Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 14, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - The Arizona Republic
  • Paul Giblin - The Arizona Guardian
  • Mike Sunnucks - Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: journalists roundtable,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," Governor Brewer still wants lawmakers to send a temporary sales tax increase to voters. Next week the state Senate will reconsider a bill to do just that. Arizona Supreme Court tells lawmakers when they must send bills to the Governor. And the latest on the fight between Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County supervisors. Next on "Horizon." Hello, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight, Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Paul Giblin of the "The Arizona Guardian," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal." Here we go, as far as the state budget is concerned, and I guess the first question, Mary Jo, are we any closer to 16 votes than we were fill-in-the-blank ago?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No. There don't seem to be indications that there's a 16th vote, especially in the state Senate. They have 30 members; they need 16 to make something pass. Especially when the emphasis has been to get the votes Republican. They just can't find the votes.

Paul Giblin:
They are looking for a 15th and 16th vote, looking for two votes, so it's twice as hard as getting one vote and they are not close to it. What happened this week is Jim Warring, who voted against the referral for the tax increase asked for a recount that is we're telling it like it is about what happened Monday. He said he will vote against it again.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I believe Senator Waring would be okay with it as far being a part of the tax cut. They couldn't pass that bill last week.

Mike Sunnucks:
The Governor has this quandary, if she heads too much to one side; she loses people on the left. If there are not as many spending cuts or tax cuts, she loses people on the right. She can't make the numbers work.

Paul Giblin:
The way to get around that was to split apart the tax increase from the sales tax. They split the two separate measures, thinking they would get people on the right to vote for one, people on the left to vote for the other, and that didn't happen, either.

Mike Sunnucks:
When it first came out it looked like it had some legs. You put the income tax cuts in there, we can go with that. It looked like it had enough conservative legs to pass. As usual, when push comes to shove, the votes around there.

Ted Simons:
The crux of the matter is still split in two, with one angling, trying to get Gorman, the other angling to get Allen? Is that still in play?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think that's dead for right now. The tax cuts are dead. Steve Pierce, the newly elected whip in the Senate for the majority said tax cuts are dead, at least for now. They will be trying to bring those back.

Mike Sunnucks:
If they don't have the tax cuts in there, they will lose more conservatives. You dangle this, oh, we can go for this, this is kind of a win-win. Take it off the table; I can see them losing a lot more conservative votes if they do that.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The consideration of whether to refer the sales tax, because that's going take some work, there will be a big scramble to repeal the sales tax. They had the votes to repeal it, and did repeal it in the budget. It went down when the Governor vetoed everything. The tax rate has to be set on Monday by county boards of supervisors all across the state on Monday. The law says they have to sell them that rate.

Ted Simons:
It's set on Monday. Do they have until Monday or is it basically the ball game right now?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
County officials say it's a one-day turn-around. They could get an adjustment. Late today President Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams said, look, we know you have to do this, but please get rid of this tax and we can adjust it. In the past there have been adjustments made before they are due on October 1.

Mike Sunnucks:
This is something with business and real estate groups who have a lot of power down there in Republican circles. They are trying to use it as a carrot to get other stuff in this deal, their number one priority; it's a big deal for them.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They have the votes, unquestionably, plenty of Republican votes for that. Is the governor going to sign that? She has said over and over, I need that tax referral first. That's got to lead the parade of bills up to her office.

Paul Giblin:
Looks like they will try and give her parts of it. She had that curiously worded letter, I think yesterday, she didn't say specifically she would veto it but kind of led people to think that.

Mike Sunnucks:
That would be a tough veto for her to do. That's kind of a pet project of the business lines, kind of the tax hawk Republicans. If she vetoes that on its own, that's a lot of ammunition for somebody in a primary.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It'll be in a bill with a lot of other general revenue. Here's the thing, this stems from the famous lawsuit Brewer versus Burns, the ruling came out, where they said, no, really, once bills are passed in the legislature, they have to go to the governor. And speaker Adams, who is going to have to put the stamp on the bills and send them to the governor's office, he says as soon as they get to my desk, I have to send them up. He says he doesn't look good in an orange jumpsuit. He doesn't want to go to jail for this. If they pass the repeal next week and they feel compelled by the court, they are forcing the governor's hand.

