Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 5, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists' Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - The Arizona Guardian
  • Mark Brodie - KJZZ
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian," Mark Brodie of KJZZ, and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. State lawmakers are still working on a budget, and Dennis, it sounds like the idea of this being done by the end of the week is way gone. What do we look like for next week?

Dennis Welch:
Looks like a special session next week to deal with the budget. We were supposed to get it done this week, and like you said, we haven't got that done. Some of the major sticking points, things like the contingency budget that details what's going to be cut if the sales tax increase doesn't go through. Governor Brewer wants more detail. The legislature doesn't want to give it and Brewer wants that detail so she can go to the voters and say, this is what the state is going to look like if you don't pass my tax.

Howard Fischer:
One of the things that's been a hard sell has been telling the counties, guess what! You have to absorb the cost of dealing with juvenile corrections. As I understand, they're going to still do that, but delay it a few more months which saves money and gives time to come up with another plan and gives the county some extra money but that's coming from the cities, which makes them unhappy. AHCCCS, they're going to try to get people of the rolls, statutorily, never mind the legal questions. And they're close to having the votes in the house, the senate is tricky.

Ted Simons:
Mark, what are you hearing as far as progress?

Mark Brodie:
The one other thing to keep in mind, in addition to the budget, there's still $700 million in the hole for this fiscal year. About $450 million of that or so is going to be education and university rollovers which they didn't do in the earlier special session which by all accounts, they're going to do here. They have to figure out what to do with and close the hole before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th.

Ted Simons:
Dennis, you were talk both idea that the governor wants, as far as making it clear to the voters that if -- as far as triggers are concerned for the F.Y. '11 budget, the triggers have to go to mostly education and safety, because the voters need to know, you don't approve the sales tax, those are the things that are going to get cut.

Dennis Welch:
If you want to scare the public, these are what they depend upon, educate my kids and protect me from the bad guys and it's a powerful thing to go to the voters and say, hey, this is going to be threatened in you don't do this. It's not going to be a popular thing given the fact that we're in an environment where the city is already passing food taxes and it's a down economy. It's not going to be easy to convince people to raise taxes on themselves. She's going to need any help she can get.

Howard Fischer:
What level of detail we're going to see, I think the governor would ideally like to have, if you don't pass it, this particular program will go away. Whether it's subsidized childcare or early reading programs and education. What she's going to get is something a lot less specific. This agency will lose this much, this agency lose this much and if you look at what the agencies think they'll have to cut, that will give you an idea of where the money is going to come from. Is that enough to convince people to hike their sales taxes for the next three years?

Ted Simons:
Is this the kind of thing where the governor and lawmakers are at logger heads?

Howard Fischer:
I think the original legislative plan was back of the Jack in the box napkin. 10% of the board of every agency than clearly wasn't going to sell. Her specifics as far as you're going to go no this program and this program, that wasn't going to sell with lawmaker the, for a couple of reasons. I don't think half of them are familiar enough with the programs and number two, belief that her trying to scare people. There'll be no DPS on the road if you don't do that. And they didn't want that.

Mark Brodie:
A lot the members of legislature are against the sales tax. Even those who voted to put it on the ballot are now campaigning against its grease. Whatever they can do to make sure the public doesn't pass this tax they're likely going to do.

Dennis Welch:
And in the senate where the problems have been in the past year, and continue to be, chairman of the ax the tax committee which is dedicated to killing this sits in the senate. There's some questions about where he's going to be when it comes down to voting on the budget. Whether he's going to be loyal to what the house put together, what he had a say in. Or whether he's going to go with what the senate wants.

Ted Simons:
Let's get to details as best we can. You referred to, Howie, the reduction in AHCCCS enrollment, that's a big time reduction and a big deal.

Howard Fischer:
And it's a questionable legality. The argument is when voters approved the measure in 2000, it said this will be funded with tobacco dollars and available take state and local dollars. Clearly, tobacco money is about $100 million a year. That doesn't begin to cover the extra 300,000 people on the rolls because of that measure. The argument is well, available means do we have the money, and they're saying we don't have the money, therefore, it's not available and, therefore, we can deal with it, even though voters have told us. Available is in the eye of the beholder. I'm telling Dennis, I don't have the money to pay you, never mind I have a beer in my hand.

Dennis Welch:
I want my money Howie.

Howard Fischer:
So that's going to be a fight on the question of the legality of that.

Ted Simons:
Let's get to the other aspects here. The department of juvenile corrections still on the outs?

