Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 24, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

stimulus Plan


  • A measure to energize the state’s economy through a number of deals has been proposed at the state legislature. The package includes tax breaks and credits to create jobs and development across the state. Key backer of the stimulus plan, Representative Michele Reagan joins Horizon for a discussion of the proposal.
Guests:
  • Dr. Bruce Merrill - Director, Cronkite-Eight Poll
  • Michele Reagan - Representative
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," who do Arizonans say they will vote for in the presidential election? Find out, as we release the results of the latest Cronkite-eight poll. And state lawmakers propose a plan to stimulate Arizona's economy by creating jobs and giving tax breaks to developers. Plus, we continue our series "made in Arizona" with a trip to the fossil creek creamery in strawberry for some fresh goat milk fudge and cheese. Those stories, next on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Senate leaders presented a bi-partisan budget plan today that they say preserves funding for education, healthcare, children and seniors. The proposal would balance the more than $2 billion budget shortfall with a combination of measures including agency cuts and transfers along bonding for construction. Who is to blame for the delay so far on the state budget? That was one of the questions in the latest Cronkite Eight poll, conducted June 20th and 21st.
Also asked if Barack Obama added Hillary Clinton to his ticket, would it help or hurt? Eight T.V. and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University polled 350 registered Arizona voters. It has a margin of error of 5.2\% for overall results. The margin of error for split samples is 7.4\%. Analysis of the poll in just a minute. First, here's a look at the numbers.

Announcer (Mike Sauceda):
The Cronkite Eight Poll found out that 38\% would probably vote for Senator John McCain; 28\% planning to vote for Senator Barack Obama; 34\% are undecided. We asked half of our poll respondents who they would vote for Senator Hillary Clinton was Obama's running mate. 47\% said McCain; 32\% Obama-Clinton ticket. Finally on a state issue we asked voters who is responsible for the current state budge impasse. 52\% blamed the Legislature, 19\% blamed the Governor and 13\% blamed both equally.

Ted Simons:
Here to discuss the Cronkite Eight poll is its director, Dr. Bruce Merrill. Always good to see you again.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Good to see you Ted.

Ted Simons:
Does McCain still have a healthy lead in Arizona?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Well that wasn't a real function of this poll, but yeah. We think he got a 9-10 percentage points lead. That's what we found last month, couple of other poll have come out showing about the same thing, about a 10 percentage lead.

Ted Simons:
Home senator here, home state, 10\% lead. It's good, not great.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Well, you know, not only is there a 10\% lead but 25\% of the people in Arizona are not decided at this point which is high having our hometown senator now the leader of the Republican Party. But remember, I think a lot of this is coming from the Democratic side. Only about 15\%, for instance, of the Republicans said they wouldn't support John McCain. You only had a 20\% undecided vote. On the Democratic side there was a lot of undecision and indecision and I think that's due to the fallout of the intense Democratic primary. I think that will shake out over the next few days. But you know, Ted, one of the interesting things about Arizona, if it warrant for the Senator being our home guy, I think Arizona falls in the same category as most of the inner mountain west states. I think they are almost moving from red states to purple states to swing states.

Ted Simons:
That's interesting. You talk about the Democrats maybe the fallout happening regarding the primary and the nomination process. It was interesting regarding these numbers if Obama picked Hillary Clinton as running mate didn't help all that much.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
No and that was really what we wanted to look at. Would Hillary Clinton help or hurt Obama at least in Arizona? She would actually hurt Obama by 5\% or 6\% points. Keep in mind our polls track the national polls really closely because of our fast growth rate and because people have moved here all over the country. We are have a microcosm of the nation.

Ted Simons:
And yet Arizona voted for Senator Clinton as far as the nominating process at least the primary situation here in Arizona. What happened?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
I think that's exactly what has happened. A lot of those Democrats are still a little upset about not getting their candidate in. And I think they're the ones are swelling the undecided vote on the Democratic side.

Ted Simons:
No much age or gender gap?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
There was a big age difference. People under 45, for instance were two to one Obama. People over 60 were two to one McCain. There was no gender gap whatsoever, but the only significant demographic was independence as all of our polls so far and as the national poll show we're dividing 50/50 between Obama and McCain.

Ted Simons:
Does that surprise you?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Yes, it does. Largely because if you go back and look at McCain's history as a candidate particularly when he ran before, most of his work was coming from Independent and Conservative Democrats. That is what made him so strong. As a Republican he can pull of the independents over to his side.

Ted Simons:
Independents may be hesitant, what about conservative democrats, are they moving over towards McCain.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
I think so. I think we have the phenomenon of the pinto Democrats in Arizona, the people that register Democrats but vote for Conservatives candidates. And they don't like Hillary Clinton at all.

