Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 16, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Steve Goldstein - KJZZ Radio
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" -- Governor Janet Napolitano delivers her final State of the State address as Arizona deals with a severe budget shortfall. Secretary of State Jan Brewer is preparing to take over as governor next week. And a bill introduced to ban photo radar on Arizona freeways. That's 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:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me to talk about this week's top stories are Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio, Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republic, and Matt Bunk of the Arizona Capitol Times. Well, with the state facing a fiscal crisis, there are competing budget plans at the state capitol. Mary Jo, we've got battling budgets as of today. I've kind of got a funny feeling which side's going to come out on top, but let's do comparing and contrasting of what we've got going here.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, what we had first out of the gate was the budget options plan from the two budget chairmen in the legislature, Russell Pearce and John Kavanagh. And their plan relies heavily on spending cuts, then sweeping unused money out of state agency budgets, and maybe about $400 million from Uncle Sam if that federal stimulus comes through. The governor's plan, which was released this morning, goes a lot lighter on the cuts, relies more on what people would call an accounting gimmick, where she would securitize the cash flow that comes in from the tobacco settlement as well as the state lottery and use that to tide the budget through until she believes things will turn around.

Ted Simons:
It sounds to me like they don't even have the deficits right. Sounds like the governor's looking to fill $1.25 billion and the Republicans are looking to fill $1.6, 7, or 8 billion.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, and that's very interesting because right after the election, back in November, the governor and legislative leaders agreed that the deficit would be $1.2 billion but since then, lawmakers have moved their number up to $1.6 billion saying things have gotten worse, and the governor sees it differently. It's very hard to have an agreement when you can't get together on your starting point.

Ted Simons:
Matt, as far as the governor's ideas, does the leadership down there care at all?

Matt Bunk:
It doesn't sound like it, Ted. I think there's going to be a budget battle this year. I'm not sure we've seen the second budget proposal that will enter this battle. Napolitano's budget was largely shrugged off by Republicans and the word I'm hearing, Jan Brewer may have different ideas. And there may be a budget battle between lawmakers and Brewer, but Napolitano's budget doesn't look like it's going anywhere.

Steve Goldstein:
It seems as if the budget will hinge on education. That's the one area in which Republicans may disagree with each other, and perhaps with Governor-to-be Brewer as well. Whether it's university funding being hacked, K-12 educations always seems to be under the protective shell of someone, so it seems like that's going to be the major issue.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
We're already seeing cracks in that from the republican ranks. Representative rich Crandall, who is the chairman of the House Education Committee, put out a press release and said this is not a Republican budget, this is the chairman's budget. We have yet to make a budget. He's getting bombarded from calls from education advocates because there's heavy cuts to public education, which makes up about 44\% of the state budget.

Ted Simons:
So we've got the chairmen with this particular plan, have we heard from House and Senate leadership and do we know where a Governor Brewer would stand?

Matt Bunk:
At this point, I don't think Brewer has said a whole lot other than she's keeping her options open and even raising taxes is something she said she'd consider. I think we may run into a little bit of difficulty coming to an agreement between the governor and the legislature on healthcare cuts. I know the incoming governor was an advocate for increasing funding while she was a supervisor in Maricopa County for mental health programs, and different healthcare programs and services, and she may have a soft spot for those programs that may become contentious later on.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
To hear kavanagh and Pearce talk about, they're on a fast track to get this budget deficit resolved. They want it delivered to brewer by January 31. That's not too far away. When you consider that brewer is expected to be sworn in on January 21, that doesn't leave much time for the incoming governor to weigh in. It appears that one's on a fast track and even Crandall has said the education cuts are probably a go. His attention is focused on the budget for next year.

Steve Goldstein:
Well, how much of a wildcard is the stimulus package going to be? I think we've all heard the quote from Senate Appropriations Chair Russell Pearce saying he doesn't want any of that federal money to fix any of these problems.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They're going to take any money that's handed their way. And chairman kavanagh said he's not real nuts about it, but as long as it helps the state tide over existing programs and does not institute new programs or come with heavy strings attached, he's fine to take that money and Pearce's objections notwithstanding it's going to be hard for lawmakers to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Matt Bunk:
It seems they've looked at an estimate how much money they expect to get from the federal government, and at this point they've inserted that into the budget for '09 and '10 and the way I understand it, if they get more money than they expected to get, they'd revise their numbers on some of the cuts later on down the road.

