Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 18, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update


  • Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times reports on the latest from the State Capitol.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Reporter, Arizona Captiol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
As state lawmakers look for ways to close a $3 billion budget gap, a temporary tax increase is one idea that's been getting some attention. Earlier I spoke with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small about that and other legislative news. Jim Small, thanks so much for joining us on "Horizon."

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons:
Reaction to the President's speech today: what did you see, what did you hear?

Jim Small:
The reaction was really mixed. In a lot of respects it broke down party lines. Democrats I spoke with were thrilled, frankly, with the message they heard. I heard the words "awesome" -- just well received. The crowd obviously really enjoyed what they heard. Some people saw the reaction from the crowd really as an indicator that people are waiting for some kind of help for homeowners. They've seen help to Wall Street, to different banks, helps to the auto -- help provided to the auto industry. And now it's finally coming back to the homeowners, which is where a lot of the problem in the economy started.

Ted Simons:
As far as lawmakers are concerned, what kind of response did you get from them? We talk about state lawmakers and some of our congressional delegation.

Jim Small:
You know, again, this is another thing where party affiliation seems to determine where people are falling on this. And their political philosophy. Republicans are wary at best about what the President proposed today. And I think that the real big concern is that this money is going to be used to bail out people and to help people who maybe knowingly gamed the system, or who refinanced their house, went out and paid for luxury items that maybe they didn't need, couldn't afford, and now the taxpayers are going to help these people subsidize the irresponsibility. I think that was one of the phrases I heard a number of times today. Democrats say, this is exactly what we need, this is going to help us pull out of this recession quicker, help stave off a number of foreclosures in the valley, thousands of them, possibly, and it's going to be beneficial to Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Let’s move to the federal stimulus package. We're still trying to figure out details, but it's sounds like we have committee meetings starting tomorrow?

Jim Small:
There's going to be a committee meeting tomorrow, the house and senate budget committees are going to get a hopefully detailed line by line breakdown of what's in the package for Arizona, what it takes for the state to qualify to receive this money, and really how much we're looking at for this fiscal year and the upcoming fiscal year.

Ted Simons:
Is there still some talk, I think I’m hearing a little bit of it, saying if there are strings and the strings are strong enough, attached to this bill, and this money, we don't want the money.

Jim Small:
There definitely is some talk within the Republican side of the aisle about exactly that, and it may not necessarily be an all or nothing. It may be limited to certain components, whether it's health care or education or some of the different social programs that are designed to help some of the poorer and the more middle class people in the state.

Ted Simons:
The concept of a temporary tax increase, I know it's kind of floating out there. Is it floating above water or is it starting to sink?

Jim Small:
Senator Pamela Gorman yesterday in caucus called it more of a lead balloon than a trial balloon. And I think that's generally been the reception among Republican lawmakers, and it will take Republican support to get this thing through if it's to move forward. There's concerns about what actually would happen if you increased taxes in bad economic times. There is another factor that you have most Republicans down there have signed a pledge to not raise taxes. And a lot of people will use that to say, not only can I not raise taxes, but I’m not going to support something that would possibly raise taxes, voters have to approve it. You're really in between a rock and a hard place. I don't think that there's much chance of this moving forward.

Ted Simons:
And even Democrats are saying, we don't think this kind of tax is going to work well in this kind of economy.

Jim Small:
Yeah. They're more staying away from the issue of whether they think a tax increase is needed or not. And instead they're pointing to comprehensive structural tax reform. Saying, look, there's a lot of inequities in our tax system, we need to sit down and work it out. They're planning on releasing a plan here soon, detailing exactly what it is we need to do. Republicans are working on a plan of their own, and the Democrats and Republican leadership are both saying, when everyone has their ducks in a row and they release their plans, we need to sit down and work this out and see if we can't take advantage of the bad economic times right now.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, a special election, it is likely? Are you hearing it's possible? A, is it possible, and b, would it just be on removing voter protection act or could that sales tax be included?

Jim Small:
Certainly the sales tax could be included. I don't think that idea has been stamped out completely. But it -- the main focus amongst most Republicans at the capitol is to take some of the handcuffs off lawmakers and let them have access to some of the voter protected funding. There's a chance that they could hold an election really the idea was either May or June. It's almost impossible to get an election done by May, to set up a special election by May. So you're looking at June, and they probably need to act within the next month, maybe month and a half really to get that in order, so they can get ballots printed and get all of the technical aspects out of the way.

Ted Simons:
Last question, real quickly. Input by the governor down there. Are you hearing there's a lot of communication going on, not enough communication? What are you hearing?

Jim Small:
There seems to be a lot of frustration that there's not a lot of information coming out of the ninth floor, the governor's tower. Yesterday in the senate Republican caucus the frustrations came out and a number of members said they're not happy, the governor's office isn't moving very quickly, we don't know what's going on up there. And I think if that doesn't change, I think it's going to be an interesting next couple months for the legislative session.

Ted Simons:
All right. Jim, thank you so much for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me, Ted.

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