Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 16, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Budget Crisis


  • State lawmakers and the governor disagree on how to solve next year's budget and time is running out. Governor Jan Brewer is even talking about getting the Arizona Supreme Court to force lawmakers to give her a budget she plans to veto. Mary K. Reinhart of the Arizona Guardian will give us an update.
Guests:
  • Mary K. Reinhart - Arizona Guardian


View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. 14 days and counting, that's how much time is left for the state to come up with next year's budget. Today governor Jan brewer asked the state Supreme Court to get involved. The governor filed a special action asking the court to force the legislature to send her the 10 budget bills lawmakers passed back on June 4th. Here's what the governor had to say about her request today followed by comments from Senate president bob Burns on a recent edition of "Horizon."

Gov. Jan Brewer: I have just come out of the Supreme Court filing for a petition for special action to ask the Supreme Court to allow me or allow the legislature or tell the legislature to do their job, to send meet bills as provided in the constitution. Basically, I believe strongly that the legislature has usurped the power of the governor's office. I believe the people expect the leaders to get on with the business at hand. As we near the end of the fiscal year, I think the people of Arizona expect government to work through the process as designed by the constitution. The people will have little patience for the legislature's misguided ploy to pass legislation, yet refuse to transmit the bill to their governor which likely to lead to a government shut down. The legislature's decision to hold these completed budget bills violates the principles of open and accountable government by depriving the executive branch and the general public of a transparent process.

Sen. Bob Burns: I did not transmit because the message that I got was there was going to be a veto of the bill. So why transmit if we are going to get an automatic veto? That I think would have been counterproductive. And so the point was, let's talk. Let's do some negotiating with the executive, with the governor, and see if we can come to an agreement so that we can get a budget that gets signed.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the escalating mess at state capitol is Mary K. Reinhart of the Arizona Guardian. Thanks for joining us.

Mary K. Reinhart: Sure you bet.

Ted Simons: All right. How much of a surprise was it that the governor decided to go to the state Supreme Court on this?


Mary K. Reinhart: It was surprise to me. It wasn't something she had to do. They were negotiating. Have been since really before the House and Senate approved their version of the 2010 budget on June 4th. There were sort of peaks and valleys, but as of Friday, it seemed like things were clicking along kind of pretty well, and, in fact, they had weekend budget negotiations, which is always a pretty good sign. Then, you know, Monday morning we all kind of get this press release. It was certainly a surprise to the Senate President Bob Burns and House speaker. They had no idea it was coming and seemed genuinely stunned on Monday.

Ted Simons: She's basically saying to the court, force them to give meet budget they passed. Correct?

Mary K. Reinhart: She's saying for them to pass the budget and hang on to it is in violation of the state constitution.

Ted Simons: For people you've talked to, from what you have researched, a general conversation, can they hold on to this? And how long can they hold on to this?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's their belief they can hold on to it until the beginning of, the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, that the state constitution says that the legislature shall pass a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year. It doesn't say anything about when they need to transmit it. It says they shall transmit it to the governor. It doesn't say when. So the question sort of becomes, well, when is -- is it immediately? The governor's office clearly thinks there's a time limit there and that the legislature is essentially usurping her executive authority by hanging on to the budget bills and their fear is they will hang on to them until the last minute and force her handled, force her to either veto the bills which she has indicated she will do or shut down the state government.

Ted Simons: Isn't that what Bob Burns says here on "Horizon" as well that this was leverage? That holding on to these bills, this was leverage to use in negotiations with the governor? Does that mean we can hold on to these things until the last hurrah?


Mary K. Reinhart: I guess that's for the court to decide or not to decide. The court, the Supreme Court today did agree to hear oral arguments at 10:00 on Tuesday on both the jurisdiction, whether or not to take the case at all, and the merits of the case. And so, you know, you can talk to 100 lawyers and get 100 different opinions but I think the prevailing opinion at least this afternoon was, that they probably, you know, don't want to get involved in this political mess. And what is clearly a political dispute between the executive and the legislative branch.

Ted Simons: Speaker Adams, again on "Horizon," had mentioned in passing almost a transmission of bills had been delayed before. There is precedent for what they are doing. This is a little different, though. Correct?


