Ted Simons: Arizona Representative Ann Kirkpatrick is backs on Capitol Hill after a two-year hiatus following a defeat in the polls. Kirkpatrick is back representing Arizona's first congressional district which covers much of northern and eastern Arizona. Joining us now is representative Ann Kirkpatrick. Good to see you again.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Thank you so much. My pleasure.
Ted Simons: We touched on this in the headlines, we're going to talk about it later in the show regarding the statewide poll on immigration reform. What is happening back on Capitol Hill?
Ann Kirkpatrick: You're seeing a lot more bipartisan action. Happy to see that eight senator were able to get together and define the principles they'd like addressed. There's a group in the house of representatives also working on that. And it should be a bipartisan solution. One of the first reasons I ran for Congress from the Arizona legislature was my frustration that Congress wasn't dealing with this and addressing the problems. So I'm more optimistic than ever that we'll be able to get this done it.
Ted Simons: seems like securing the border is always a major factor here. A major impact at play. What does that mean?
Ann Kirkpatrick: That's always been the question. What does that mean? One of my colleagues, the congressman in Texas would like to define what that means. As working on legislation that would do just that. Because then that takes that off the table. So we can say, OK, here's the definition. Where is the border secure, and where does it need that criteria, where does it not? Then we direct resources to that area. Then we can move to the more economic issues, dealing with worker Visas, people who really want to come here and contribute to our economy.
Ted Simons: Does the idea of a group of perhaps sheriff, counsel city officials, just some sort of state official that work along the border and getting them together as a group and they define border security, does that make sense to you?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It does make sense to me to have a definition. We've always been saying what is border security? Let's define it and let us move on.
Ted Simons: What about E-verify? Is that enough for employee verification?
Ann Kirkpatrick: That's a question still. What I did is I put together an immigration advisory group, broad spectrum. It has restaurant owners, motel owners, farmers, ranchers, chambers, business people, dreamers -- Faith groups, let's talk about that. I've heard from some folks yesterday when I was down in Oro valley, they're not sure the system works. So I think we need to look at it.
Ted Simons: How about this idea of admitting new workers only when Americans can't be found? Again this, is part of the gang of eight platform here, and yet how viable is something like that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: I think it is important to protect American jobs. We still have a jobs deficit in this country. We have 11 million people who still aren't working. We're going to have to find a balance, but the farm bureau has introduced a bill that's very interesting and is getting some support. It basically says if you're an agricultural worker and you can show that you have an employment then you're given legal status at that time, and you're given about a year in which you can convert that into either a work Visa or a pathway to citizenship. So very sensible way to deal with agricultural workers.
Ted Simons: But that's agricultural workers, what about other workers, would they need to be sponsored? And again, it seems there's a dispute over the wages for low-skilled workers. How do you see that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It will be interesting to see what the senate does with those details. And of course we're still waiting to see.
Ted Simons: Sure. OK. Sour waiting for the gang much eight to --
Ann Kirkpatrick: seeing progress, but -- That's right. Not details. I'm sure there will be much debate about that.
Ted Simons: I know something you're very interested in, very involved in is this planned copper mine in Superior. Give us an overview of what's going on there and give us an update of what's happened recently.
Ann Kirkpatrick: I talked about more bipartisan action, and certainly we're finding that with that issue. I'm working with congressman Paul Gosar, we've cosponsored legislation are terror make that land swap available so they can develop that mine. We believe that the indirect and direct jobs that it will create is 3,700, and the financial impact of the state of Arizona is in the billions of dollars. It is one of the richest copper ore. ORE bodies in North America, maybe in the world. We've got a great opportunity for all of Arizona.
Ted Simons: This would be the largest copper mine in North America?
Ann Kirkpatrick: The richest copper ORE body, so the largest concentration of copper ORE in the extraction.
Ted Simons: You mentioned 3700 job and economic impact, upward 60 billion so -- But that would be over the 60 some-odd year life span of the mine. Correct?
