Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 12, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters discuss the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary K. Reinhart - The Arizona Guardian
  • Mike Sunnucks - The Business Journal
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services


View Transcript
Ted Simons: Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me are Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Guardian." Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal," and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Talk about budget deals between the governor and lawmakers, Mary Kay. Talk, was it just talk?

Mary K. Reinhart: Deal or no deal, right?

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Mary K. Reinhart: No deal, I guess is the short answer. And I think if you talk about -- we talked about this earlier in the week, we would have been a lot less optimistic, but especially today, we saw what appeared to be a little bit of icebreaking. The governor was meeting with Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams and was a different governor than we saw earlier in the week. And came out of the senate floor and sort of breezed in, and was really a sort of different governor than we saw in the week. A lot more hopeful and optimistic. They're going to be working through the weekend which is a good sign. We'll see if they can get something done.

Howard Fischer: When we talked about Burns earlier in the week, he said, and conceded basically that the only way they're going to resolve this is to give the governor a vote on her tax hike. The timing is still to be worked out. He said, we're not going to get out of here without that. She's promised to hold fast and that gets into the question, what does she do? Hold her breath until she turns blue? She keeps saying I have a five-point plan-one of those is a tax hike.

Mike Sunnucks: In the fall, there's a lot of Republicans who want to put it off until next year. You're seeing the advocacy groups, the business groups getting behind what the governor is saying and want to have it this year. We'll see how hardball she plays on that. Because I think she’s kind of won on the fact we’re gonna have a sales tax vote. It just depends on how hard she's going to push for a win.

Ted Simons: I'm curious about Burns coming out and saying -- why did he say this, do you think?

Mary K. Reinhart: We were teasing we think he has an European vacation planned in July. Wanting to get out the door. Maybe he talked out of school, it's unclear -- he qualified it quite a bit. Tentative, tentative. But when we went to the speaker, he said there's no deal, tentative or otherwise. Those were his words. So, perhaps it was President Burns' way of moving things along.

Howard Fischer: The difference between Bob Burns and Kirk Adams, Burns has done this a long time. In the house, as appropriations chairman. He knows what it takes to close a deal. Kirk is second-term lawmaker who happens to find himself a speaker. He says I'm coequal with the governor. Well, I’ll tell you it doesn't work that way.

Mike Sunnucks: To get the sales tax vote on the ballot, is she going to get enough Republicans, moderates or Democrats? That's undecided.

Howard Fischer: That's an interesting thing. The Democrats hate sales tax because they say it puts the burden on lower and middle class people. They say we're going to lower the rate and spread the burden. They want to shift $700 million of the school burden back to local taxpayers, which is largely on businesses, of course, so everyone’s got a different plan. I asked David Lujan if the only tax on the table is sales tax, what can we take, and he said, we can work something out.

Mike Sunnucks: From the P.R. perspective, I think the governor is winning on this. If you look out there, the alternative plan, the Republican legislative budget is seen as gutting, draconian cuts to schools and healthcare and where the governor's plan is it's temporary and allow us not to have to cut all of these services. From a P.R. standpoint, outside the capitol, she's winning right now.

Ted Simons: How about the idea of holding the budget -- is this helping goose talks? Is it something that's slowing the operation? Why were legislative leaders so quick to pass the budget and then sit on it?

Mary K Reinhart: Because they were afraid the governor was going to veto it. I think Mike's right. She can look strong and very much in command and a message that she's saying I'm not going to decimate public education and healthcare and social welfare. They put themselves into a box. They also want to demonstrate: hey look at us we’ve got the votes. Well, they barely have the votes and you barely have them in some cases because you promised some lawmakers you would hold on to the budget bills. You promised them you wouldn’t send them.

Ted Simons: What about rank and file? We work hard to pass and bundle and now we're sitting on it.

Howard Fischer: The Ron Goulds and Jack Harpers of the world, we're going to send it and let her veto it and it will be over her cold dead body, that sort of thing. The moderate, in Republican legislative may be an oxymoron, but a lot of them feel we've proven our point. We can get 31 Republican votes in the house, we can get 16 votes in the senate, and now we've got a deal and the reality it's three coequal branches of government and the governor is coequal in terms of executive and legislative and they have to deal with her.