Ted Simons:
Is there any indication, I don't know if you focus on this or not, let me know. But are there any indications that conservative republicans are warming to McCain?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Not that we can measure, Ted. Only about 15\% of the republican party, what we would call the religious right or the far right Republicans. So it's a small group of people.

Ted Simons:
If Arizona were to mirror the refuse the country, sounds like he still has some work to do there.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
I don't think there's any question about that. His first task is still got to be to reunite the basis of the Republican Party.

Ted Simons:
Are you seeing any trends of note, anything to watch for in your polling and other pollings as we move along?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
I think as we move along the vice presidential choices are more important than ever before and I think the things interesting are the debates. You'll have a very charismatic young man in Obama. The senator has his strengths. It will be interesting I think because so many people will be watching those debates. It will be important for the Senator to hold his own.

Ted Simons:
All right. Interesting aspect regarding the poll, regarding state budget bugaboo and who is to blame. Sounds like the legislature is getting most of the blame, what's going on here

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Well it is, about 20\% blame the legislature. And that's what we found in the polls 20\% give positive ratings to legislature. Keep in mind the national congress is down to single digits. It's easy to blame the legislature because you're not asking about a person. You're comparing an institution with a very popular governor. I think it reflects the frustration that people have and they want the legislature to do something about all the problems we've got.

Ted Simons:
Reflects as well the strength of the governor right now.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
No question. She's been for all of her terms a very, very strong and popular democratic governor.

Ted Simons:
Was even suggesting a government shutdown even the idle talk, we don't even know how idle it was. There was a government chatter about shutdown. Do you think it affected the numbers?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Oh I think so a little bit. That's scary to a lot of people. We have a lot of retired people Arizona and a lot governmental employees, I think with you start talking about government shutdown as we did with the federal government, I think it's scary when the economy is as bad as it is.

Ted Simons:
If you were a state lawmaker or advising state lawmakers, what do you do to tell them to put on some more makeup and make for a bigger smile. I mean what do you do to get the numbers up a little bit?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
It will take a lot of hard work for them to change that image. It's not just Arizona, Ted, it's the legislature in the other states. The national congress is getting 8\% or 9\% positive rating.

Ted Simons:
Last question and back to the presidential campaign and Arizona and points beyond, are you sensing that with McCain there is support but with Obama there's support plus?

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Yes. But a lot of that is their personalities and there's no question that Obama is a very charismatic candidate. That's not Senator McCain's strength. I mean he comes across as a 70-year-old war veteran, a real worker horse, a war horse. That's a big contrast. It's interesting to see how the American people choose between those two stereotypes.

Ted Simons:
Already. Bruce always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Bruce Merrill:
Good to be here Ted.

Ted Simons:
A measure has been proposed at the state legislature to energize the state's economy through a number of deals. The package includes tax breaks for urban redevelopment, support for the cactus league in pima county, and tax credits for a solar manufacturing plant and for research and development for small companies. I spoke with a key backer of the stimulus plan, Representative Michele Reagan. And thank you for joining us on horizon.

Michele Reagan:
Thank you for having me back.

Ted Simons:
Why this plan and why now?

Michele Reagan:
The why now is really easy. We're entering into an economic climate we haven't seen in some time. We want to lessen it and make it go by quicker. The whole goal of the package that we're trying to present in the house is jobs. How do we keep people working? How do we make sure we're seeing employment numbers go up? Last Thursday unfortunately in our state, we're seeing people get laid off. We're seeing the worst budget deficit in the entire country. Why now is easy. If we are afraid to look at stimulating our economy and creating jobs in this climate, I. find that really disturbing.

Ted Simons:
Is there a ballpark figure on the economic impact this bill would have?

Michele Reagan:
No, there's not really a ballpark figure in the sense because we don't know what portions of the plan we can gain support, enough support for in the house and senate. It would make a big difference whether we get one out of five pieces in or five out of five pieces in as far as the numbers go. The important part of this is not only are we talking about jobs but high-paying jobs in a lot of these sectors and especially the research and development component, the solar component. Those are really high-wage jobs and they are jobs we are seeing go to other states right now.

Ted Simons:
Are they jobs though that, let's say this gets pass and entirety and best of all possible world for you and as you see it for the state, how soon do those jobs go on line?


Michele Reagan:
A lot of them go on line immediately. We got people who are looking at a building; let's say, for example, a solar manufacturing plant. Not solar production, solar manufacturing that would bring jobs by the end of the summer because they are looking right now at what state to move to. When we talk about solar, it's disturbing we have lost 11 out of the last solar manufacturing plants that have looked at Arizona to come to and have decided since we don't have a solar initiative have not come here. I got word three days ago and one moved to Oregon and chose Oregon over Arizona. I've been to Oregon. It's a beautiful state and I think we have more sunshine here and I would like to see this be the solar hub and not Oregon.