Mary K. Reinhart: Yes. As far as I know there's no deadline on any other bill. There's no other requirement to pass any bill. The only requirement is to pass a budget and the only deadline on any bill is that budget bill by June 30th, the end of the fiscal year. So in talking to constitutional experts today their view, at least one fellow I talked to, his view is that the constitution, the framers of the constitution did not intend for the governor to get the budget at the 11th hour and not have an opportunity to review it, decide whether or not to sign it and, in fact, if she vetoes it give the legislature then an opportunity to override that veto. So there is a built-in understanding at least among some people that the people who wrote the constitution did intend for that budget to be sent to the governor with enough time for her consideration to sign, veto, and time for the legislature to decide what to do next.

Ted Simons: Interesting. The weekend meeting that seemed to set all of this off apparently Senator Burns walked away either because he wanted to go home and there was nothing to do or he walked away in some sense of anger. And speaker Adams stayed. What's the sense of this? Is this a good cop-bad cop kind of a thing? Why would one of the leaders stay and the other just say, I'm out of here?

Mary K. Reinhart: They both appeared together at a news conference shortly after the governor yesterday announced this special action and the Supreme Court and they seemed completely on the same page. President Burns and Speaker Adams. I don't know, you know, the way President Burns described it, you know, he just decided there wasn't, they weren't getting anything done. I think he said the negotiations, the talks had bogged down and he was done for the night. He had never intended for it to be an end to all negotiations. Speaker Adams didn't explain why or why he didn't leave with the president. But certainly on Monday they presented a very united front.

Ted Simons: As far as a compromise now it does seem like the governor's office is saying, OK, the one cent sales tax not necessarily the way I originally presented it. Correct?

Mary K. Reinhart: Yeah. I think that was a surprise to most of us on Monday morning when she had her news conference is that in talking with the legislative leaders and the governor about, so where are you in these negotiations ? they all said there are many areas of agreement. And the governor said Monday morning that she had agreed to not use revenue from a tax increase that may not get referred to the voters and may or may not pass for 2010 budget. She wants that fall special election, this fall, on a one cent sales tax increase, temporary, but she's agreed not to necessarily use that revenue if it comes in to balance the 2010 budget. Which is a concession on her part.

Ted Simons: Again, I know you mentioned this, but how do you then say, we need the sales tax to balance the '10 budget but I will go ahead and forego the sales tax for a year? What, readjusting figures? How do you do this?


Mary K. Reinhart: We asked her that. Now you have a $1 billion hole. What will you going to do? And she said they have readjusted their figures and as we pressed during the day she didn't answer. They are not saying other than maybe some more bonding, maybe some accounting gimmicks. It's all tied up in these negotiations. I think we just don't know how it's going to fall out and eventually it's going to have to. We have to have a budget. There is no question.

Ted Simons: If we don't government looks at shutting down. How serious is the possibility of a government shut down?


Mary K. Reinhart: I think as every day passes and things gets more complex and dicey as they did yesterday and talk the talks becomes certainly more serious. Within the individual state agencies of government they have all been directed by Bill Bell, the director of the Department of Administration, to plan for the eventuality of a partial government shut down which means what are essential services, what are your essential contract, what do you absolutely have to do to continue the basics of state government? And that varies by department. But it's things like keeping the prisons open, we have got to run the state mental hospital. There's health and safety issues, there's got to be a skeleton crew on if there was a sign of immediate jeopardy at a nursing home. There's a variety of different public safety issues that all the agencies have been preparing and are preparing for.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Last question here. With all this going on and all the acrimony and all this business, yelling and screaming, whatever, they did meet again today, didn't they?


Mary K. Reinhart: Briefly. They met at 3:00. My understanding is that part of that meeting was a conference call with the Supreme Court Justice Ryan to work out the logistics of this case now with filings due by today, other briefs due by Monday and then the oral argument set for Tuesday. I'm not sure how much budget talking was done among Brewer, Burns and Adams. But they did meet. They were in the same room together so that's a good thing.

Ted Simons: I lied. This is the last question. Rank and file Republicans and Democrats in general, the mood down there, what are you hearing?


Mary K. Reinhart: The Democrats are sort of buying popcorn and sitting back. To some extent. And they are also seeing, gee, remember us. We are here. We are willing to talk to you. We want to sit at the negotiating table. Rank and file Republicans for the most part are very supportive of their president and speaker. They, you know, see Legislative Branch as having its authority to do what it wants to do with these budget bills. And they, you know, kind of agree with the tactic of Burns and Adams are taking which at this point is, you know, we will see you in court.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.


Mary K. Reinhart: Thanks.

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