Dennis Welch:
It looks like -- we have Sheriff Joe Arpaio stepping up saying I'll take 'em. I'll take anybody. And it's caused quit a stir here the past couple of days. I was struck like 10 years ago, Joe with in a kind of shtick would have -- people would have ate it up. And people don't want that to happen and there was a lot of talk about that.

Ted Simons:
But that also addresses the issue that counties, especially are worried about, in that they're seeing a whole lot of responsibility, not only that, but you have court dissent decrees.

Mark Brodie:
They've said you're not cutting government. You're just pawning it off on us and we're going to have to pay for it and then become the question whether the state is going to take from the cities to give to the counties and make the cities unhappy and make the counties slightly -- nobody is going to be happy with this budget. There are cuts and reductions all over the place and things that people don't want to do but they have to because of the deficit that the state is facing.

Howard Fischer:
But the point is, and this is what comes back to the Democrats say, there are options. Broadening the sales tax base. Taking in things that are now exempt. Even as the Republicans want to cut taxes in the future. So that's the issue. What's not on the table?

Ted Simons:
How about the issue of Democrats being at all involved in any of this? [Laughter] Nowhere to be found.

Howard Fischer:
Despite the arguments it's been open and transparent; it has been to the extent that everybody's seen the governor's budget. This is the first time the legislature has never even prepared a budget. They've taken the governor's and tweaked it. The Democrats are not involved in that.

Dennis Welch:
This has been nowhere near transparent. They weren't take can public input or doing the things they've done in the past. They kept saying we're going to do this out in the open and it certainly wasn't the case.

Ted Simons:
We hear Republican lawmakers say don't tell me Democrats weren't involved. We keep inviting them to the table, they won't come.

Mark Brodie:
The plan that Democrats allegedly had involvement in whatever you want to call it, the third wave budget, isn't going to get a hearing in the house or senate. And, yes, senate President Burns said his first priority is to see if he can get the number of votes in the Republican caucus and if he can't, then you start talking to individual Democrats and when you give Democrats things, you lose Republicans and it becomes a big shifting game.

Ted Simons:
The idea of governor using stimulus money for department of corrections and is that still out there?

Howard Fischer:
I think it's been spent four times already and we won't see the details until Monday, we know that the governor wants to use the stimulus money, but everyone else has laid a claim on it.

Ted Simons:
Last question on the budget: Are the vote there is for whatever happens Monday at 2:00.

Howard Fischer:
The votes aren't there for Monday at 2:00. But there will be votes by the time we're sitting around this table next Friday. How much will it differ? You know, somewhere between 7.5% and 8%.

Ted Simons:
What do you think, Dennis? The special session not going as swimmingly as some would hope.

Dennis Welch:
I think Howie is right. I think by the end of the week, there will be a deal out there.

Mark Brodie:
I would agree with that.

Ted Simons:
Let’s keep it moving. We had county attorney Andrew Thomas on the show last night and talked about a variety of things regarding his fights with the county management and judiciary. And find out from the Arizona Republican that looks like the feds are probing his office.

Dennis Welch:
Is anyone here surprised? I think people were expecting it to happen for a while because the two operated as a team and the fact that we know there's grand juries out and federal investigations looking into Arpaio's office, for me, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before it came out.

Howard Fischer:
And the fact is there's only certain things that the sheriff can do without I county attorney. Whether it's subpoenas or anything else. This goes over who ordered who arrested and if they're not joined at the hip, let's say they're sharing the same pair of swim trunks.

Dennis Welch:
A lot of talk of Andy Thomas running for A.G. Does this keep him from jumping into that race or does he run anyway? Somebody being investigated by the federal government.

Ted Simons:
We should mention the county attorney's office say they want probes and an investigation of what's going on in the county because they see, quote, irregularities in the county. You have the Gila county prosecutor involved and he recess -- you know, we asked him over and over, are you going to keep going for prosecutors until you get what you want? And after this, he said he's out of the ball game.

Howard Fischer:
Well, and again --

Ted Simons:
The Yavapai county prosecutor who said no merit for Wilcox and you still have work do with Stapley and yet we have another prosecutor.

Howard Fischer:
This is the whole issue. A prosecutor is not truly independent if the case can be called back and I can go shopping for someone else. As you say, Andy said he wasn't going to shop for anyone else. If you want an independent prosecutor, you take your office out of it and let this person make a final decision one way or the other. Will that happen? I don't know. I don't know that this becomes different. Miss Polk came up with a different conclusion. Will a different attorney come up with a different conclusion? Is there enough evidence out there to suspect that something is wrong on this whole court tower? The old thing -- and you've heard it -- prosecutors can indict a hamburger. If somebody wants to get an indictment out of the grand jury they can. The question is, are they that anxious to do it. Andy is, I don't know about the Gila county attorney is.

