Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 9, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

State Spending Limits


  • The Arizona House Majority Leader, Representative Steve Court, and House Minority Leader, Representative Chad Cambell, debate a proposed House rule change that would limit lock state spending to a formula based on the previous year’s appropriations.
Guests:
  • Steve Court - Arizona House Majority leader
  • Chad Campbell - Arizona House Minority leader
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislature, spending, rights,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona will get $1.6 billion from a $26 billion settlement with banks over bad foreclosure practices. The money will go to help reduce principals on mortgages and compensate victims of improper foreclosures.
Ted Simons: And Ron Barber, an aide to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will run in the special election to replace Giffords in congressional district 8. Barber was wounded in the Tucson shootings that injured Giffords. Barber says he has the support of Giffords and her husband, but he does not say if he'll run again in November's regular election.
Ted Simons: A bill that calls for a rigid system of spending limits known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, was vetoed last year by Governor Brewer. Some Republican lawmakers are trying to implement the restrictions this year by way after legislative rules change. Here to debate the issue is house majority leader Steve Court and house minority leader Chad Campbell. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.
Chad Campbell: Thank you.
Steve Court: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Steve, we’ll start with you. What exactly is being proposed here?

Steve Court: This is a rules change being proposed that would institute a TABOR-like restriction on spending, basically it -- TABOR takes last year's spending amount and allows it to increase by the amount of inflation, plus population growth. And that would be kind of the starting point of what could you spend in the next year.

Ted Simons: Why is it a good idea?

Steve Court: It's a good idea because typically the way we budget, we look at what revenues we expect to be available and then we try to find ways to spend it. And that in a good growth economy like Arizona has, that tends to grow the size of government because you're going to increase your revenues faster than inflation plus population growth, and you start adding new programs, and you get to recession period like we recently had, and you can't sustain it.

Ted Simons: Why is this a bad idea?

Chad Campbell: Two major reasons. First and foremost, the two factors considered population growth and overall economic growth are kind of arbitrary in relation to how much you're spending as a state. We saw this TABOR-like provision in Colorado, failed miserably. In fact, the voters had to go and suspend it because they couldn't fund their schools, couldn't fund their health care. They had roads falling apart. Really just destroyed the state out right. But secondly, to do this in a rule change on the floor as opposed to actually trying to push a bill forward through the public hearing process, through votes of the elected leaders of the state, is just downright wrong. It's not what rules are meant for, they're meant for procedural motions, not policy. This would set a horrible precedent for how we make laws in this state.

Ted Simons: Colorado's experience with this, not necessarily the best, what happened up there and why would it be different down here?

Steve Court: Colorado's different because they did it through a voter mandate, a referendum. They put it into their constitution and the lawmakers couldn't suspend it when they needed to in a recession. Being in a rules change, it will take a simple majority vote to suspend the rule and then be able to move forward.

Ted Simons: But isn't the idea of making it a rules change difficult for a legislature to suspend it because you would essentially be put on record and it could be used against you, you are -- you're someone who wants to increase taxes?

Steve Court: Exactly. That's why we want the rule change. You are on record, and you can -- you are on record as saying we're going to adopt a new budget that would grow the size of government. And you can justify that one way or the other, but you're still on record.

Chad Campbell: And this is exactly why we don't need this TABOR provision. Either in statute or by rule change. We're elected by the people of the state to do a job. If the people don't want us or don't like the job we're doing, if we're spending too much or too little money they can kick us out of office. They can recall us, we just saw it happen with Russell Pearce. The voters have their say. We need to act responsibly, and to tie our hands for any unforeseen fiscal crisis that may come down the road. It’s just a bad fiscal policy.

Ted Simons: I why not put people on record, if it's -- if you do believe the recession is here, we need to raise revenue, now is a time to do it, I support this, why not have that more on record than it is now?

Chad Campbell: I'm on record for every vote I make for the budget, for a tax cut, for a tax increase. Any vote I make is public record. To put more obstacles in the way of doing the public policy making process, as it was intended by the founders of the state, it's just wrong.