Mike Sunnucks: One thing you’re also seeing from the democrats is they’re starting to hit the governor on these tax provisions. If she wants to keep the equalization rate in there, it's in there right now. And she talked about cutting corporate taxes and doing other tax cuts down the road. The solar tax break bill is moving forward and they're going to point out you're raising sales tax on consumers, on middle class families while you’re still doing the corporate tax breaks, you’re not getting rid of any of the corporate tax breaks we passed when Napolitano was governor.

Ted Simons: Is there a bit of a lost opportunity for Democrats? It seems as though they're coming out hard against the governor's budget and they’re just not factors as far as the Republican budget is concerned--

Howard Fischer: I don't think they have anything to lose. Let's take worst case scenario. The governor digs in her heels and Burns and Adams dig in their heels, the place somehow comes to a screeching halt on June 30th, and they can say we had a plan, blame the Republicans! It's their fault.

Mike Sunnucks: I think everybody gets blamed if the government gets shut down and we end up with a really bad budget that the people don’t like because it kills schools and universities. The Democrats could do that, politically, they could also just step in there and be the stopgap and forge a decent budget with the governor that the people out there in the hinterlands like.

Howard Fischer: But what do they want? And that’s what we were trying to figure out earlier. What's the price of democratic votes? Is it eventually we broaden the sales tax base? As the governor wants, or at least partially bring back the business property tax. What's important to them? What do they want? There's a price for all votes. We've seen that.

Mary K Reinhart: It's an interesting conversation I had with a republican member of the senate in a separate conversation with a democrat. The Republican was saying something I hadn't heard yet. 6/10 of a sales tax on the ballot with most of it dedicated toward education. There's some wiggle room. It's not hard and fast, one cent, three year, this is my way or the highway. And that would go along with a handful of Republican senators teaming up with Democrats.

Howard Fischer: The idea is important because they're talking dedicated. If you ask people do you want to give the government another billion to play with, it goes down. If you say we're going to use $400 million to restore cuts to public schools and $300 million for the universities and another $300 million for AHCCCS, people are more willing to buy it if they know what it’s going for.

Mary K Reinhart: Imagine it on the ballot where a yes vote has the effect of doing all of this wonderful stuff and a no vote, crashing and burning.

Ted Simons: Was the governor serious when she told the house minority leader she would be prepared to shut down government? Was she serious about this?

Mary K Reinhart: She said she didn't quite say it this way. She said it was -- would be a shame if we had to shut been state government. David Lujan said she told me she would shut down government. And the same conversation with the house minority leader, she was looking for Democrats for votes but wasn't ready to negotiate with them. So it may be a semantic argument.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's something that she should play. It's an argument that governors play in other states. In California and New Jersey in recent years and if the government gets shut down, who gets blamed? If you look back to the federal side it’s congress-- usually the legislative side that gets blamed. Because they've been sitting there not getting anything done and she comes across as reasonable.

Ted Simons: And Howie they’re banking on being able to say at the time we gave you a balanced budget at the time and you didn't like it. Are we looking at a game of chicken here?

Howard Fischer: Some of it is. But the governor has immunized herself against that. She's already said it's not balanced. First of all, there's $200 million that's a cash carry forward. A cash deficit carry forward that isn't there. She talks about the fact that it doesn't account for the AHCCCS growth which is legally mandated and beyond that, she said there's things that will lose federal stimulus dollars. So she's kind of built up an immunization, yes, I was late because I wasn't governor when the session started, but she can say I have a plan. There's nothing wrong with it.

Ted Simons: She also said the lawmakers didn't look at one, two, three, four, or point five of her plan. She came out with some strong language this week.

Mary K Reinhart: That was the same day, she did a good job of immunizing herself. She spent four or five hours presiding over a bashing of the legislative budget, from fans of her own budget, that pointed all of its problems, different lawsuits that it would invite, federal stimulus money that would be lost and $50 million in AHCCCS fraud money that won’t be there at the end of the year.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's ironic that her arguments probably wouldn't be that much different if Napolitano was governor. We would probably have the same argument from Janet right now. The big difference Janet had the votes she could cobble together. Jan has the challenge of where she's going to get her votes.

Ted Simons: Did the public forum raise any eyebrows or anything at all?

Howard Fischer: If you take everyone who says --

Ted Simons: Answer the question.

Howard Fischer: Everyone who loved Jan, everyone who pretty much loves the tax hike was called to testify. Terry Goddard showed up sort of uninvited. They insisted his invitation was lost in the mail. But this was a love fest. They didn't convince anyone.

Ted Simons: Answer the question. Anyone in the legislature pay any attention to it, listen closely and possibly reconsider?

