Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 7, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Special Session Update

  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small talks about a productive first day of the special session that culminated in a bipartisan effort to restore $3.2 billion in funding to K-12 education.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: education,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers from both parties yesterday voted overwhelmingly to restore $3.2 billion in education funding. They also made sure Arizona doesn't lose out on federal stimulus dollars. As David Majure reports this all took place during a special session governor Jan brewer called when she vetoed parts of the legislature's $8.4 billion budget.

Person 1:
Proclamation by the governor of the state of Arizona calling a third special session of the 49th legislators to the state of Arizona.

David Majure:
The special session started with a plea for cooperation from republican and democratic senators.

Jay Tibshraeny:
We don't need to get down the mud on this. We don't need to do name callings. We've been called back here to conduct some business and I hope -- I think the public out there to at least what I've heard in my district, they want that business taken care of and they're not looking for people to point fingers, either side of this equation, to point fingers and blame each other. They want us to come in here and do a job and get it fixed.

Paula Aboud:
We can see what lies ahead of us as a negative or we can look at what we have ahead of us as a positive. We could work together, just think about it. Think about it. What that might look like.

David Majure:
Then something unusual happened. Lawmakers did work together to restore some funding to the $8.4 billion budget that was partially vetoed by the governor.

Richard Stavneak:
Senate bill 1008.

David Majure:
They passed four bills with bipartisan support, restoring $3.2 billion to k-12 education and ensuring Arizona doesn't lose more than $2 billion in federal stimulus money.

Richard Stavneak:
The landscape one called budget veto impact.

David Majure:
However, that does not fix all of the current year budget problems, as pointed out by joint legislative budget committee director Richard Stavneak.

Richard Stavneak:
If everything else remains in place the way it is with the enacted budget and vetoes, the state has a $2.1 billion shortfall in fiscal '10.

Ted Simons:
Here now to give us an update on yesterday's special session is Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small. Jim, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
What the heck happened yesterday? All of a sudden everyone's happy and peppy and bursting with love.

Jim Small:
Yeah, I think what a lot of people were hoping was going to happen three or four months ago, people working together and getting at least some budget bills through the process with very little fuss and really no objection one way or the other, and part of that's because what these bills did wasn't anything necessarily ideological. They were passing an education budget that had been vetoed and they were pass something reforms needed to make sure that we get our stimulus money. You think we have more than a billion dollars of stimulus money on the hook here and we were temporarily not qualified for.

Ted Simons:
Indeed all these billions of dollars in stimulus money, Medicaid money as well, 1.3 in Medicaid matching money. Risky move by the governor vetoing all of k-12 and come back and fix it the way I'd like to see it fixed?

Jim Small:
A special session is a risky move without a deal in place, period. I think people who have been down at the capitol and have seen the way this has worked in the past will tell you the way you do this generally if you want success you meet with people, get a deal done, negotiate all the moving parts settled and you round up your votes then you call a special session and bring lawmakers down for one day. They come in, hear the bills, vote on them, and you're done. You don't really have to worry about having a protracted fight between, you know, between people on one side and people on the other. And so basically what happened is she called them into special sessions, said come in here and fix this. And the republican leadership said ok, we're going to fix it and they turned to the Democrats and said how about you work with us, so that seems to be the way they're going, and they're not talking to the ninth floor right now to governor brewer's office. I know that the president and the speaker met with her last week after she vetoed those bills, but they haven't met with her since and I didn't get any indication that there was any plan to necessarily meet with her in any kind of negotiating fashion anytime soon.

Ted Simons:
So is she using the drill sergeant technique of just get everyone to hate you and they'll bond together by hating you?

Jim Small:
I couldn't tell you if that was an intentional move or not, but certainly the way it's played out, you know, we saw comments over the weekend, fountain hills republican john Cavanaugh, chairman of the house appropriations committee said look, right now we think it would be easy to work with the Democrats than with the governor because we've been working with the governor and it didn't go very well.

Ted Simons:
Yesterday's actions mean bigger deficits though, and those have to be addressed. Does what happened yesterday bode well for any of the governor's ideas specifically that temporary sales tax?

Jim Small:
Well, I think the thing that doesn't bode well for that is the fact that republicans and Democrats have committed to meeting together, and they're going to start tomorrow. They're going to be holding negotiates between republican and Democrat leaders in the house and senate for party talks basically and they're going to get together and try to work out some compromise deal and we've heard it from both sides all year long, neither of those groups likes the governor's sales tax proposal, you know, the republicans obviously opposed it. That was where the big sticking point was last week, but Democrats have also said we're not a big fan of increasing sales tax, it's regressive, hurts low income and middle income families more, and we think that it's more fair to spread that burden out and, you know, to tax property. So if neither of those groups is really pushing for this thing, the governor's priorities really may not be at issue here.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say, it sounds as if, ok, the tax may not be favorable to either side in the legislature, but revenue is going to have to come in one way or the other, especially with what was just done.

Jim Small:
Yeah, without a doubt. And basically what I was told is that there's three main things that these parties want to talk about. They want to talk about cuts, you know, how much cuts, where are you going to put them. Want to talk about revenues because I think everyone is pretty close to acknowledging if they haven't already, that revenues are going to be needed to move forward, either in this year or in future years, and they also want to talk about policy decisions, figure out which policies are really needed as part of the budget and which ones are kind of extraneous things that were just tacked onto the budget because all the other bills were moving so slowly.

Ted Simons:
Was the threat of charter schools getting hit especially hard by the veto of k-12 education? Was that threat helping push maybe the more conservative members of the legislature?

Jim Small:
Well, I think just the idea that there was no education budget at all was really what did it. Some of the line item vetoes governor brewer did, she just took out the reductions, so she said ok, reduction of, you know, $500,000 to this department, we're going to line that out and we're going to move forward. Education she crossed out the entire thing, and most people kind of looked at that and said ok, this seems to be a ploy to get them to come in and do work quickly because there's a school payment that needs to be made, about $300 million on July 15th. So that kind of set the deadline for people. Give folks a week, week and a half to come in and work and get something done, so the entire, you know, really the entire situation I think was what prodded folks to move quickly.

Ted Simons:
What timetable are we looking at now?

Jim Small:
Right now they met yesterday, opened up the special session, and they adjourned for a week. They're not going to come back until Monday. And when they come back Monday I don't think there's going to be a whole lot that happens. My guess is they'll come in, do what they have to do to open the session up then close it back down, probably won't come in for another week after that. And I would think it will be later this month before we see any products of these negotiations between republicans and Democrats.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good, Jim, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jim Small:
Great, thank you.

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