Ted Simons:
It looks like $800 million's what everyone seems to be banking on, and I know the Republican side was 400 and 400, was the Governor expecting more or do we even know that yet?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
She was talking last week about upwards of $1 billion. But it's unclear how that would break out, and it all hinges on how quickly Congress gets to work on this.

Ted Simons:
This concept of tobacco settlement and lottery money-up front securitization. Is this again a non-starter considering leadership and --

Steve Goldstein:
It's funny, Mary Jo used the term accounting gimmick, which opponents of Governor Napolitano over the years have liked to use that for her various budgets. It does seem like a creative idea. Let's put it that way. To get the money upfront in exchange for, okay, we'll give you some of this money in the future. I think everything with Governor Napolitano's almost a nonstarter, based on the fact that she's not going to be there to take the hits or push it through.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I agree.

Ted Simons:
I've asked this so many times I feel like a broken record: you've got a governor elected by a substantial margin and who polls very, very well, who's got ideas for the budget and a legislature that says we don't care.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, yeah, but again, as Steve pointed out, she's not going to be here to defend that budget and to do battle on it. And so you can throw out any plan you want and maybe hope that the Democrats in the legislature will carry the banner-and they've said the governor has good ideas-but they seem to be going in a different direction. More long term, talking about let's get rid of the tax exemptions and close tax loopholes.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask, Democratic folks down there at the legislature, are they relevant at all yet?

Matt Bunk:
Well, yet? No. And will they be is another question as well and they lost quite a few numbers. They were a minority last year. It doesn't look like they're going to have sway when it comes to major initiative that the Republicans in bulk are against. And it's going to be a difficult time for them this year.

Ted Simons:
Do you think Governor Jan Brewer could be a moderating influence on what's being presented by the G.O.P. so far?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think so. And again, remember, what the G.O.P. leaders are proposing are just options. They put out more options, and if you add them all up it's more than the deficit. There's a little room to pick and choose but not a lot and we don't have much time. I think there's room in there, especially if you look at the 2010 budget, for Governor Brewer to very much be a moderating influence.

Steve Goldstein:
I think what will help Governor Brewer if she never uses the term draconian!

Ted Simons:
You might hear that from some of the university folks, because the universities got hit really hard. Again, is this an opening plan where you aim for the moon or sun or star and -- I forget where you're supposed to land, but you know what I'm trying to say. Are they overreaching, so that you cut back a little bit and everybody thinks good has been done?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Certainly, that seems to be how most budgets go. Even Senator Bob Burns, the Senate President, has said he doesn't expect whatever budget they come up with will be a go the first time around. He knows it will take some horse trading and some going back and forth. The education groups, especially K-12, were out in force even before the legislature officially started its session. They were out on the lawn of the capitol saying don't balance the budget on the backs of kids. And I suspect that's what Rich Crandall and some of the other lawmakers have been hearing.

Ted Simons:
That being said, all-day k, is it a goner?

Matt Bunk:
That's a good question. I think it's something they're going to be looking at when you're looking at cutting a billion dollars, K through 12, if indeed they go that direction, I don't see how they can continue all-day kindergarten under that scenario. If the cut ends up being less or the federal government comes through with more money, its chances are probably a lot better.

Steve Goldstein:
Could I jump back briefly to the university funding issues?

Ted Simons:
Please.

The Arizona Board of Regents issued a statement saying they're obviously very upset with the idea of some of these $500 million in university cuts, hitting ASU, NAU, and U of A very hard. A couple of months ago, the Board of Regents decided not to go to a meeting based on fixing different buildings in the university system and I know that certain member of the legislature were very unhappy that meeting was boycotted. I wonder if that will put any political spin on it. The university's come calling, you guys weren't supportive of us last time, we really don't want to see you.