Paul Giblin:
The other curious thing this week, while Speaker Adams says he'll move the bills as soon as he gets them, he hasn't gotten them. They are held up in the Senate. Until he gets them, he doesn't have to turn them in to the governor.

Ted Simons:
He's basically saying I just won't send them over to the house.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No, no, no, I don't know if that's the case. Senator Pierce told me yesterday that the governor asked them to sit on the bill. The governor's office says, no, we didn't, so who knows? If you believe the senator, we had a scenario where the governor was saying, send me the bills, and now she's saying, hang on to them, guys.

Paul Giblin:
It's an interesting dynamic. The court says that they have to immediately send the bills to the governor. If they have a court case for every step going down to a new drafted bill.

Ted Simons:
Back to the sales tax hike. If there is a vote, is December 8th still the earliest opportunity? November 3rd is long gone. Is December 8th still a possibility?

Paul Giblin:
Yes. According to the secretary of state's office, that is the day for the election. They can't go before that, they have to impound the machines until the votes are officially tallied. They can't get them out to use them until December 8th. That would be the first date.

Ted Simons:
Which is not necessarily good for any kind of sales tax increase? You're talking Christmas shopping season folks with a lot of things on their minds as far as even getting to the polls.

Mike Sunnucks:
Even if it gets on the ballot, we're not sure it's going to pass. We're a pretty anti-tax state. Consumers are strained. Nobody knows when to start to campaign, so you know how the anti-tax groups are going to come down on this, the teachers unions and the business groups that support this thing, how much they will put into it. A lot of these ballot measures depend on how much advertising and outreach there is.

Paul Giblin:
Because it is a weird date, not a date for an election for City Council, for instance. You're only getting people motivated to show up at the polls. Who is motivating whom to get to the polls? Whoever wins that battle will get their people to the polls and they will vote one way or the other.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think we're way ahead of ourselves thinking about December. I don't see anything that indicates they can do that. They ran into a procedural snafu this past week, they were pushing and pushing and got themselves into a situation where they were going hold -- theoretically they would hold the election before the law that authorizes it takes effect. If that's not upside down. If you had any city, county or state that tried to pull that one, where do you think the outcry would come from?

Mike Sunnucks:
It takes the wind out of people's sails as you get people to go out on a slate within their party to vote for something, and it doesn't pass. Why are they going to keep voting for a tax referral when it's not even going to pass? The ability to get people to take a step of courage goes back to zero and you have to start over sometimes.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of going out on a slate, there was talk that individual Democrats were targeted. Miranda's name came up more than once. What's that all about?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Senator Miranda from Phoenix says he wasn't asking for anything. Rumors abounded around the capitol about what he wanted to extract in exchange for his vote. When push came to shove, he was nowhere to be found. He didn't vote for the referral or against it, he just wasn't there and we couldn't locate him. I found him today at the Capitol and he says he didn't ask for anything and didn't comment on what the governor was offering in exchange for his support. His leader, Senator Garcia, more generally, Democrats are saying you need to sit down and talk with our caucus. Miranda gave a somewhat rambling speech yesterday that seems to suggest he's open to negotiation. The spin is all of the Democrats would like to sit down and be a party to this.

Paul Giblin:
The Republicans have gone to three other senators and tried to work the same deal. So far they have been rebuffed by all of them. As you just mentioned, the Democratic leadership is hanging tough on their members, trying to get them to reject the whole package. They don't want any of them peeling off.

Mike Sunnucks:
She reaches out to Democrats and their price tag is going to be way too high to keep enough Republicans cobbled together, enough for a vote. I don't think any Democrats voted in the Senate for this thing. When Janet was governor and her and the business folks were pushing the same sales tax hike for roads, the Democrats really weren't opposed to it. Because it's coming from a Republican now, they are. That's the way it works down there, that's fine. I don't think there's a good chance of her grabbing Democrats.

Ted Simons:
Even with the sales tax, once all the stuff we're talking about goes through and voters say yea, even with all that, the state is still in a world of hurt.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes, starting with the budget that lawmakers put together beginning in mid-January. I can't remember the numbers. With or without that extra revenue they are in a hole. And it gets bigger and as you go on out. And when the sales tax, if it passes, goes away, the hole is about $3 billion.

