Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 24, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

One on One


  • state House Republican Spokesman Barrett Marson and State Democratic Party Communications Director Emily Bittner debate the issues in our weekly segment in which two political pundits go head-to-head on state politics.
Guests:
  • Barrett Marson - Spokesman, State House Republicans
  • Emily Bitner - Communications Director, Arizona Democratic Party


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Now for our regular Monday feature focusing on issues of concern to those watching the state legislature and upcoming elections two political types go one-on-one. Tonight Barrett Marson, the State House Republican spokesman goes head-to-head with Emily Bitner, the Arizona Democratic Party's Communications Director.

Barrett Marson:
Good evening, Emily. It's great to have you here today. You know, three weeks has gone by since the show last aired. And a lot of things have been done at the legislature to address the state's budget crisis. The biggest problem we're facing right now. Legislature sent two bills to the governor of which she promptly vetoed both of them. That would have substantially assisted Arizona in dealing with the budget crisis. Both the hiring freeze and the excess spending freeze. Both those bills were necessary. And for some odd reason the governor vetoed them.

Emily Bitner:
Well, Barrett, there doesn't seem anything odd about her veto to me. I mean, the governor has presented a plan for managing the budget shortfall as early as September of last year. She gave the legislature a budget in January. Wait, wait Barrett. Then the legislature sat for seven weeks debating about guns in schools, maybe guns in bars, gay marriage. Didn't do anything about the budget. And then sent the governor a bill on a hiring freeze that would have gone into effect after the budget went into effect.

Barrett Marson:
That's only because Democrats in the senate did not support -- only one Democrat in the Senate had the gall to go against the governor. The problem is her "hiring freeze" in September wasn't. And when you still had the state hiring for gardeners, for communications people at the lottery, and a whole host of jobs, her alleged "hiring freeze" wasn't a hiring freeze at all. The legislature said --

Emily Bitner:
I think the governor certainly has taken a look at that hiring freeze and continued to move that hiring freeze forward in a way --

Barrett Marson:
Continued? It was only after the house passed the hiring freeze with bipartisan support that she ramped up her hiring freeze to make it a little bit more real. But it was only that action.

Emily Bitner:
Well, I think the governor has done a tremendous job managing the budget shortfall as we learn new information about what the revenue numbers actually are.

Barrett Marson:
Emily, I would love for you to tell me one area that the governor has reduced spending. She has refused time and again to publicly state where the money -- where she has not spent money. In fact, as Dean Martin said, the money is going out just as fast as it was from day one.

Emily Bitner:
I think Dean Martin was accurately characterized as a little bit Chicken Little about the situation. The governor has managed our budget for the last six years and has done so tremendously successfully. In fact, she inherited budget deficits when she first became governor in 2002. And so the governor has I think done a very tremendous job of making sure that those cuts are in place.

Barrett Marson:
But what cuts are the? You don't know. I don't know. The speaker doesn't know. My boss the Speaker of the House does not know because the governor has not been willing to share where it is that she has cut state government. We don't know any of that.

Emily Bitner:
Barrett, I think that the governor has spoken eloquently and as length about the ways she's worked to make the government far more efficient. For instance, her efficiency review panel has saved us all $1 billion.

Barrett Marson:
Don't even start with me on the efficiency review panel. The only thing she can point to is fish and game people staying in tents instead of getting hotel rooms.

Emily Bitner:
Somehow that doesn't add up to $1 billion to me, Barrett. And it's $1 billion.

Barrett Marson:
Here's the problem. The governor has proposed a pay day loan system for Arizona. So we will have a pay day loan here for hundreds of millions of dollars over the next -- until 2014 we'll be paying $500 million a year just in interest payments.

Emily Bitner:
You know, Barrett, it's so interesting to me that you bring that up. I think it's really fascinating. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was to give the Speaker some credit. One of the sticking points on the budget lately has been school bonding. I think that's what you're talking about when you're talking about interest rates. I think school bonding is an issue that all of us are paying close attention to. It's sort of a wonky issue where you pay for a building over the life of that building. It's a capital financing issue. It's what we do with Rhodes, it's what we do with every other government building; almost every other state in the country does it. Now, where I wanted to give the Speaker some credit is that his experience with interest rates is largely as a predatory lender charging his customers 500\%. So I can see why it would have been difficult for him to grasp the concept -- hang on. Let me finish. [overlapping speakers]

Barrett Marson:
Clearly that is not true.