Ann Kirkpatrick: That's correct. The bill is not perfect. There's some issues regarding the environment that we're still trying to work out. We had a hearing right before I came back for this district work period, and there are some folks who have some serious concerns and they were able to testify in the congressional hearing, have their comments put in as part of the congressional record.
Ted Simons: And we've had some of those folks on the show, and some of the things they're especially worried about maybe threatening of the water supply out there. Is that a serious threat?
Ann Kirkpatrick: Well, that's why we have to do these environmental impact studies. Because we won't know that until we have the data and the science.
Ted Simons: There's also a concern regarding some of these areas are sacred tribal areas. What do you know about that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: There are sacred tribal areas for the San Carlos Apache, and I understand having grown up on tribal land myself, that that is part of their spirituality and their culture, and very respectful of that. On the other hand, this is the copper corridor. I have to represent all my constituents, and the folks in that area are miners. They have been for generations and generations. And they want this to happen.
Ted Simons: There's also a bit of concern regarding -- There are foreign firms in here, foreign companies, and they would pay little if any in the way of royalties. That doesn't sound right. Talk to us about that.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Well, you're right. They should be community partners. And that's one of the things we're talking about that's ongoing. It's interesting that mining companies, the international mining companies have gotten so large, that there's just a handful of companies big enough to do this kind of mining.
Ted Simons: So basically this -- These are the only people you can get involved with, you sometimes have to play by their rules?
Ann Kirkpatrick: Well, let's have a conversation. What I'm saying, there's a balance to this. And we've been talking with all the stakeholders on this. Trying to address their concerns. You and I had talked earlier about the rock climbers. There's been an agreement reached with the rock climbers, so that area where they like to climb has been protected. So there's movement. There are ways to do this in a balanced way, and that's what we're striving to do.
Ted Simons: Last question on this, it sounds like the company is threatening or has laid off hundreds of work there's were involved in this particular project. What's that all about?
Ann Kirkpatrick: Apparently they had some concerns about the ongoing negotiations for this land exchange, and without that, they can't do the mining. And so they felt I think for economic reasons they needed to be careful.
Ted Simons: So does that mean it's slow going here right now, or --
Ann Kirkpatrick: actually, it isn't. We're working in the house, I think the fact congressman Gosar and I are working together is good, and people perceive that as a balanced approach. Talking now with some of the senators who will move this forward.
Ted Simons: It's a controversial issue. What are you hearing from the residents in that area? Or close to that area?
Ann Kirkpatrick: They've been miners for generations. They want the jobs. And the way I look at it, what I'm striving for, Ted, is a diversified stable economy in Arizona. And that means mining is part of that, we have ranching, farming, we have biotech, I was just at a biotech firm yesterday, we've got great opportunities. And this is one of those. It is a diverse district, diverse state, but the folks in that area are miners, and these are the jobs that they want. And we've got this opportunity with this very, very rich copper ore body.
Ted Simons: Something else that critics say will threaten jobs is this new EPA haze standard over Arizona. And this involves three Arizona coal fire plants and if these standards -- We're hearing everything from these plants closing down, to eight times higher rates for rural customers. What do you know about the EPA regulations?
Ann Kirkpatrick: We still have a jobs deficit in this country. And certainly in congressional district one. And so the Anthony Forschino hoe generating station and the mine create about 1,100 jobs in that area. And the vast majority of those jobs go to Native Americans. You know the district has 12 tribes, it's 25% Native American, and the median household income is $7,000 per family. So these are good jobs, there is no other economy that can pick up those jobs if we lose them. So we'd like again to have a balanced approach with the EPA. Yes, we want clean air, but we also need to balance that with jobs and economic development. And so the other concern we have is that it's not only northern Arizona, but that generating station is the primary energy source for the CAP. And so my farmers in the southern part of the district are very concerned because if we don't get these negotiations right, they're going to see their cost of water go up. And that's going to hurt agriculture.
Ted Simons: It's --
Ann Kirkpatrick: it's a delicate balance.