Ted Simons:
We have the tax credits and incentives regarding solar and we also have it regarding start-up firms, correct?

Michele Reagan:
Research and Development is a big piece in it. This is something I've been pushing this three years. What's important about the research and development component is we have it in place in the state. This is not a new tax credit or new tax program. It's already here. Retooling it and making it work better and available to smaller companies and raise venture capital is a huge piece of keeping those jobs here. We're seeing a lot of jobs move to New Mexico and the difference is 2\% points over what we offer over what they offer. We are not advocating anything new in this arena but tweaking it to make better.

Ted Simons:
Two other aspects of the bill involve T.S.A. down in Tucson to get a spring training ballpark built down there and entertainment district here in town south of the ballpark and the arena. Some critics have said those are awfully focused especially the entertainment district and this is basically giving a break to certain folks. How would you respond?

Michele Reagan:
I would respond this way, first of all, we are careful when we write the language it doesn't apply to one area behind one ballpark in phoenix. This has to apply statewide or it's not fair. The way we are drafting it right now is it would be individual cities and any cities in the state would qualify for this should they choose. I think that's important because it's really putting it back in local control in the sense that the city wants this type of an abatement program, then they would have it and it would only be for a limited time. This wouldn't be long going. This would have a sunset provision in there. It's a way to spur these jobs. We have a lot of construction folks that don't have a work right now. You don't want to build something so they have work. We have developers who want to get something built. This--you asked how would that play out financially, it a giveaway? I completely disagree with is that. This is why, the money--the abatement they would be getting would be on taxes that we're not receiving now anyways unless they build. So should they choose to build, they get a portion of that tax back from the state but the state gets to keep the income tax and the property tax. Again that's money we're not seeing now. So I really disagree with anyone who says it's a give away because we are not giving them anything unless they give us a lot more in return.

Ted Simons:
Does that open the barn door, though, for every developer who has an infill project in mind and says, wait a minute, what about those guys?

Michele Reagan:
It would allow cities to be able to determine if they wanted a program like this in their community. In the city I come from they probably wouldn't choose to have that or we don't have the need for it as much as the area behind you mentioned behind the Diamondbacks stadium. That could be and modeled after what was done several years ago with the Rio Salado project with Tempe Towne Lake. Interesting to note the Rio Salado project that wasn't there when we voted on that, but the Legislature that was there was much more aggressive plan and it allowed for three different tax breaks. And this is the plan that were advocating for is one construction abatement. It's not as aggressive but yet a harder sale.

Ted Simons:
An all encompassing bill what seemed like five and then four because of university projects, expanding and university enhancing buildings here on campus and other universities campuses around the state, that was taken out. Why was it taken out?

Michele Reagan:
It was taken out for a couple of reasons. First of all we were thinking it was something that could be in the budget and would probably be a good budget discussion. The second reason it was taken out, I didn't know if we could get the votes for the package with that in that. That program involves some of the Lottery monies and some caps that the lottery has right now in marketing being removed or eliminated. That has some folks leery. I didn't want to mix in the lottery issue with what I go back to as jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what I see my bill as. We have decided recently that we can probably get support for it. It's a really interesting plan. I don't know how much you studied it. It's phenomenally exciting and building things we have to build anyways. There's no giveaways, there's no free jobs. These are the things that the state is required to build in the next couple of years and accelerates the building.

Ted Simons:
Is there enough time in the session to get lawmakers clued into what this involves and ready to vote the way you want them to?

Michele Reagan:
There's certainly time, yes, depending on how hard I want to work. I've given up the last two weeks to meet with as many as people as I can. I have a big laundry list of folks. The best part of this plan we're seeing is it's a bi-partisan plan. That's exciting. This is not a Republican or Democrat idea. These are productive ideas for the citizens of Arizona. We're really seeing an interesting mix of folks coming together and saying, yes, we need to do this for our economy. That's the really exciting part.

Ted Simons:
Alright, Representative Michele Reagan thank you for joining us.

Michele Reagan:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
We continue our series "Made in Arizona" highlighting unique products that are created right here in our state. The heat has got your goat, you might want to take a trip northeast to the rim country and visit the ranch at fossil creek. There, you can find fresh goat milk fudge and cheese at the fossil creek creamery. Merry Lucero and videographer Scot Olson bring us to this "agri-tainment" experience and show us how the tasty goat milk goods are made.

VO (Merry Lucero):
This little guy is saying welcome to the fossil creek creamery. No kidding. It's a creamery where goats provide the milk to make tasty treats. The ranch at Fossil Creek and the Fossil Creek Creamery is about two hours northeast of Phoenix in Strawberry Arizona. The goat heard has nearly 30 adults and five babies of the it's a hands-on experience for visitors and kids love the kids.