Emily Bitner:
Let me finish. I can see how it would be difficult for him to grasp the state bonding to build schools at 5\%. So I have to give him some credit for coming around on the math.

Barrett Marson:
Clearly, Emily, that is not even close to the truth. But I will let the -- won't let the truth get in the way of your funny joke. But that's not the truth.

Emily Bitner:
Feel free to ask the families who he put into bankruptcy after they had medical bills.

Barrett Marson:
He put no families into bankruptcy, I hate to tell you. He makes car loans; he's not a "predatory lender."

Emily Bitner:
He makes car loans at 500\% and has put families into bankruptcy when they're suffering from cancer.

Barrett Marson:
You get me that paperwork, Emily.

Emily Bitner:
It's on my desk.

Barrett Marson:
Okay. Anyway, another issue that appears the Democrats were on the wrong side is CPS. The legislature has been working to get CPS building to open up CPS records, make sure that they are more accountable to the public who pays for them. And Democrats have been voting against some of the bills, including one of the bigger ones: the idea of having CPS case records open when there is a death or near death of a child. And it's inexplicable to me how the public shouldn't see how CPS acted when there was a death of a child or near death.

Emily Bitner:
Barrett, let me say that first of all I'm someone who has personally volunteered in the foster care system and have mentored foster kids. So I have seen the devastation that substance abuse creates in families, and I have seen just how overstretched or understretched our CPS case workers are. I think that Democrats have, typically speaking, been on the forefront of expanding our CPS system, of making sure there are enough case workers to adequately deal with the problems that we have, while Republicans have stood in the way of those very reforms. And on top of -- let me finish.

Barrett Marson:
Adding money is not a reform. Adding money is adding money.

Emily Bitner:
We haven't added nearly enough case workers.

Barrett Marson:
We have added hundreds of case workers at the governor's request. [overlapping speakers]

Emily Bitner:
Will you let me finish, Barrett? Will you let me finish? Thank you. It's an issue of having the people on the ground who can deal with the cases. And I think Democrats have been on the forefront of making sure that those resources exist. Now, to talk about the specific bills that exist now, I think that there are still negotiations going on about those bills. And from -- before the governor will sign them. And from what I understand about those bills is everybody wants the system to work better for kids. Everybody wants to make sure kids are protected. The argument that seems to be taking place over these bills is an argument of when things happen, of the sequence of when things happen, of who talks to who exactly when, of whether it's a county attorney or a judge who has the authority over these, releasing these records. But I think that just in general people really want to see kids better protected. And Democrats have been pushing for that while Republicans have been, as usual, standing in the way.

Barrett Marson:
Unfortunately again don't let the facts get in the way, Emily, please. That would be wrong to let facts about this get in the way. You have seen Republicans both vote for increased money for CPS case workers, increased pay for CPS case workers.

Emily Bitner:
I think that's only under pressure from the governor.

Barrett Marson:
But now there's reforms to actually ensure that there's accountability in the system. When CPS case workers are dating the people that they should be -- that they have been investigating, when CPS case workers aren't doing the just normal things like looking in files, court records, things like that, that needs to be done. We have had to legislate that because CPS isn't doing that.

Emily Bitner:
Obviously those things need to be done. I think the conversation that we're having is talking about what the most appropriate way to get there is without jeopardizing federal funding for CPS, I think that's what some of the Democrats' objection is. And I will continue to say it's the governor who has pushed and pushed and pushed for CPS reform, dragged the Republican caucus along with her. And the governor who is the first to say that CPS should be working far more closely with law enforcement, that there should be much more communication about these cases. I think if you ask any Arizonan, "Who is trying their hardest to protect children?" they would answer Janet Napolitano.on a future edition of Horizon.

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