Ted Simons: What do you make of that? A lot of folks have a problem with the rules change idea.

Steve Court: I think it adds more transparency to the process. When we take a normal vote on a budget, people can't say is this growing the size of government? Shrinking the size of government? This would put us on record as saying we're going to suspend this rule, we're going to grow the size of government, ordinarily in good times we've had -- mid 2000s we were growing state revenues greatly and we were spending it. That was growing the size of government which we could not sustain once the recession hit.

Ted Simons: The idea of Colorado was brought up. You talked about it being on the ballot as opposed to something as far as a rules change is concerned. What difference really does that -- other than the fact you would be on record voting for it?

Steve Court: And we could through a simple majority vote, suspend that rule. In Colorado it was part of their constitution, they could not suspend it, they could not override it. They had to go back to the ballot to do that.

Ted Simons: I want to ask you about what Steve mentioned regarding this boom, bust, boom, bust. It seems as though supporters say this would keep bubble activity to a minimum. Valid?

Chad Campbell: No, I disagree. We already have a constitutional spending limit in place here in Arizona. We've never come close to reaching that limit. Again, we as elected officials have to behave responsibly. We have the opportunity to slow down our growth every time we vote on a budget; we have the opportunity to increase growth if we want to every time we vote on a budget. All this is going to do, is two things. It’s going to politicize the process, even more than it's already politicized, which I think is horrible and something voters don’t want in this state. And secondly, doing it through this rule change is going to open up a new precedent of allowing policy decisions to be made by rule changes, which limits debate, limits public participation and really ties the hands of the people who are elected by the voters of the state in each district to do their job.

Ted Simons: If raising taxes, raising revenue is bad and something you wouldn't support and your fellow lawmakers wouldn't support, why not just not support it? Why the rules change?

Steve Court: The rules change has more to do with the spending side than raising revenues. So it's --

Ted Simons: OK. Same question, though, spending.

Steve Court: Again, it puts us on record as saying we're supporting a growth in government spending over and above what would normally be required. And the normal process like I said earlier, you don't -- it's hard for the public to decipher whether or not you're growing government. Just because you have the revenues doesn't necessarily mean you should be spending it all.

Chad Campbell: The real reason for this rules change, you alluded to it earlier, because the governor vetoed this very same measure last year. If this rules change were to be adopted this year and put in place, the governor's budget proposal, and I don't think anybody is accused Governor Brewer of being some outrageously free willing spending liberal, the governor's own budget proposal this year would not be able to make it to the floor of the house for debate if this rule were adopted. This is trying in essence to subvert the governor in what she has in her budget and what she did last year with the veto.

Steve Court: Well, I would disagree with that. We didn't even have the governor's budget when we proposed this rule at first. And that's fine. If her budget is going to grow government faster than a rate of inflation plus population growth, we should go on record saying we're willing to do that or not willing to do that.

Ted Simons: For those that say this will lock in spending at levels that are unnaturally low, how do you respond?

Steve Court: Again, it's a rule change. It can be suspended with a simple majority vote. It does not lock us into anything.

Ted Simons: I think that my confusion at least is that you say it can be suspended with a simple majority vote. But the purpose of the rules change is to I think embarrass folks or put folks on record to not make that vote. So I don't get that.

Steve Court: It's definitely to put them on record. We'll agree with that.

Chad Campbell: This is politicizing the budget. Let there be no doubt about that. You're exactly right when you say that, Ted. Again, if you feel like the budget is out of control and you're spending too much money in this state or spending too little, we can correct that as the legislature every time we vote on a budget. You do not need to put this rules change in place, it is unnecessary, and again, it's really opening the door for bad precedent.

Ted Simons: Last words --

Steve Court: I would still support it. I would not support a constitutional amendment like Colorado did, but whether it's a statute or rule change; it just puts more transparency into the project for us.

Ted Simons: Gentlemen, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Chad Campbell: Thank you.

Steve Court: Thank you.

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