Ted Simons:
Yet he presses on and last night, he's adamant. He says there are problems here. Criminal investigations are justified and he's going to do this. How is this playing? Dennis mentioned this may keep him from running for attorney general. Not sure about that, but how is this playing.

Mark Brodie:
One of the things I find interesting, all of the legal wrangling, between Thomas and the board of supervisors and different attorneys is kind of obscuring the fact that there might be something to either of these charges. That either supervisor Wilcox or Stapley might have done something they shouldn't have done but because of the back and forth and claims and counterclaims and name-calling, that people aren't looking at the substance of the charge, they're looking at the politics and looking at the personalities involved rather than the actual charges.

Howard Fischer:
And that was the problem, I think, by going and leveling all of these charges against everyone, including the judges, he becomes the boy who cried wolf. Particularly when a lot of stuff was already thrown out and he may have something there, but to get to mark's point, nobody is listening anymore. They're just saying, oh, Andy basically got ants in his pants.

Ted Simons:
We'll leave that where that is. And we'll go -- talk to me about the thing with the treasurer and the idea he was reportedly by a blogger or something, bragging about hiding money from former Governor Napolitano.

Dennis Welch:
This goes back to a Lincoln day event, Republican-sponsored event, and according to a blog, treasurer Dean Martin was boasting about how he saved millions and millions of dollars for the state by withholding deposits into the state treasuries so former governor Janet Napolitano didn't know how much money was in the treasury so she couldn't spend it. That was reported on the blog and picked up by you us and others in the media and took Mr. Martin three days to respond to these accusations. His folks said he was sick but something like that, he would have been a little bit more prompt, I think in getting back to us.

Howard Fischer:
And the tricky part, this is double hearsay is in a lot of this stuff.

Ted Simons:
Sure.

Howard Fischer:
I talked to a person at this event and he insisted what Martin said was not about fooling Janet Napolitano when he was treasurer but when he was a state senator.

Ted Simons:
How do you hide something when you're a senator?

Howard Fischer:
It had to do about the way they did things with the rainy day fund. Part of the problem is this whole race is getting very, very weird. We're down to -- [Laughter] -- down to issues of JIB-jab style -- on websites and dean saying that Jan is just as spendthrifty and getting stranger.

Ted Simons:
And talk about the level of discourse. You have blogs everywhere now. A 24-hour news cycle is slow news now. Someone hears something and puts it up there and a candidate has to respond to it.

Mark Brodie:
The primary is not for how many more months? The one thing I find interesting in this whole thing, there was really no love lost between former Governor Napolitano and current treasurer Dean Martin. I was not at this thing, but some described as a screaming match. The governor referred to him as Chicken Little. And these are not two people who are sending holiday cards. It's interesting to see where the truth lies here.

Howard Fischer:
That's the fun part about this. The high-ground folks running Jan's campaign are trying to paint Dean as a Napolitano supporter. That he signed on to some of her budget bills. Dean puts out a release saying she hates me and put me on a no-fly list. And did this to pay me back. This is getting very strange.

Ted Simons:
Let's get back it the budget process. Quickly, now, does the senate change at all with Antonori hoing in there, replacing Paton. And a new, not a new face, but a new face in the senate.

Dennis Welch:
Frank Antonori, from down south. From the Tucson area. People are questioning where his loyalties are going to be. Where is he going to be in this budget? I think he's different from Paton in that respect. A little bit more entrenched and harder to move on certain issues.

Howard Fischer:
And he's going to be conservative on a couple of issues. For example, one of the things he got to do on the first day of office, is this driving while texting bill. And said, frank, you're with me on this, and frank said, huh-uh. And went south on that. And John Paton was not a big fan of tort reform in terms of limiting a jury verdict.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned we're going to talk about texting.

Howard Fischer:
That thing was gone and new it's back knowledge what happened there were a bunch of people off the floor. Nine people not present because John Paton had left the senate. Came up with 17 votes for driving while texting bans over the objections of Ron Gould and Russell Pearce. And who said why is this different than drinking a big gulp.

Dennis Welch:
And during a financial crisis and this is the reason I read a story in "Politico," legislators in across the country in the teens.

Howard Fischer:
We're declaring milk the official beverage of the state!

Ted Simons:
Hallelujah Howie. This time next week, is there a budget?

Mark Brodie:
That's a really, really good question. I bet there are 60 people in the state capitol who would like to know. I think we'll be closer but I don't know that it will be done this time next week.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it there. Thanks for joining us.

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