Mike Sunnucks:
Then it's $750 million.

Ted Simons:
If you couple it with tax cuts, you're talking deep holes. Serious cutting is going to have to be done.

Paul Giblin:
And in addition to that, there's the stimulus money which will evaporate, as well. Then you get the tax cuts and it could be worse. You hear a lot of different philosophical arguments at the Capitol. This is a dynamic force involved and if you cut taxes, more businesses will come here, and it'll generate more revenues. In time it'll rise. The Democrats say if you cut taxes there's just less money and then you'll have to cut more. Everyone, Republican or Democrat, will tell you they expect more special sessions. No matter what budget you put out right now, it's not going to last.

Mike Sunnucks:
We've got this dynamic in our budget process that doesn't work. You have a legislature that wants to cut spending and voters approving all these spending measures, schools, health care. That doesn't mesh when the revenues aren't coming in. It's a big mess to get their hands around. The legislature's tied into tax policies that don't match our spending from voters.

Ted Simons:
It's a big enough mess where the state treasurer is now making noise busy running for governor. Dean Martin says he's very disappointed with Governor Brewer, very unhappy with the sales tax issue. Viable candidate on that side if he decides to run?

Paul Giblin:
You have a high-profile Republican like him even broaching the idea; we have a sitting governor who hasn't said she isn't going to run. He's more viable because he said that, because it makes the sitting governor look weaker.

Mike Sunnucks:
With the primary voters that are kind of conservatives that dominate the Republican Party, that anti-tax stance has got legs. She's got the power of incumbency. She hasn't built a base of folks that are going to rally around her. That's going to be a challenge in the primary where other incumbents have had that advantage.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And Martin has some of the credentials. He served in the state Senate, now he's state treasurer. He's got fiscal management written all over him, and the Jerry Lewis crowd, as well, with that name recognition.

Paul Giblin:
Jan Brewer wasn't elected, so they don't regard her as a strong governor who was elected. She doesn't have the authority that a real governor would.

Mike Sunnucks:
What really hurts her, the first and only thing she's known for is advocating for the sales tax increase. Other than that she hasn't made a mark since she's been out there. She inherited a lot of these problems, granted, but she hasn't really stepped out and advocated for much else.

Paul Giblin:
I'm not sure I agree with that. She has gone against the party to argue in favor of education and social services.

Mike Sunnucks:
That'll help her in a general election. But in a primary it's going to be a little tougher.

Ted Simons:
The President of the United States already visiting Arizona for the third time since taking office. He's visiting the Grand Canyon as part of a National Parks tour. This is another example of the national Democratic Party seeing Arizona at play. Is Arizona at play?

Paul Giblin:
Absolutely, Arizona is in play. There's a lot of influx of people from California, Illinois, those are Democratic states. You have people coming here from New Mexico and presumably, from Mexico, if they ever achieve citizenship, as well. Many of them went to the Democrats. The leaders will tell you if you hadn't had John McCain here, a hometown guy --

Mike Sunnucks:
Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico are much more middle ground states than Arizona. There's a Rasmussen poll that shows Sheriff Joe Arpaio is more popular than Obama. You can be competitive here. Do you put money into New Mexico and Colorado and Nevada where you won or into Arizona where you lost?

Paul Giblin:
The other thing about Arizona, by the time we get there, they could have more Electoral College votes. They are more important on the national scene because it carries more.

Ted Simons:
Since that last election we've had business bailouts, stimulus plans, health care debates, we've had energy debates, all these things. Are the President's approval ratings starting to slip a little bit? The President's coming out here, and moderates and independents that might have gone for the President last time --

Paul Giblin:
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is a crowd that typically would tend to go Republican. He's going to come here and presumably he's not going to talk health care where he's losing ground, but he'll talk about the military and veterans.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's kind of a general disappointment with the middle that there hasn't been the type of change that they wanted. The bailouts have continued the stimulus has been kind of slow to get moving, it's not had the impact that people expected. So I think it's eroded a little bit. Whether that means people are shifting back to red is a big leap.

Paul Giblin:
It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out. I think there are a lot of forces on both sides.

