Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 10, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Matt Benson - The Arizona Republic
  • Dennis Welch - The Arizona Guardian
  • 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 Matt Benson with "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch with "The Arizona Guardian," and Mike Sunnucks of the "The Business Journal." Special session of the legislature starts off in noteworthy fashion. Matt It happened Monday, it feels like a million years ago. A lot got done in a very short period of time.

Matt Benson:
I thought it caught us by surprise how quickly they were able to get it done. Basically they got a budget deal and basically preserved federal stimulus money for education and healthcare and insured that education continues; that the schools get their money as of July 15th. But broader terms, kicks the can down the road because the real issue in terms of cuts and additional revenue are yet to be figured out.

Ted Simons:
a lot of cooperation -- was that a surprise that people were singing Kumbaya?

Dennis Welch:
Certainly the speed at which it got done but when you think about it a little bit education is the big political issue for everybody and it makes somewhat sense to get this done first because this is the issue that people care about the most. You've got parents out there with kids and stuff like that, where earlier in the session, they talked about cutting almost a billion out of it. It motivated a lot of people to come down and protest and coming down here and doing that makes a lot of sense, at least politically.

Mike Sunnucks:
That was the easy lifting they didn't deal with the tough part; the revenue, whether to do the sales tax whether to do the flat tax; what kind of other cuts to make and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out because you could have used the education part to bring people along and they said, well, we agree on this, so let's pass this. So they kind of left the tough part without having anything to -- there's no carrot, going forward.

Matt Benson:
Well the one thing that both sides the Democrats and Republicans could agree on is they wanted to get the heck out of the Capital they’ve been there for almost six months of legislative session, it’s the beginning of July and they wanted to go home for a bit. So cut a deal that said, ok, we can float state services along. Nothing will get cut. In the meantime, rank and file members can go home and legislative leaders can work with the governor on the bigger issues; a negotiated compromise on the tax referrel and the budget cuts and these other sticky issues --

Dennis Welch:
And in the meantime with this component passed on the budget and they've actually increased state spending by $395 million or something like that. So now we're looking at still a $2.6 billion deficit.

Ted Simons:
Indeed, it seemed like a risky move for the governor when she originally vetoed. You're talking all K-12 education and a couple billion in stimulus money affected by those cuts in education. Over a billion in Medicaid money, pretty risky, but the risks seemed to pay off because it got Democrats and Republicans together.

Mike Sunnucks:
People pushed the panic button that they would lose the stimulus money and it was good politically for everybody because they came out this week looking like they were supporting education and schools. But it still shows she doesn't have the votes on either side of the aisle for the tax side of it. Obviously, the Republicans hung her out to dry in the end on the sales tax. The Democrats aren't for it and so see what they work out over the next month or so.

Dennis Welch:
Well certainly that's how the governor's office was spinning it. Look, my veto got them to work in this bipartisan manner to get this done. I support this and went and signed it quickly.

Matt Benson:
And again I would caution, we're only in the seventh inning here. They passed a budget that calls for 10 billion in spending they’re only expecting 7 billion in revenue so before we can choose who the winners and losers were, we have to see how the cuts end up and whether the governor ends up getting a tax referral.

Ted Simons:
And iIt's hard to find a winner and loser as well, because, yes, what the governor did got the Republicans and Democrats together but they got together because no one can get along with the governor and apparently she wasn't a part of the discussions at all.

Dennis Welch:
That's what we heard. They met over that weekend and tried to get something done real quick and you can tell, talking to the members that all of the people especially in leadership have been unhappy with the governor and that's driven them together and at least they've agreed on the budget and the fact they're not happy with the governor.

Ted Simons:
So where do we go from here as far as revenue? Where do they get the money?

Mike Sunnucks:
She wants to stick to the sales tax and looking at the landscape down there and where folks are lining up, I don't know where else you go. Because the Democrats don't want her sales tax increase. They want to expand it and do it on services. There's not a lot of support from Republicans and burdening businesses and asking people who don't have sales tax to implement that so that’s going to take a while to have the money come in. Obviously, the Republicans, the conservatives voted against the sales tax referral even with that flat tax sitting out there. I don't know where they think it's going to come from, because if they want to cut, she's not going to let them cut. I still think the sales tax referral might be there. It might not be here for this years ballot but It might be for next year's.

Dennis Welch:
It could still be there but she'd have to kill, I think, the county equalization rate to save property tax to be able to get that as well as make other concessions to the Republicans.