Ted Simons:
It gets to a larger question regarding what Arizonans want. I know Democrats -- because we've talked to them on set here -- say that Governor Brewer will probably want to run again and does not want to necessarily be Draconian in some of her cuts. How much does that come into play where some of these folks in their districts are locked in? Not a Governor Brewer.

Matt Bunk:
That's true and that's one of the things that even Governor Napolitano in her State of the State, sort of implored Republican leaders and Governor Brewer to remember that Arizona voters are watching and I think in regards to education cuts, she made the quote, something to the effect of -- they're certainly going to be watching you. If you come in and make a bunch of drastic cuts to education, they're going to see it for what it is, a willful and bad choice. She's trying to present her budget as another option. An alternative that, if you don't want to make these cuts, there's a way of getting around it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And also, keep in mind: as Brewer comes into office, first of all, Jan Brewer has tons of experience in the state government, and she's surrounded by people who have been there and done that. She knows how to send signals to legislature to say don't go there. Don't send me something that would eviscerate all-day k. It's a very popular program. Maybe you cut it back, but don't totally do away with it and I think we -- well, we won't be seeing or hearing those messages coming from the ninth floor, but I suspect they'll be sent.

Ted Simons:
On certain things, don't make me say yes. And on other things, don't make me say no.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Uh-huh.

Ted Simons:
Budget boot camp, what's happening with that? Do we know?

Matt Bunk:
A lot of training exercises for incoming lawmakers, the public, and even veteran lawmakers. The thing I kept hearing is these issues are so complex and we want all 90 people to understand these things. They're going to be voting on it, and we want to make sure the first week is spent educating folks. It was a pretty complex, rigorous week for these guys. Especially if you come in, you haven't ever been down at the capitol before, and you're learning all this for the first time. It's a lot of stuff.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It was so rigorous that the attendance dwindled as the week went by. And certainly lawmakers who have been around the block a couple of times, you couldn't find them in those hearing rooms. The freshmen were there, they were all ears, they were taking notes. It was aimed at the newcomers, but I had to chuckle that, by the third day, they didn't need to blow out extra space in the room and they could go back to a smaller hearing room.

Steve Goldstein:
Well, Ted, a couple of things. It was interesting to hear economist Elliott Pollack, who talked about how things are bad, in a good year, things are going to be a little bit worse, and in a horrible year they'll be much worse. I kept thinking about the five stages of grief and what stage are we at now as far as the legislative process. If we're going from bad to worse, how can anyone be optimistic about cuts or anything else?

Ted Simons:
Before we get off this, real quickly: is anything else happening with the legislature? Anything else going on? I know the House is still going through some things.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The House will start hearing bills next week. There's a somewhat modest agenda out for next week. The first week of bills is usually light. One thing that slipped in in the middle of this and this came out at the hearings at boot camp, is that business leaders came in and said, what you can really do for us is get off our backs. You know, don't saddle us with so many regulations. House SXpeaker Kirk Adams is very supportive of no new regulations. In fact, he says they should look at holding off-- just put a hiatus on existing regulations as well. And they have asked the business community to come back to them with a list of those regulations that would be problematic. And apparently, the Brewer administration is also very interested in some kind of a moratorium on regulation.

Matt Bunk:
There have been 500 bills filed --550 filed, I believe, as of today in both the House and the Senate, which is about half the number of bills they file in a year. There's stuff being dropped. Whether they're going to hear them or whether they get to a committee hearing, we don't know. About 350 were dropped in the House, and the Senate is following Burns' lead and holding off on things they would like to do and working on the budget first.

Ted Simons:
But at least everybody got new computers. Didn't that go through?