Ted Simons:
The health care town halls are smoking, folks who are not happy at all with the idea of health care reform. Testy at Democratic meetings, not so testy at Republican meetings, obviously for ideological reasons there.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's kind of driven the debate a little bit. Especially for the blue dog Democrat, some freshmen where you have some Democrats and some swing districts in the west. The anger a lot of these folks have is kind of driving the debate, that people are kind of rethinking this. They wanted to have an August vote and obviously they are not doing that. The President's been back-pedaling a little bit on this. And the town halls are interesting. These are kind of friendly crowds with people that are volunteers and they ask these fake questions, and then have the real ones where people show up and they are very angry at Democrats.

Ted Simons:
That's the question, are they real ones? They are not calling them grass roots campaigns; they are calling them Astroturf campaigns. They say they are sent out to yell and scream at the Democratic representatives.

Paul Giblin:
Moveon.org is encouraging folks to write letters to the editors, just like the folks on the right.

Ted Simons:
Are they interrupting and yelling and shouting and screaming? The Democrats are doing that to Republican representatives?

Paul Giblin:
I'm sorry, it's happening to the Democrats. They are being interrupted and getting screamed at by the other side.

Mike Sunnucks:
This has happened for years, this is democracy. You see these people and I think every place George Bush showed up you'd have people protesting and everything. It's healthy as long as it's genuine. When you have pharmaceutical groups planting people there, then it's not healthy.

Paul Giblin:
I think when you have a bunch of people screaming obscenities; I don't think that's helping the Democratic process. If you want to go there and ask intelligent questions and act in an intelligent manner, that helps.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The people that might show up wanting to learn something, how much that unimpresses them, if you've got somebody next to you screaming and yelling. What's interesting about all this is it takes the focus away really from, can any of these people tell us what's in the health care bill? There isn't really a bill; it's still working through committee. There are concepts out there. The story has become the protest, not the details in the plan.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think people don't trust the process in Washington. They don't trust what's going on there. Whether it's the bailout, the stimulus or this, they don't read the bills. They have these last-second votes at 2:00 a.m. and they push them through. I think it's a general distrust of the process showing up on both sides of the aisle.

Ted Simons:
There is a general distrust between the sheriff's office and lots of folks that work for the county. Let's keep it to county management right now. Computers, computer systems raided this week, and yet some of the stuff was confiscated.

Mike Sunnucks:
The computer system that the sheriff, the superior court, the public defender's office all kind of share, and they send information back on forth on that, it saves on paperwork. The County runs it. The sheriff has wanted to take over the administration of that and has been fighting in court with that. On Wednesday some deputies showed up at the computer offices in county buildings, basically took over this system. It's not a database system; it's more of an information highway. The County took them to court to try to get this reversed. That was kind of going on today. It's another result of the long-standing rivalry between the sheriff's office and the board of supervisors and basically everybody in county government.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They used the sheriff to usher in the I.T. guy who went in and changed passwords, which shifted the control to the sheriff's office.

Paul Giblin:
What does the sheriff hope to achieve by this?

Mike Sunnucks:
The sheriff's office says there was budget cuts for that I.T. department; they were worried about the integrity of the system. Everybody's trying to figure out if that's the real reason or if there's something else there, other than maybe just poking at the county.

Paul Giblin:
That would be the end game. As we mentioned earlier, Arpaio's list of enemies grows every week. Can you see the guys in to arrest people at the city library? I think not.

Ted Simons:
We're waiting to find out if the restraining order goes through. The sheriff says that some information could have been compromised here regarding law enforcement, yet the county management is saying some information regarding county management could be compromised because the sheriff's office now has this data.

Paul Giblin:
All these people are supposed to be on the same team. Everyone's accusing everyone else of undermining them.

Ted Simons:
All right, we'll stop it right there. Thanks so much. Coming-up on horizon, state lawmakers prepare to examine Arizona’s tuition tax credit law; this after an investigative report by a valley newspaper indicates the law is being abused. Hear from a reporter who worked on the story, Monday on horizon. Tuesday, the latest plans by the department of economic security to improve child support collections. Wednesday, we take a look at efforts to make Arizona a world leader in bioscience research and commerce. Thursday, experts talk about how to improve Arizona’s tuition tax credit law. And Friday we’ll be back with another edition of the journalists’ roundtable. That is it for now. I’m Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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