John Bittner:
Llamas and goats that are in a petting zoo get bored with what they are doing. They feel like they are being mauled by you. As opposed to here, they are not in a small, confined area or a cage. They want to be here. And so it's more fun and people get to see goats coming to them and they got a choice of more than one as opposed of going to a petting zoo where there's only one or two .

VO (Merry Lucero):
They also have nine llamas and an alpaca.

Joyce Bittner:
There are several people that come here that say I always love the llamas.

VO (Merry Lucero):
Predators don't. The llamas guard the goats.

Joyce Bittner:
Several weeks ago we had a black bear that was down along the fence. He was meandering in for something and the goats had all run up to the fence and were shivering and shaking, meanwhile the llamas were running up and down the fence line where the bear was trying to shoo him off.

VO (Merry Lucero):
For most the attraction is not llamas or the goats but what comes from the creamery. John and Joyce Bittner own and runs this intimate operation.

John Bittner:
I don't want hundreds and hundreds of goats. A nice maintainable herd where we can name them all and know their names. They know their names, they come to us when we call them.

>> spirit, spirit.

John Bittner:
Right now we are small and want to stay that way. Probably 15 gallons of milk a day. Translated that's 14-15 pounds of cheese a day and lots of fudge.

VO (Merry Lucero):
Making that fudge and the other products begins with milking the goats.

John Bittner:
Everything from A to Z is done on the farm. The goats were born here. They are bred here. They are raised here. They are milked here. The milk is pasteurized here and the milk is put in different products here and it's even packaged. So when it leaves here, everything, all of the items in here took place on the farm.

VO (Merry Lucero):
After it is extracted the milk is pasteurized in this machine.

John Bittner:
When you pasteurize, this is a double boiler. Not only do you have to heat the double boiler to get the milk warm and you have to heat the air space above the milk. This is a hair dryer. It brings the air in and keeps it very hot and blows it down to the air space. This thermometer keeps track of what the temperature is in the air space. This thermometer keeps track and records over here the milk temperatures.

VO (Merry Lucero):
The Bittner have learned the art of cheese making.

John Bittner:
I have a pail of cheese that sat with a culture all night and now we are cutting the curd. The more spaces of curd we can get, the little squares I'm trying to make, the more it will let the whey out of curd. Wet let it sit for a while, probably for another 20 minutes. At that time, then we'll be able to scoop it up. What I did a little earlier, I took the curds and whey out of this thing and I put it into cheese cloth. So now I'm going to bring the cheese cloth up to tight like this so I can tie it. Then I'm going to reach over here right in front of you and we're going to hookup on my pulley and there you go. You've got curds and whey. The whey is dripping down and I'll let that drip for a few hours. Later on tonight I'll be adding flavors to that cheese or just salt.

VO (Merry Lucero):
The end product is a creamy, spreadable cheese plain or in several flavors. About 20 restaurants around the state use the cheese in their dishes. People who taste the cheese react this way. The goat milk fudge gets the same, sweet response.

>> Yes, very much.

Joyce Bittner:
Taste experience. To taste something that's so fresh and to actually have seen where it came from and then how it was processed, i think that's what people enjoy.

Dennis Johnson:
The nice thing that I get out of it is it's like you're visiting friends on their farm and you kind of be yourself and there's nobody hassling ya. You get to go see the llamas, see the goats and then they have this shop here and come in here and kind of experience the different goods that they make, the fudge and stuff. It's an amazing place.

VO (Merry Lucero):
The Bitters enjoy giving that experience to children. They also help needy children in the rim country with their kids feeding kids program a feed to bottle feed baby goats goes to a charity that helps feed the hungry.

Joyce Bittner:
We have a place where we can help educate kids who are primarily living in the city about what the country life is about, what it's like to care for animals, what things animals produce.

VO (Merry Lucero):
Things you don't find says Bittner at a big chain store.

John Bittner:
Everything that we use we buy local. Restaurants and grocery stores and individuals that come to our retail shop are looking for this local and fresh. Will they pay more for it? Probably in the long run, yes. Will they pay less for it? Probably in the long run, yes, in the sense that they are supporting the local economy and that can bring the prices down. We need to take care of each other. I say we buy locally and hope people want to buy locally. From the results so far, that's true.

VO (Merry Lucero):
And with that support, the Bittners like to say they owe their success to utters. [banjo playing]


Ted Simons:
Tomorrow on "Horizon," supporters say it will save money and improve public education. The pros and cons of school district redistricting. Plus, rattlesnake crafts made in Arizona. That's tomorrow at 7:00 on "Horizon". Please visit our web site at azpbs.org/horizon for video and transcripts of this program. You can find archives of previous shows. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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