Howard Fischer: No. No.

Mary K Reinhart: If they did, they didn't say so. Certainly the leadership wasn't impressed. Maybe the rank and file. Maybe the members learned some things they didn't know about before.

Ted Simons: Failed effort by the governor?

Mary K Reinhart: No, it was a publicity -- she got a lot of publicity. That was the idea.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the campaign. Three weeks of robocalls and radio calls. That's dropped. Why?

Howard Fischer: The cost and a quarter million dollars even for A.P.S. is real money. Number two, once it leaked, once it became obvious what the plan was, once you lose that element of surprise, why bother? It disappeared. Didn't have any effect anymore.

Mary K Reinhart: And once it leaked it was targeting individual legislators and districts going around and straight to voters and around the lawmakers, I think people ran away from it as quickly as they could.

Mike Sunnucks: They’re going to be a lot more subtle. You're starting to see the business groups that tend to back investment and spending get behind the governor's plan more publicly now. You'll see these guys do their thing with the lobbyists and the CEOs will talk to some lawmakers, and I think you'll see the moderate mainstream business community come out and get behind it more aggressively.

Ted Simons: Senate moratorium on bills now, how many bills cleared now for floor action? Hundreds upon hundreds?

Howard Fischer: There are several hundred that were read across the desk ready for committee action. A lot of bills won't get heard. The democratic bills, they're dead. There were some other things they know they're going to get from the house. We went through perhaps 40 of them today on the floor. May be another 40 on Monday going to the floor. Generally speaking, in a typical year, perhaps 350 bills become law. This year, I think we'll be short because we're down to the proverbial three-week session.

Mike Sunnucks: You've got a lot of social conservative bills in there -- abortion, immigration and guns -- and the governor agrees with the conservatives where she disagrees on the budget. It will be interesting to see the horsetrading. Maybe you'll vote with me on the budget, do your constituents, who are conservative Republicans care about abortion and guns --

Howard Fischer: Come on, Mike! She's not going to veto --

Mike Sunnucks: When Janet was governor, there were democratic bills that didn't make it through and ones that did. They hold a few cards and could get them through.

Mary K Reinhart I think getting them through might be a challenge because of the time limit. I think 18 days until the end of the fiscal year. You got bills like abortion is one that could be cleanly sent out to the governor. It's passed the house. The -- it's an omnibus kind of abortion bill. Clearly, without amendments so they can ship that out. There's going to be a lot of bills, that if there are amendments, if there are different versions in the house and senate, when you do conference committees. They may get lost.

Ted Simons: Explain what strikers are and how much a factor they might be.

Mary K Reinhart: It's taking a vehicle bill and replacing it with completely different language, to revive a bill that maybe died earlier in the session and didn't get introduced in time for it to be heard. Strikers are always a huge element in any session. I think in this one, I don't know if it's going to be more -- I think the bigger thing really is going to be the conference committees. Those have to come through cleanly without amendments from both sides to get to the governor.

Ted Simons: Is there concern that lawmakers don't have enough time to look at the mass of legislation coming across their desks?

Howard Fischer: You're assuming even in the best times they know what they're approving. Today, a lot of people saying, oh, I didn't have time to read the bill, but it sounds good. This obviously becomes a rush. I'm always afraid when you put things through quickly, if you've got 30 bills in committee and from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30, that's not vetting them the way they should be vetted.

Mike Sunnucks: That’s the way they’ve done the budget in the past and, they won't see everything in there and we've had budgets with -- people don't know what they're voting on.

Howard Fischer: Mary Kay and I saw one today where there's a bill with the issue of guns and restaurants where there was an amendment that does the reverse of what it was designed to do. Because somebody wasn't thinking. They're going to have to fix it.

Ted Simons: All right. As far as some of these bills, what did we have today? Trespassing, making it a state crime --

Howard Fischer: This bill has two provisions. Number one, making the crime of being in the country illegally, a federal crime, the state crime of trespass. Even if you're on private property. To make this clear that local police can enforce this law. What it also does is designs to kill "sanctuary city" policy. Some have policies in the past that say don't ask, don't tell in terms of illegal immigration. You don't ask crime victims if they're here illegally because you want them to cooperate. This basically says, you have to cooperate with police.

Mike Sunnucks: It will be interesting if police departments actually take this to heart. How many racial profiling suits would it spur. I would think it would maybe be 100%.

