were these forecasters, some were out there, where were these folks in terms of government saying we might have problems here in the next couple of years?

Janet Napolitano:
I will tell you this about that. Everybody --

Janet Napolitano:
Economists who are advising the legislature, governor last year, ended up predicting the same revenue numbers. The notion that somebody had a crystal ball and predicted this is not correct. Allen Greenspan, the biggest thing he never predicted was what was happening with housing across the country. Now we know about it. Now as a nation we need to work our way through it. What does that mean for housing but other elements of the economy? It is deeper and more broad spread than perhaps people had hoped at the beginning. For Arizona, we know what our assets are; we know what we have in reserve. We know we should be bonding for construction. We have population growth. Classrooms to build, teachers to hire, people to educate, engineers, doctors, all kinds of folks for this young growing state of ours. It would be a bad business decision, and a bad government decision and a bad Arizona decision to just say we're going to slash and burn, slash and burn, not the way to go.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about education. What are some of the most important things in terms of education that you think need to be saved and not either cut or somehow compromised?

Janet Napolitano:
I think we need to fully fund k-12 for enrollment growth, fully fund for inflation. We need to keep funding for more, particularly math and science teachers, because we now raise the high school graduation requirements wisely in my opinion for more math and science. All of those things included in my budget. Make sure that more students are going on to community college and universities; we need to protect those interests from an accessibility and affordability standpoint. We want more bachelor degree recipients at the end of the next decade. As we look forward, lifting the economic wealth of Arizona, the education system is the foundation of that.

Ted Simons:
The speaker of the house we had on the program and the idea of allowing free tuition for kids who have a b average and stay out of trouble, $500 million a year at the least every single year.

Janet Napolitano:
They need to get math. They need to go back and take the math class we're talking about. That can't possibly be the right number. Take the average enrollment figures, figure out we already have a number of "B" and "A" students already receiving financial aid subtract that out and net it out, we're talking not beginning this until the year 2012. And this is something we can plan for and definitely afford.

Ted Simons:
Tuition for four years, four years, some go for five years and maybe longer.

Janet Napolitano:
Right, we want to encourage kids to get out in four years. I pick four years as the benchmark there. When you begin university, let's say your tuition is $2,200, for the next four years, your tuition will not be raised. It helps with two things. One is it helps students with planning, what their financial obligation is going to be, and it gives an incentive to students to get the course work done and get out.

Ted Simons:
The idea of the dropout age, raising it to 18, which you talked about as well. Educators are saying, hold on a second. This could be disruptive to the classroom, kids who don't want to be there, why should they be there, that's a. And, b, it could lead to grade inflation.

Janet Napolitano:
They didn't listen to my whole statement. We also need reasonable alternatives to students who can't achieve in a traditional classroom. What is the alternative? Let them drop out and be on the street. Now we see them on the criminal justice or welfare system. That's not a good plan. My view is that they should stay in school. Find ways to educate them. We have found in districts around our state when there are reasonable alternatives provided and the expectation is high school graduation, you get to drive students there. A number of states have raised the dropout age, and another reason, quite frankly, if you know you can drop out at 16, you can check out at 14. That goes on as well. A youngster who has dropped out at 16, there is no real future for that youngster in the Arizona that we're building. Yes, we have to have reasonable alternatives. Understand that. Many districts have accomplished that. Let's adopt it as a statewide standard.

Ted Simons:
You just rejected federal funds for abstinent only education

Janet Napolitano:
It doesn't work. They're not free federal funds. We have to match them with state funds, in a day and age of limited state funds. Abstinence is a good message for young people, abstinence only education where you can't talk about anything else, barred from talking about anything else doesn't work. What we have seen is it is affecting our rate of teenage pregnancy and what I want to do is drive the rate of teenage pregnancy down. One of the ways to do that is talk about abstinence, but also talk realistically about the other things that are out there for young people who may be making the wrong decision, but they're making a decision.

Ted Simons:
For folks who have made a wrong decision, worried about being incarcerated, is that fair to the county? They're coming out saying this is going to hit Maricopa county $60 million.

