Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 17, 2008

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small joins us with the latest legislative news and highlights from the Arizona State Capitol.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Do state lawmakers have a budget plan for the governor? Who’s the replacement for state senator Jake Flake, who died last Sunday? Joining me now with an update on what is going on at the state legislature is Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small. Jim, good to have you back. Let's start with the budget. First of all, any progress whatsoever?

Jim Small:
There seems like there's been a little bit of progress. We got a little bit of a speech today on the House floor from Speaker Jim Weirs who said that there’s been what he termed “huge progress” in the budget negotiations this week. There was a meeting yesterday where the groups looked at what items they wanted to sweep, what dedicated fund sources they wanted to sweep. And this morning there was kind of an impromptu meeting called at about ten to 10:00. Right before, in fact, the House and Senate were scheduled to go on the floor today. They called an impromptu budget meeting for about 45 minutes or so, came out of that, Republicans certainly seemed in good spirits about it. Seemed to be that things were moving in the right direction and a deal may not be imminent but it’s certainly -- they are moving that way. Speaker Weirs actually said he hopes that the legislature will be here on Friday because his goal would be to pass a budget on Friday.

Ted Simons:
It seems as though some of the talk down there is now dealing with what happens should the deadline not be met. It sounds like, are Plan B’s being thrown around?

Jim Small:
That was actually the subject today of a special joint appropriations committee meeting. Members of the appropriations committees sat down for about 2 hours today, heard a -- got a revenue update from the budget analysts and got some guidance from the legislative council, which is kind of like the legal council for the legislature. They were told, basically, there’s no road map for what happens if you guys don’t have a budget by July 1st, because it’s never happened before. There’s no court cases dealing with it, nothing in the constitution, nothing in statute that says if you don't have a budget in place by the start of the fiscal year you can do this and this, but not this. So what it comes down to basically is they think that they can go ahead and agencies that get their money every other year, that get a bi-annual budget, can go ahead and still operate. Agencies that get an annual budget, which is pretty much all the big ones: education, corrections, DPS, things like that…they can't. They would have to shutdown. That would in turn mean you’re looking at about 30,000 plus employees that would have to be what’s called rift-reduction-in-force, temporarily. A number of those would actually not be able to get their jobs back. It would be a big hassle if they didn’t have the budget done.

Ted Simons:
Is this an apocalyptic-type buster or are these folks really trying to figure out what could happen?

Jim Small:
Well, I think there’s probably a little bit of both. I think, certainly, it’s something that needs to be looked at kind of a worst-case scenario. That was the feeling among certainly the Chairman of the Committee Representative Russell Pearce and Senator Bob Burns as well as a number of other fiscally conservative people. On the other side, a number of the critics lashed out in the meeting and said, “Look, this is time that could be well-spent actually trying to get a budget done instead of talking about shutting government down.” Some people viewed it as a way to maybe try to attack the governor or go after the governor in some sense. It’s really unclear what’s going to happen. The meeting today though kind of came on the heels of news that the negotiations were kind of moving forward and we're kind of picking up speed. It’s kind of a mixed bag as far as what happened today.

Ted Simons:
We’re also hearing of a very ambitious economic stimulus plan that combines a bunch of ideas that have been floating around into one massive package.

Jim Small:
Right. The idea would be to take, I think, four components, create an entertainment district kind of down south of Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Let voters in Tucson decide whether or not they want to institute a tax similar to the one here in Maricopa County for the Cardinals Stadium that they could use down there to do some renovations to Tucson Electric Park and to help the Cactus League and maybe build a new stadium to attract a new team down there. And it would also include tax credits for businesses that do research and development, as well as tax credits for businesses that build components of solar panels. The idea would be to create a couple thousand really high-paying jobs and really kind of try to help push Arizona’s economy away from the service industries and from the housing industries.

Ted Simons:
Again, this is something that takes a lot of ideas, puts them in one particular plate. Odds of getting through? Sounds like it's on the fast track.

Jim Small:
It sounds like it's on fast track. It’s supported by Republican leadership. It certainly has its critics. Some of the fiscal conservatives are not too happy with it. Representative Eddy Farnsworth today said he didn't like it. He saw this as one of the bad sides of politics where government gets involved when in reality government should just be backing off and taking its hands off, you know, the markets and letting them sort it out. It seems to have a lot of support though. Democrats are lining up in support of it. So I would imagine that this is going to move pretty quickly.

Ted Simons:
Surprised that so many Republicans seem to be in support?

Jim Small:
I don't think so. If you look at what this is going to do, you know, the tax credits are issues that a number of Republicans have pushed for in the past. R & D Tax Credit Research and Development has been a big pet project for Representative Michelle Reagan who is the sponsor of this legislation and I know that she’s been working hard on it for several weeks.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Sylvia Allen, the replacement apparently for the late senator Jake Flake. Who is Sylvia Allen?

Jim Small:
Sylvia Allen is a former Republican Party Chairwoman from Navajo County. She actually ran for the state house in 2004; ran against Bill Copenicky, Republican and Jack Brown, long time Democrat, lawmaker from Saint Johns. She lost that election. Didn’t run for any office two years ago. This year she was actually set to run for the House again to try to go after Senator Brown again. She’s actually now not only been appointed to replace Senator Flake for the rest of the term but she’s actually been selected to replace him on the ballot in the fall. So she is going to go ahead and run unopposed for the senate in the fall. She is a very conservative Republican, fiscally and socially.

Ted Simons:
Bill Copenicky, on this program and elsewhere, saying he wanted that seat and certainly wanted to succeed Senator Flake, and now, obviously, that dynamic has changed. He is going to continue to run for the House?

Jim Small:
Right he will continue to run for the House. I believe this will be his final term actually before term limits kick in for the House. I’m sure he's pretty disappointed that he didn't get selected by the precinct committee in his district to be on ballot in the fall.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, the real ID bill signed by the governor - a little bit of surprise there?

Jim Small:
In the past she had been a strong proponent of the real ID program. She issued a signing letter with the bill today and said that her support for real ID was always contingent on the federal government providing money and so the state wouldn’t have to pick up the tab on its own. She said that money doesn't seem to be forthcoming, so it makes no sense to continue into the program.

Ted Simons:
Alright, Jim, thanks so much for joining us as always.

Jim Small:
Great. Thank you Ted.

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