Matt Bunk:
Last year, I guess, they had approved the purchase of computers and this year's leadership is pointing the finger backwards and saying, it wasn't us. They spent $400,000 on computers and accessories. It's not necessarily that they're going to fix the budget problem because of this, but it's just a matter of being an example. We've talked to lawmakers that said, geez, I'm kind of embarrassed, we're telling everybody they have to deal with cuts and we bought ourselves computers.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about the final State of the State from Governor Napolitano. The overall mood seemed, in a word, odd.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Frankly, I went in there almost expecting to hear some boos, but maybe I'm overly pessimistic. And there were none. Everybody conducted themselves with great decorum. But the applause lines that the governor received were mostly from the Democratic side of the aisle. Which really isn't that unusual, compared to past years. You do draw partisan support on this. But it was a shorter address. She wanted to implore lawmakers to protect programs that have been instituted especially under her reign. But it was more subdued. On Thursday, when the Arizona Cardinals mascot popped into the legislative chambers, that was the highlight of the week and that guy got more pictures taken. I don't think Burns can sign autographs, but that generated a more excitement than anything you saw with State of the State.

Steve Goldstein:
And we hear so much about bipartisanship, and we're not really sure what that means at this point, but the most interesting moment for me was when Governor Napolitano made a little comment about how Democrats and Republicans need to work together and Governor Brewer kind of mouthed thank you to her as if there was some bond there between them.

Ted Simons:
And a nice little hug afterwards between the Governor going out and the Governor coming in. There seems to be a relationship there, I think. We spoke with Jan Brewer on the program this week and you can tell, she realizes that what she's doing is different than what she has done in representing and administering and these sorts of things. All right, let's move on. Lots of talk about budget problems and economic troubles. We had 700-plus people showing up for the City of Phoenix, mostly it was senior stuff and arts stuff, but people just not happy about budget cuts, huh?

Steve Goldstein:
It's really a scary situation when you consider the cuts that are going to have to be made. Even City Manager Frank Fairbanks is calling for $160 million in cuts and another $110 million is going to have to be on the table beyond that. I was most interested, Ted, you mentioned the arts groups. The Schemer Arts Center, which is right around 48th Street and Camelback, which is a very pretty place, but doesn't have a lot of attendance, not a lot of people go there. And that was one of the big protests. You can't do this to our arts systems, you can't do this to our libraries, etc. I just -- when we see levels of cuts like that, you wonder what people really expect with the economy the way it is. So I -- you had 400 to 700 people out there at various times, but I'm not exactly sure what they expect.

Ted Simons:
And transit hikes as well were opposed and protested. A lot of people upset about a lot of things, but that's what happens when you cut -- what was it? 22\% of the city fund?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah.

Ted Simons:
That's a lot. That's a lot, and Phoenix is losing population as it goes on as well. We can talk about that another time. But it sounds like the numbers aren't even there for the city of Phoenix in terms of population.

Steve Goldstein:
Traffic is still heavy, though!

Ted Simons:
Well, traffic is heavy leaving Greg Stanton's office, he's going to the A.G.'s office. What's that all about?

Steve Goldstein:
Well, I've heard a couple of things. I've heard one, that Greg Stanton wants to make sure that he has a job because his council situation was going to end in December, at the end of this year. I've also heard that he has plans to run for Attorney General himself. It's already a crowded field. We know on the Republican side, Tom Horne has already declared, we suspect Andrew Thomas is going to run, we've also heard former Corporation Commissioner Bill Mundell. So maybe Greg Stanton wants to get an early run, if Terry Goddard in fact does run for Governor, which I guess more questionable now that we have an incumbent in Jan Brewer. So Greg Stanton wants to sort of tie his string to Terry Goddard.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And in any event, Terry Goddard is term-limited. So he's done as Attorney General after the next two years. Stanton is joining the Attorney General's office as a legislative liaison and he's filling a post that was vacated when the guy who had the job got appointed to the superior court bench. Whether Stanton is teeing himself up for a run as Attorney General, maybe trying to come back and run for Phoenix Mayor, or maybe he really just wants to stay and be the legislative liaison for the Attorney General's office. Who knows?

Ted Simons:
There's always that possibility, I suppose. County jails lose their accreditation. This is a big deal, as far as lawsuits matter. First of all, you have to have this accreditation. I believe it's mandated. But talk to us about what this means.