Ted Simons: Indeed. We've had people on the show regarding this particular issue, and some would say the state put itself in this position because the EPA kept asking for a plan, and the state kept slow-footing it, and the EPA finally said, here's your plan.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Well, what we would like to do now is work with the EPA. We do need some time to implement the plan. But keep in mind, I have four coal fire plants in my district. All were established with approval of the government regulations at the time. Things have evolved. But let's work together.
Ted Simons: Is there a compromise here?
Ann Kirkpatrick: There is. I really do think there is.
Ted Simons: We're talking about haze of the Grand Canyon. That's pretty sensitive stuff.
Ann Kirkpatrick: And it is sensitive. And we can get there. We can work together.
Ted Simons: Sequestration, what is the latest, and how again does it affect your district and what can you -- What can anyone back there on Capitol Hill do?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It's here. It happened. I am disappointed. I was hoping we could work in a bipartisan manner. To not take a meat axe cut approach to this, but let's look at targets, where we can cut the budget. But it's seriously affecting my district. I have national parks. You mentioned the Grand Canyon. That's going to affect operations at the Grand Canyon. Over 95% of the land in the district is public land. So we rely on the reimbursement to run our schools, so that's going to be cut. So we're seeing cuts in schools, head start, national park service, job layoff, at a really critical time when things are starting to improve slightly, in terms of economic development jobs, but they're very fragile, and this is not going to help.
Ted Simons: You mentioned sequestration is here, and it is, but there's also I've heard the idea that you can phase in slowly some of these cuts, phase some of them in quicker, maybe delay as much as you can, that it's not just one curtain fall and everything ends.
Ann Kirkpatrick: that's right.
Ted Simons: Is there movement on Capitol Hill to, you know, stretch it out to the point where calmer heads can prevail?
Ann Kirkpatrick: There is. We did pass the continuing resolution to fund the budget for the rest of the fiscal year, so we're not going to shut down government. In that legislation we provided for some administrative decision making in terms of some of the departments in terms of sequestration. So we said, we'll let you decide where it makes sense to make these cuts. Homeland security is one of those, agriculture, FDA. And so giving them the discretion to determine what's best for their agency.
Ted Simons: Does it sound like they're taking that discretion and using it and then some?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It does. I think everybody is taking this seriously. And we'd like to have more efficiencies, and economies in the way we run our government. We've got to do that.
Ted Simons: And it brings up my last question, you alluded to it when you talked about the superior coal mine and your copper mine and your cooperation and your work with representative Gosar. From when you were there before to when you're back there now, are you seeing a difference? From a distance it seems like between gay marriage and other issues, immigration, that seems like the ice has been broken a little bit. Do you get that impression?
Ann Kirkpatrick: I do. Very much so. All of the major pieces of legislation that we've passed since January have had Democrats and Republicans voting for them. And as I said, I see much more bipartisan action. Not just talking about it, but actually doing something. The freshman class, this new class that came in really is dedicated to working across the aisle. That's good policy making. And they've set up a new caucus called united solutions. Really to, let's work together, let's solve these problems.
Ted Simons: Why do you think that change has happened?
Ann Kirkpatrick: Because of the last election. That's what we heard from the voters, that they want. They want people who can work across the aisle and get things done. And we listened.
Ted Simons: And this is my last question. What do you plan on working on, what do you emphasize now as you get back to work and get back to D.C.?
Ann Kirkpatrick: For me it's still about jobs and building this diversified stable economy in Arizona. One of my committees is transportation and infrastructure. So we're working on some good highway projects, water resource projects, we may do some nationally. But I'm also going around to all the communities talking about roads, bridges, in our local communities. That we may be able to get funding for that will create jobs, but also build up our critical infrastructure at a time when it's really decaying and we need to do something.
Ted Simons: Sounds like that all bets are off with sequestration, correct?
Ann Kirkpatrick: In the committee we'll be talking about the projects, but also how to fund them.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. It's good to have you. Good to see you again.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Thank you so much.