Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 4, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week’s top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - The Arizona Republic
  • Dennis Welch - The Arizona Gaurdian
  • Mike Sunnucks - The Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian," and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." Well, it looks as though there might possibly perhaps could be maybe a fifth special session, Mary Jo, coming down the pike?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think you're using the right -- you're doing the right thing by using conditional terms. There's nothing nailed down but there's talk of the special session that concluded -- what? -- A couple weeks ago, that they need to do more cuts. $1.6 billion and cleanup that they'd like to take care of before the regular session in January. On the other hand, there are lawmakers who aren't nuts about coming back to the capitol after having just left there. And what can't wait until mid January?

Dennis Welch:
One of the things, Senator Steve Pierce, talking about getting a bipartisan coalition together. The first one would be the one-cent sales tax and refer that to the ballot. Something the governor's been wanting to do. And referring another thing to the ballot -- the first things first program. Its voter protected. There's money left in the balance. The state would like to get at that. And those are the two main things and then talking about 250 -- $200 million to $250 million from the state agencies and that's still in the senate.

Mike Sunnucks:
They're been trying to get the first things first money for a while. They've raided all of these other funds and can't get at that. And I'm sure you'd see a legal battle, as well as a political battle.

Dennis Welch:
Another legal battle? I'd be shocked.

Ted Simons:
But your point about the bipartisan nature that the senate -- seems to be happening in the senate, does it make any difference if nothing is happening in the house?

Dennis Welch:
I know the bipartisan stuff, it might help, in the fact you bring more people to the table out there and they may need to get that bipartisan deal done to get the sales tax.

Mike Sunnucks:
Look, you don't want to see these draconian cuts and we have to keep doing these cuts unless we can get something else done. The question is what price tag each side has. What the Democrats ask for.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The house isn't going to go along with a sales tax referral unless it's married with tax cuts. And Speaker Adams was clear after the regular session ended -- or maybe the third session -- his one regret; he didn't push hard enough for a path to economic recovery. The house doesn't need bipartisan support. They've got 35 Republicans. They've got a cushion. The senate needs to work in a bipartisan way because of the narrow nature of their majority.

Mike Sunnucks:
What's lost in these special sessions and budget machinations is the economy. One thing that could bring in more revenue is people working. But in the long term, they need people to actually want to spend and have a job and I think they've lost the focus on that and you see the Democrats talking solar and some of these things and it's healthy to talk about the economy because that's what is going to bring the revenue back in.

Ted Simons:
Is it healthy to say we'll do the referral on the one-cent sales tax but also do tax cuts which would negate that?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
You still have a problem with the Democrats who say no way no how can we do this because they believe any revenue raised by the sales tax would go to pay off the down-the-road loss of income from the tax cuts and then you have to find a way to do it with the Republicans only and there's the conundrum.

Ted Simons:
I know a lot of folks -- they take a lot of nice vacations and cruises.

Mike Sunnucks:
They don't want to deal with it. And the numbers aren't there and it would be nice to see them get the numbers together and call a session and do it in one or two days and get it done.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What's the likelihood of that? You have to be able do it quickly, as Mike said. They're talking about the week before Christmas. Presumably people have travel plans, you've got holiday prep and they couldn't do it last session. It was supposed to be a one-day wonder and then a three-day and it turned into seven days. It seems the odds are against it, but you never know what rabbit they can pull out of the hat.

Ted Simons:
The fact that the two-week exhaustion, $700 million line of credit with bank of America, does it goose the thing, grease the skids?

Dennis Welch:
We've had bad economic news all year long. It is what it is. It's going to be hard to get things done right now the way things are set up. You've got the narrow margins in the senate that's making everything tough to get done.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And the $700 million is the line of credit that the state took out from the bank of America about two weeks ago and it's there to help the state through cash flow issues. The fact they blew through that in less than two weeks is a sign of the gap between revenue and spending. The next round of tax collections will fill that back up, but treasurer Martin will probably be out there every time they go over that $700 million mark to remind people how bad things are.

Mike Sunnucks:
In a primary general election, the next year, the challenger, that's one of the first things I'm going to mention, if I'm running in a general election as a -- they spend $700 million in two weeks and don't want to deal with the realities of this and that's in a nutshell down there.

Dennis Welch:
But if Martin is running, he's going to be mentioning it every chance he gets. Clearly doing that kind of stuff already and he's going to have the perfect résumé to run for governor next year.