Matt Benson:
And don't forget the various budget provisions which she vetoed. Limiting impact fees charged by cities and there were a whole host of things. Ending domestic partners for state employees and those are out there and potential carrots that the governor could have thrown in the mix.

Mike Sunnucks:
The problem is, if she gives the Democrats a carrot, she’d lose the Republicans if she tries to give Republicans a carrot the Democrats haven’t shown much inclination of voting for her penny sales tax referral. If she offers all of these things to the Dems, you're going to lose more Republicans and she's not going to be able to make the numbers work.

Ted Simons:
Just in general, the mood down there right now. Start with Democrats. Do they feel like all of a sudden, they're at play?

Dennis Welch:
Yeah definitely because they've been virtually ignored for the entire session. And now they've got a little bit of political capital. Especially since some of the events in which senate President Burns isolated the further right wing of his caucus. They’ve definitely got some more clout there because they have to go to them to get these votes to pass the budget deal.

Ted Simons:
Does it feel like the Democrats are really going to be in play, though?

Matt Benson:
It feels like the capitol is completely empty right now. You could SKEET shooting there right now. There is nobody at the capitol. It's empty. Some staff and press, and that's about it. The Democrats, they're playing this sort of game they've been playing, which is they play the role of, well, no one is talking to us we’re left out and we're this and that. And then put out a press release where they're lambasting the governor for her role. On the one hand, they want bipartisanship on the other hand I don't think they want to give the governor a win on anything going into 2010.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think her best bet is still to get Republican votes I don't think many Dems will come on with her. I'm with Matt. They'll keep asking and asking for stuff and if she gives it to them, she's going to lose too many Republicans to get it passed so I think you’ve gotta sweeten the pot for the right wing.


Dennis Welch:
Where do you get the Republican votes at this point? There's been at least four or five people in the senate who are diabolically opposed to voting a tax increase and there's nothing you can do to get them on board.

Matt Benson:
She has to get a few Democrats. Doesn't mean the majority of the caucus. I know the Democrats have been saying you get any of us, you have to get all of us. I don't buy it. At some point she is going to have to get a few moderate Jack brown style Democrats and if she does, she might have a majority.

Dennis Welch:
And Democrats to their credit have held firm so far toward the end of the regular session, the governor called up a couple -- a couple of Democrats and offered them some concessions in order to get their support for the budget and they stood firm and said no and stuck with their party.

Ted Simons:
We talked about Democrats and how they might be feeling because they're going to wind up back at the capitol. Republicans, you referred to it. Lots of infighting and it sounds like President Burns made a couple of moves.

Dennis Welch:
He got rid of a couple of people on rules committee and replaced the speaker pro tem, which is largely the guy who takes care of the floor action when the senate is doing something else. But these people are part of the leadership team. Pamela Gorman was kicked out of rules and still maintains her leadership role because it's a voted position. This was done because they had actually resisted the governor they voted against his wishes particularly with the tax increase the governor was trying to push. Burns was trying to get that through rules committee and they voted against him and that caused a lot of problems.

Ted Simons:
Ousted there as President pro tem Didn't he campaign against President Burns for the senate presidency?

Matt Benson:
I don't think there's any doubt he wanted the senate presidency. This was the former senate majority leader the prior session. So I think that there was a lot of -- this is more than just about their opposition to the tax referral because, of course, Burns wasn't big on it either. This is more about personal clashes they’ve had with Bob Burns.

Dennis Welch:
This isn’t just about one instance this is the whole session, there's been some infighting between Burns and some of the people in his leadership team. If you remember, back when they were doing the '09 fix, there were problems where Pamela Gorman was trying to sabotage that by getting other Republicans to boycott an appropriations meeting, I mean this goes far back.

Mike Sunnucks:
It hurts the caucus and they’ve done this before. When they take the budget bills or key votes and don't have the votes and take them to the committee or the floor, and did this when Janet was governor also and not have your ducks in a row and lined up- -that really hurts things and puts them in a bad spot going forward in the compromise. Everybody thinks they don't have the votes for things. So once in a while leadership has to do these things and punish the people who do these things publicly. And they really kind of hung the governor out to dry and themselves out to dry by having the deal with the flat tax and sales tax and suddenly it comes to rules and nobody votes for it. It makes it look like amateur hour.

Ted Simons:
When speaker Adams tried to do the same thing earlier in the session there were suggestions that he maybe went too far or he pulled back a little after this, is there talk, among those who are talking, that maybe President Burns went too far?