Janet Napolitano:
I don't know where they get that number. The average daily inmate cost at Joe's tent city is $73 a day. That is really expensive bologna and that's real bologna they're giving us. We will talk to the counties about that. These low level nonviolent offenders are flooding into our system. Causing us to build new prisons. They're expensive institutions to build. These inmates were held in the county jails. There was a law change at that time that put them into the state prison system. Virtually every other state keeps those low level nonviolent inmates in the jail system, not into the more expensive prison system.

Ted Simons:
That is one idea for saving money. Another idea, the idea of the permanent repeal of the property tax. I think the psychology behind it is tough times, if people know the property tax will never come back, off they go buying a washer, dryer, whatever. You're saying this is not the time?

Janet Napolitano:
This is not the time. Not a right issue until next year. Quite frankly, the average taxpayer, this whole issue is about the affordability of two lattes. It is out of proportion. I think quite frankly it is like the bonding for schools is a disguise issue. This is a disguise issue, so members of the legislature can vote for a tax cut and campaign for re-election when it is irresponsible to do so. We shouldn't do that this year. Let's balance our '09 budget. We can work out our differences. Let's get to the table and get it done.

Ted Simons:
Your budget -- the numbers elude me but.

Janet Napolitano:
I add number to the cps budget to hire 46 more case managers.

Ted Simons:
Critics are saying the problem with cps is systemic and putting more money there doesn't ease a number of problems, not the least of which difficulties dealing with law enforcement, your views on cps, law enforcement, making records public and those sorts of things. Cps has some problems.

Janet Napolitano:
No doubt, but it is better than it was five years ago. There have been bad cases, bad outcomes, and we want to work to not have those repeated. So, one of the things we found out that there was a -- there was some - a disconnect in the law that when cps was involved with a case, whether they had the standing to make a missing persons report to law enforcement. I think that should be fixed so that everybody knows, cps involved in a case, all of the sudden a child they're watching is not found, cps is entitled and should make a missing person's report. On transparency, I want cps to be as transparent as possible. There is an overlaying federal law issue that kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but it is important, because you are dealing with intimate details of family lives, other children and siblings and so forth. We are working and the director is sitting down and working with legislators and broadening -- we have the broadest cps open record in the country, or among the two or three states, among the most broad open records law in the country. If we can make it better, let's do so. But that still doesn't belie the fact that we need more case managers. One idea that I have put in the budget is to refocus, and I've done this by executive order, substance abuse prevention treatment moneys because we know now that so many of these families have a substance abuse issue going on with the parents. We're going to focus those moneys; the number one draw down is for families in the cps system.

Ted Simons:
Another idea makes it easier to punish rogue employees at cps.

Janet Napolitano:
I haven't seen that. Lots of ideas out there.

Ted Simons:
Transit. Everyone is concerned. Is something going to happen this legislative session?

Janet Napolitano:
I hope so. I have asked the legislature. All of these studies, critical needs studies due to be complete by this spring. They ought to be setting up hearings and getting ready to refer something to the ballot for the people of Arizona to vote on. I know we have a budget issue. This isn't about spending money this year. This is about doing some focus and planning so that as we move forward we have a plan that we're investing in, that we're not putting $100 million in this road here or that road there; there is a vision that includes not just roads, transit, buses, so forth, and rail. I think we ought to seriously explore Tucson to phoenix rail line.

Ted Simons:
How viable is that?

Janet Napolitano:
Very viable. But it is not cheap. So, the voters ultimately of Arizona, the taxpayers have to make choices, but they can't make choices unless things are brought together in a fashion that they can learn about them, understand them, and vote on them. That -- the legislature has a task before it to do that.

Ted Simons:
Last question, state of the state address, you went after Andy Thomas, and you went after him regarding the inserts, how that sort of money should be used for something other than those sort of things. A lot of politicians do that?

Janet Napolitano:
Not with reco money. Those are the moneys we get prosecuting gangs and the like. I did not mention Andy Thomas-- you just made that assumption. What I said is look, particularly in tough budget times, those moneys ought to be restricted and used for core law enforcement, enforcing the employer sanctions law. When I signed the bill, they didn't put enough money behind it.

Ted Simons:
I will stop you right there. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons:
For a video of this program, you can visit our web site at azpbs.org/Horizon. As I just said, it's good to have you here on "Horizon." thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Announcer: "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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