Mike Sunnucks:
We have a $10 billion or $11 billion deficit and let's figure out what we want. Do we want to spend that or have a smaller government?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think Speaker Adams said he's create -- education and prisons and the welfare -- or in this case, I'm sorry, the behavioral health. And then federal stimulus money. I think that's an effort on his part to get members in the house talking about, well, what can we do to bridge the gap? Because the consensus down there is that you cannot cut your way to a balanced budget. There's not enough room in the budget to cut that -- [Talking over each other]

Mike Sunnucks:
The stimulus moneys are going to be gone.

Dennis Welch:
There are some who want to cut their way out. They're pretty dug in.

Ted Simons:
Interesting scenario regarding payday loan. And it sounds as though the governor is willing to consider legislation and a lot of folks are saying they're not surprised.

Dennis Welch:
Probably because of the people behind it. A little background. Last year, voters shot down this initiative that would have allowed payday lenders to continue operating in the state. The law says now they have to shut down or stop functioning in Arizona come June. The governor's key political allies are pushing to change the law to allow the industry to continue working in the state.

Ted Simons:
Is she hurt by this association?

Dennis Welch:
I think she's willing to consider -- definitely on the wrong side of this issue. This issue went down 3-2. It was a very unpopular issue. I think she's on the wrong side of this one.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And plus, the presence of Coughlin and Woods, and then they're lobbying on this, put some distance there. It's -- it seems she's tainted on this if she does anything other than approve a payday loan bill. There's going to be accusations that she's carrying water for her political allies.

Dennis Welch:
We asked her, how did you vote, and she's, "I can't remember." She's definitely going to have problems.

Mike Sunnucks:
They're viewed as high interest rates and fees and I don't think anybody wants to be associated with lenders with bad reputations right now. So it will hurt more in the general election where Terry Goddard, who sued quick cash today, who could say I'm for the little guy. She's for the sketchy businesses.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Even though it's interesting political ties with the governor's advisories, this was something that the voters rejected and yet it's coming back and tweaking it.

Ted Simons:
I want to bring that up. I want to go over the logic of a governor who is staking her political reputation on going to the voters and having them decide -- in this case, on a sales tax -- but now maybe reconsidering something that went to the voters and they decided. Is there a disconnect there?

Dennis Welch:
Yeah, it's like it's going to hurt her in the primary. Already the potential opponents are ganging up, saying, listen; the voters have spoken on this issue. They say they don't want this industry to operate. What are you doing?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
John Munger, who is a declared candidate, said, wait a minute, listen, the people spoke. End of story.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Maybe end of story with a couple of lawsuits regarding legislation that was supposed to be part of the budget, special session and Arizona cities and towns. Talk to us about this, Mary Jo.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
This is the continuing of lawsuits against the legislature for things they've done in the past year. The board that controls the central Arizona project went to the Supreme Court and said, they're taking money out of our funds and they have no right, stop it. And the court said no, we're not going to hear this case. And that bumps it down to the central Arizona water control board to figure out what they want to do next to recoup the money. Two days later, the Supreme Court comes back with another case. Filed by the league of cities. Saying, the cities objected to legislation in the budget bill that put a freeze on development fees, building codes and imposed new illegal immigration requirements on government agency. The city's argument, you did this incorrectly, it's not an appropriation. The Supreme Court said we're not going to hear the case. Take it someplace else and all parties who brought the lawsuits are pondering what their options are.

Dennis Welch:
The Supreme Court has said they don't want to intervene. They did it earlier this year when the governor sued the legislature over the issue of when they could send the bill up. Don't bring your little fights to me. Go and figure it out.

Ted Simons:
The fight was you're putting something into a special session, aside and part from the single object necessity of a special session. The Supreme Court said we don't want any part of this.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That's about all they said.

Mike Sunnucks:
This happens in all kinds of legislatures. It happens in congress. People add things on to different things. Maybe they don't want the slippery slope to opening it to everybody who say they don't like this bill.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
In this case, the Supreme Court says this is just not the right court to bring it to. If you want to take your chances and bring it to a lower court, go for it. We don't know what's going to happen next.

Ted Simons:
We don't know what's going to happen with the sheriff and the county attorney. The federal suit against anybody who works for the county.