Matt Benson:
I think he's getting pushback from the conservative areas. The conservative blogs, and that sort of thing if you follow that sort of thing there certainly is a lot of pushback there. You're hearing a lot of talk that Senator Burns he’s a rhino he’s not a true conservative and this and that and it's comical.

Dennis Welch:
It’s silly is what it is, this is a guy who built his entire career in public service a long career as being a very fiscally conservative Republican and now they're questioning him. He replaced Thayor Verschoor with Senator Steve Pierce, who has shown himself to be conservative and has been a staunch opponent to this one cent sales tax increase.

Ted Simons:
What does that say about the Republican party when you have Jan Brewer and Bob Burns being spoken of as too liberal for us?

Mike Sunnucks:
It shows who runs the blogs and who the primary voters are and stems from term limits and clean elections. They're not beholden to the leader or the state party or any machine and they can go and freelance however they want on the key votes. In the old days there were problems with the smoke-filled rooms, but if you screwed people, you wouldn't get anything done. You would not get your bills through and they don't have much to hold over them beside these committee slots.

Ted Simons:
The legislature went to the Supreme Court to ask for a reconsideration of the ruling which was an interesting ruling on the budget, and such. Talk to us about it.

Matt Benson:
This is the lawsuit when Governor Brewer sued the legislature arguing they had violated the constitution by refusing to send the budget proposal that they had passed weeks earlier. The court ultimately ruled towards the end of the session that basically they said we're not going to do what the governor wants, we’re not going to force you to send up the bills immediately but going forward, we believe you need to send bills to the governor upon their final passage. That's the part that the legislature has heartburn about. They're concerned that the court is going to set a stipulation of a number of days for transmittal of bills and asking the court to reconsider their consideration.

Mike Sunnucks:
This is a Bush v. Gore one time only type ruling.
Dennis Welch:
I for one am glad we're going to be spending more state time and resources deciding how long it takes to send a freaking bill up to the governor after you pass it I mean it makes perfect sense to me.

Ted Simons:
We don't have a full explanation from the court on what they meant in the first place.

Matt Benson:
Which is what we’re expecting and frankly that's what the legislature is concerned about. They're worried the court is going to come back and say, after final passage, you have to send up a bill in two days or five days, or whatever the case may be. They want the discretion to hang on to the bill as long as they want.

Ted Simons:
One of the reasons the governor wants bills in a reasonable amount of time, and the court may be looking at this is you might have a situation where there's a couple of hundred bills flying across his or her desk at one time. Like now. We have a lot of bills out there 19 or so signed with 100 and some odd still going.

Matt Benson:
165 coming.

Ted Simons:
165 coming, 19 signed, Anything of note?

Dennis Welch:
Not a whole lot. I think yesterday she signed stuff that had to do with military families. For example, you can get out of your gym contract if, you know, you live here and you're called to active duty or something like that. Stuff that maybe not affect mainstream Arizona but some of those families out there, but by and large, I think more controversial more headline worthy-type bills are going to be coming out on Monday.

Matt Benson:
And these are bills dealing with abortion guns in parking lots, guns in bars.

Dennis Welch:
Guns in everything.

Matt Benson:
You name it, and fireworks. One measure that would legalize small fireworks sales if you're at least 16 years old. So apparently saving the fun for the end.

Mike Sunnucks:
It’ll be next July 4th we get to use our smoke bombs.

Ted Simons:
Good for you. But this means, again, what? -- 10 days to consider over 200 odd bills?

Dennis Welch:
I don't think the founders of the constitution of Arizona had that in mind. It's a lot of paperwork, I’ve talked to people in the governor’s office and they're overwhelmed. That's a lot of paper, a lot of stuff to go through and vet.

Mike Sunnucks:
A lot of these bills are retreads. Abortion, bills - - various restrictions on abortion were things that Janet vetoed numerous times and Jan is pro-life, will likely sign the solar energy incentives out there, that’s been brought up before and the fireworks things kind of floated around before. So they kind of know. There's not going to be too many surprises. Hopefully don't have alt fuels things floating in there that nobody has seen. A lot of these things they've seen before and there shouldn't be too many surprises.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, timetable -- what happens Monday and what are we looking for and where does it go after Monday?