Mary K Reinhart: Police agencies have testified for the bill saying it’s a tool to enable them to work together with the federal agency, I.C.E., the way they work with other federal agencies, postal service and so on.

Mike Sunnucks: They've got to be so careful. If they're only asking with brown skin, are you here illegally -- and not asking Howie or Canadians whether they're here illegally. And that’s just going to spark all the things that Sheriff Joe’s gotten into.

Howard Fischer: I encourage them to ask --

[inaudible]

Ted Simons: The mood at the legislature. Now that the floodgates are open, is it like we've got something to do? What's it like down there?

Mary K Reinhart: You know, we were saying it's sort of like January in June because of the pace of things. But I don't know. People seemed a little cranky early in the week but now I think it feels good, at least on the senate side, to be churning through this stuff, whether it’s good policy or not, to move quickly. I think, certainly Barbara Leff Got her bill heard on the floor and tax incentives for alternate energy and things they've been working on and wanting to get heard and discussed and debated for six months are now getting through and I think that's lightening the mood a little bit.

Mike Sunnucks: Doesn’t that go back to the “do no harm” thing. When they were doing the budget, they were only harming the budget, but now they're harming everything.

Ted Simons: Briefly,Howie, two abortion bills making their way through. These are the same things now that they’ve tried for years and years to get through.

Howard Fischer: They have gone through, and they've been vetoed by Janet Napolitano. She went off to fame and glory and now we have Jan Brewer. Changing the parental consent law and right to conscience. Pharmacists don't have to dispense the morning-after pill. But the real key on that is the 24-hour waiting period, and the list of things women have to be told. And the other is late-term partial-term abortions and making them illegal. This would allow state prosecutors to prosecute.

Mike Sunnucks: Janet vetoed that a couple times, various versions of it and she kept vetoing it. Brewer will sign these in a second. Whether she tries to use them as part of the budget is undecided. But she'll sign them.

Ted Simons: Mayor Phil Gordon and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are once again doing they’re thing. Talk to us about this, the mayor’s timing and what he said, what exactly he did say, and Arpaio’s response.

Mike Sunnucks: We had this shooting by this white supremist, older fellow, at the holocaust museum and Gordon used this to bring up -- it was basically a Phoenix News Times story accusing Sherrif Joe of having ties to the neo-Nazis and Arpaio shows up at these anti-illegal immigration rallies and there’s folks there who are kind of on the far right and he’s shown talking to these guys and the guys are shown doing Nazi salute and having far right Nazi rhetoric. And so Gordon on the eve of this shooting comes out and says Sheriff Joe needs to denounce these folks and apologize and distance himself from these folks and Arpaio dismisses it, says I'm not associated with these folks. The thing about this, these rallies is that there’s anti-immigration folks, the minutemen, they're legitimately concerned about the border and then there's folks that are hateful and way on the right. There's a lot of elements in there that are extreme that show up at these things. Whether you can tag that to Joe, you know, remains to be seen.

Howard Sunnucks: It works the other way around. If you look at some of the pro-immigrant rallies I think you might find members of the communist party there. What does it mean? Look, Joe is the kind of person who if somebody says can I have my picture taken with you, yeah. He can smell a camera at 20 yards. You can find pictures of Joe with people who turn out to be white supremists, you bet. I’m sorry I don’t believe as Phil Gordon does that somehow there’s a link. Should Joe do more to distance himself, that's a closer call.

Mike Sunnucks: Joe's been around a long time and they've only got this one rally where they can link to that. He could do more to distance himself just like anyone who is going to be at a rally where folks are extreme. But it’s a little bit of a jump.

Howard Fischer: Pierce got in trouble also, for forwarding mail. He's got a picture of himself with a guy who is known as a white supremacist and said, can you take my picture? Fine.

Mary K Reinhart: Isn’t that kind of distancing himself? Didn’t Sheriff Joe kind of distance himself in his remarks.

Mike Sunnucks: Joe was his stubborn self and dismissed the mayor, you can make these arguments because there's folks in the anti-immigration camp on the extreme and they are hate groups and they are there. But it looks like maybe Phil had not the best timing on this.

Ted Simons: Last question, quickly. Plus or minus, Phil Gordon’s political aspirations?

Howard Fischer: I think he may look at the polls and say Phil Gordon here and Joe Arpaio here.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it helps him from Democrats who he struggled with.

Ted Simons: Thanks, guys. We appreciate it.

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