Mike Sunnucks:
The country board of supervisors. They've been in the turf war. And it's bubbled up over the Stapley case and the cost and contracting for the new court tower. And they're filing suit over that and it's a continuation of the circular firing squad where they're filing complaints against each other all the time. They say they've been stonewalled.

Ted Simons:
All sorts of comments, good old boy network from the sheriff. What do you make of it, Dennis? More fussing and fighting?

Dennis Welch:
I'm struck by just the lack of civility, I think we've seen between, you know, at this level of government for the past year or two, or whatnot. If they were kindergarteners, I would tell them to take a time off. Because it seems every week, there's something new.

Mike Sunnucks:
You mentioned intimidation and retaliation, that's what everybody accuses the sheriff of doing. The little good old boy network and there doesn't seem to be a resolution to any of those things. Investigations remain on. And people have the theories with grand juries and federal probes into the sheriff's office.

Dennis Welch:
It seems like these people are going back and forth spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Mike Sunnucks:
A lot of times they end up hiring outside attorneys and it's a lot of money on both sides.

Ted Simons:
You have the county to fire protesters during a supervisors' meeting who deigned to protest the sheriff and you had that loss there for the county and then the sickout and the bomb threat that's disrupting things at superior court.

Mike Sunnucks:
A deputy who took papers off a public defender's desk. And the judge ordered this deputy to hold a press conference and apologize. Which is an interesting sentence. Joe who never turns away from a press conference -- we had a big sickout from the detention officers and then somebody called in a fake bomb threat complaining about the public defender's office. Lack of civility and no one looks professional or looks like they're doing the people's work.

Ted Simons:
For the first time, the sickout especially, and that particular disruption, maybe a little bit of this is going a little too far, especially from those who support anything that the sheriff does. I thought I noticed a general tenor of the conversation, some saying I like him, but I don't like this.

Dennis Welch:
A good friend who covers this, Nick Martin, he sent out a tweet to folks, sums it all up. Reporting on prison guards protesting to free an inmate: Now I've seen it all. You know -- I mean, think about that. Just where we've gone from this. Where we have all the jail guards holding candlelight vigils for someone caught on videotape doing something wrong.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
As the New Year dawns, what will county attorney Andrew Thomas do? He's interested in running for state attorney general. He is expected to -- he's going to declare and get in fairly soon and he would have to resign his county post because he's not in the last year of his term and that leads the board of supervisors to a replacement and that might change the dynamics and there will be an election to properly elect a new county attorney in the fall.

Ted Simons:
And that will be a board apparently led by --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Don Stapley. Who is being prosecuted by Thomas.

Mike Sunnucks:
Who was arrested by the sheriff in the county parking garage?

Dennis Welch:
118 criminal counts.

Mike Sunnucks:
For not disclosing business deals -- the one thing, from a 30,000-foot look, people still like him. He's still popular. People who pay attention to this stuff are starting to notice this. Like there was a Rasmussen poll for the Republican primary, Joe was way ahead. Not that he's going to do that. But he's still very popular.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like he's in the process of raising money for legal fees and having to fight those things off. Does this suggest if Arpaio goes out and help a J.D. Hayworth that he's going to give it a shot against John McCain?

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's a little late for J.D. You've got to raise a lot of money to take on someone like McCain in a primary in this state. I would think he'd have to get going early. He was never charged with anything but had a lot of legal bills and it kind of tainted him in the mix race.

Ted Simons:
If you've got a Sheriff Arpaio who polls so well, especially in Maricopa County, he likes being sheriff, but boy he can raise money and help you, what stops him?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If he's not the candidate, that might make the difference in the world. If Joe Arpaio wanted to take on John McCain, that might be a different dynamic. The primary is August 24th, that's nine months out.

Dennis Welch:
I'll give you that, but you mentioned the Rasmussen reports, look at that as well. That poll showed that, you know, Hayworth was in striking distance of McCain. McCain has done stuff to try to endear himself to that part of the party. So I think it's not out of the question for someone like Hayworth. If he's got Joe Arpaio behind him. $100,000 he's raised, J.D., to help him retire the debt.

Mike Sunnucks:
He could help in smaller races. I don't know about something like governor. Joe gets a lot of $50 from folks. And I don't know if that's going to translate into a senate race or governor's race.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Just think about Obama. He had a lot of small donations and had a successful presidential campaign.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it right there. Thanks for joining us. "Horizon" is off Monday and Tuesday for special programming, but we're back Wednesday with a look at an effort to protect your personal data from theft.

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