Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 8, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  • Jim Small, from the Arizona Captiol Times, reports on the latest from the state capitol.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Closed-door budget meetings continue this week as Republican lawmakers seek support for a plan to balance the budget. Here with the latest is Jim Small, a reporter for "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons:
What's the latest on the budget?

Jim Small:
Things are still happening but behind closed doors and conversations between leadership and lawmakers and, you know, leadership in the house and senate and I know people from the governor's office have been involved in varying degrees and you have a lot of people still trying to figure out how to solve this budget deficit that for all intents and purposes is in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion. Excuse me. You know, and so you've got a couple of plans been put out by the Republicans and Democrats in the past couple of weeks but neither address that problem. They only handle about $2.5 billion of the deficit and there's still a good 4, 5, $6 million that needs to be handled.

Ted Simons:
We hear about secret talks, are they happening and who is involved?

Jim Small:
I think whenever it comes down to budget time, there's talks held behind closed doors and arms twisting sessions and negotiation sessions and it's not clear what's happening and who is involved and to what degree things are being discussed and how serious things are getting. But we know that they're talking about, you know, everything that they can find to fill this hole in the budget. And, you know, that includes everything from some people are talking about the possible taxes, others are talking about, you know, how can we do this without taxes and can we sell off state property and come up with inventive ways to solve this?

Ted Simons:
You mentioned new and inventive ways. A taskforce has come out with a report that has raised eyebrows. The idea that you could raise taxes now without the two-thirds super-majority as long as it was revenue neutral over the long term?

Jim Small:
There was a constitutional amendment approved by voters that says the legislature cannot raise taxes without a two-thirds approval from each house, from each chamber of the house and senate. Well, that makes it almost impossible to do that, just politically; it's hard to get 40 votes in the house and 20 in the senate, especially on something as derisive as raising taxes. That constitutional provision isn't time specific and theoretically you can say we're going to raise taxes for four years and enact permanent tax cuts in five years, and over time, those things will end up being cumulative not just neutral but an actual tax cut in the long run. Whether it's actually legal is something that will be investigated and debated as we go forward.

Ted Simons:
Other aspects of the taskforce, a modified flat tax, but as far as a simple majority deal, what response are you hearing?

Jim Small:
I think for the most people are glad there are creative ideas coming out and bringing ideas to the table. And you know, when it comes to solving a problem like this, it's going to take a lot of heads and a lot of different ideas to come up with whatever the final solution is. So I think those people that are really engrossed in trying to solve the problem are looking to attract these kinds of ideas and are just glad to have people, you know, thinking outside the box, you know, to use a cliché but that's what they're looking for. Because inside the box is cutting and raising taxes and that doesn't seem it's going to be going anywhere.

Ted Simons:
I know there's a push to get the governor stimulus money regarding unemployment funds. What's the problem here? Something not going fast enough?

Jim Small:
There needs to be a couple of statutory changes to bring the laws into compliance with the federal stimulus package standards. One, you have to extend it; I think its 13 weeks. It needs to be 26 weeks and another section that basically a menu of options, you -- out of five things, you need to choose two different that you need to enact. Arizona has done one. It's going to require likely some legislative action to do this. You know, but the governor's office has said they're going to go ahead and it looks like try to get this unemployment insurance which will help Arizonans and in turn, probably be pumped right back into the economy.

Ted Simons:
I know there was concern in the long-term ramifications of this money. It's fine to get the federal stimulus money and do all of these things for the unemployment benefits but once it's gone, the state is still responsible for keeping it up. Is that still a concern?

Jim Small:
There was a thought for a while, you could pass something now to bring us into compliance and then when the money runs out, repeal the laws. It doesn't look like that's going to be what they can do now. Whatever they pass will be on the books and that's the concern among the Republicans and we've seen Republican governors in other states say I don't want to do this because he doesn’t want the state to be paying the multiple down the road.

Ted Simons:
We're going to have a summit, anything going to come out of that?

Jim Small:
I think that is another -- in what's been a long line of Governor Brewer going around the state and explaining the budget plan. The one she gave to the legislature back on March 4th and gone all around the valley and pitched it to citizens' groups and business groups and try to explain to people what it is we're facing. What problem it is that she's proposing and why that is the way she believes the state should go. And last week, it received an endorsement, from one of the east valley business groups and I think that's really the idea here, to try to get a lot of groups on board and get public support for the plan.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Jim, as always, thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thank you.

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