Matt Bunk:
Sheriff Joe has had some lawsuits in the last couple of years that have cost the taxpayers quite a bit of money, and some embarrassment as well. What we're looking at right now is a real vague letter that came from an accreditation agency that says there's some concerns about the healthcare of the inmates. Beyond that, it didn't really have any details, didn't go any further than that. There's some county folks that are not really sure what the problems are so they're looking into that right now. The county has assured us that, once we know what the problems are, we'll tell the public. And I believe they've tried to write to the agency to find the details of what the problems are.

Ted Simons:
Was it that the previous court decision was a factor? Just look back at what we didn't like back then - what they didn't like, we don't like now?

Matt Bunk:
It could be and it could be the same things that the court looked at, that this group looked at independently as well. It could be those things, it could be something completely new. In 2006, I believe, there was a push to find out -- there were certain accreditation standards that were in question back in 2006 and the report was sealed. A lot of questions still unanswered regarding that one. Who knows with this new one as well?

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, Andrew Thomas: apparently, the court says, you can conspire to smuggle yourself.

Steve Goldstein:
This comes back to a state law, I remember Johnathan Peyton was one of the authors of the bill, and even he was saying, well, County Attorney Thomas is going a little bit too far in prosecuting it this way. A couple of groups, including Somos America, had said this is a federal issue. So County attorney Thomas, Sherrif Joe Arpaio did not have the right to prosecute people for smuggling themselves. And a District Court judge said, no, County Attorney Thomas can keep on going right ahead and doing that.

Ted Simons:
A little bit of a surprise?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, I think it was a surprise. Certainly not to Thomas and his group, but again, you know, since even the original author of the legislation felt it went too far, I think that surprised people.

Ted Simons:
Let's close it out here with highway speed cameras. Matt, legislation is just burning already to get these things off state roads, I should say. Not necessarily municipalities, but state highways, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
How many of those 550 bills are about highway speed cameras?

Matt Bunk:
Probably several. The one that's gotten the most attention was the one announced yesterday. Three Republican lawmakers had banded together and decided to sponsor this ban. It would ban the use of photo enforcement cameras on state highways. Cities could decide to install them, as Scottsdale had on the 101. They'd still be able to do that. If this bill in the legislature is unsuccessful, the three lawmakers, Sam Crump is leading them, has said, we're going to go for a legislative referendum on this as well. There's two initiatives being circulated right to ban photo enforcement. There's probably three different routes this could get banned from, depending on which one is successful.

Ted Simons:
Is it your impression that people really want -- obviously, there's a vocal component to this debate. But overall, do Arizonans want to get rid of these things?

Matt Bunk:
Representative Crump has been taking a lot of calls. He says overwhelmingly, he's got calls saying that people are concerned that it's made things less safe, or that it's annoyance, or intrusion on privacy. He acknowledged that there are people who say, we like this. It's slowed people on the highways and I don't have to worry about people cruising at 85 miles an hour. There's been some question about whether or not the fewer accidents is really because of the photo enforcement systems, or whether it's other factors. We'll see how the things play out.

Ted Simons:
We're going to wrap it up very quickly with a Cardinal prediction. Steve, Cardinals?

Steve Goldstein:
Cardinals: 27-24, Ted.

Ted Simons:
Over the Eagles?

Steve Goldstein:
Over the Eagles.

Ted Simons:
Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
We'll say Cardinals, in a close game.

Ted Simons:
In a close one?

Matt Bunk:
I say the Eagles are going to win, two touchdowns.

Ted Simons:
All right, there we go! I think the Cardinals are going to win by…eight points.

[laughter]

Ted Simons:
Thanks, guys. Monday, we will talk about the history of inaugurations and the impact the election of Barack Obama has had on minority communities. Plus, find out what business interests would like from the legislature. That's Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday, we talk about the inauguration of Barack Obama. Wednesday, an update on the legislature's activities. Thursday, the new chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission talks about her priorities in making Arizona a leader in renewable energy. Friday, another edition of the journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. Thank you for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. Have a great weekend. And go Cardinals!

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