Dennis Welch:
I think it's going to be a slow process. The next two weeks, I think most of the lawmakers will be out of time. I think next weekend The Republicans are going to be out of town for some political conference and the week after that, the Democrats go to a national conference out in Philadelphia. I don't think you're going to see a lot of action. As we talked at the beginning of the show, the big issues lie ahead and this is where its going to take a lot of work.

Ted Simons:
Is there not a de facto deadline, as far as the governor's sales tax referral? You got to do something soon to get it on the ballot, don't you?

Matt Benson:
It takes almost 100 days to ready the ballot for an election. You're coming up on a deadline to get it ready for November, if you want a November special election. There's nothing that says you have to have it in November they could have a special election just as easily in December, January, February; the earlier in the year, the better because the next thing you know, the year is two-thirds over and you lose out on that opportunity to gain revenue. But the next deadline in terms of a budget deal is October 1. And if they haven't made a deal by October 1, the 200 some million in cuts they made for K12 the cuts go away so you can bet the legislature does not want those cuts to go away.

Mike Sunnucks:
There was some hope earlier that they could work something out within the next month. I don't know how likely that is with the people on vacations and where are you going to get the votes and what kind of carrots are you going to throw out there for people and I still don’t think they’ve figured that out.

Dennis Welch:
Maybe talked about this on the show before, the four-corner offense. You stall and wait as long as you can and by de facto, you kill it that way. The governor's got maybe her time to get this done too.

Mike Sunnucks:
And you haven't seen much public pressure from the business community, the university presidents and the schools and all of the folks who supported the governors, you haven’t seen much of that. We talked about the Chuck COFFMAN campaign and that really never happened so you haven’t seen this type of roll out and pressure these people publicly very much.

Ted Simons:
We have seen Sheriff Joe Arpaio come out and now he's saying he's not going to cooperate with the Fed’s Department of Justice investigation.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, the Obama administration the Justice Department, the FBI have been in town interviewing people in the sheriff's office about whether Joe's immigration sweeps and crime raids profile Hispanics unfairly. And for a while, Joe was cooperating and let folks come in and interview and now he's pulled out the rug and said we're not going to allow that. And this comes along with today, that Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, announced they're tweaking a program where local police are trained and have agreement with the Fed’s to pick up illegal aliens and process them and arrest them on various crimes it looks to take the focus away from the crime sweeps that Joe does and put it on serious criminals and they need to resign agreements with all of the police departments across the country, including the sheriff's office. It could be that they are looking to nix these type of raids but Joe said he's going to do it under the state laws on smuggling and employer sanctions. So he's not going to let up.

Dennis Welch:
This plays well for Arpaio I think politically and they're going to love the fact that Joe Arpaio is standing up to the feds at the same time that they're trying to get in his way to enforce illegal immigration laws. This is good P.R. for the sheriff.

Mike Sunnucks:
Joe said today this is amnesty. If you're only going to arrest folks in the country for serious crimes, what are you going to do with the ones you pick up for minor crimes or you run across and they're undocumented? Let them go? Joe is very good at this game and he knows the bulk of people want a tougher tack of immigration and it's going to be a perilous track for the administration and Janet on this not to look like you are just going to let illegals go.

Ted Simons:
And yet critics point out that the sheriff has open-ended investigations of a number of folks who could be construed as political enemies of his and for him to come out and say that the D.O.J. investigation is politically motivated and unfair would be hypocritical- that’s what his critics are saying

Mike Sunnucks:
Well you’ve got Dowling, you’ve got Mary Rose Wilcox you've got Stapley and other folks out there -- Goddard -- that Joe has gone after and I think they can make that argument. People can decide whether Joe's investigations are politically motivated and fair and whether the fed's are politically motivated.

Dennis Welch:
Joe's been here for eons. People have their mind up on Joe already. If they’re a supported of him this stuff today is just another example of the Fed’s trying to mess with him. This is another great thing that Joe is doing, standing up to them. I don't think an argument whether he's being hypocritical or not is going to sway people's opinion one way or the other.

Mike Sunnucks:
Mike Sunnucks:
But the move by the feds kind of fits into- - they're rolling out a comprehensive immigration reform that includes legal path for the undocumented folks who are here. And that will appeal to the Hispanics in the state and nationally and turn off the anti-amnesty crowd the Lou Dobbs crowd that likes Joe’s policies, like I’ve said people have lined up on this and it’ll be interesting because Joe's very smart media wise, smart P.R. wise and you can play up -- here, I'm going to still arrest these folks, they’re breaking the law, and here's the feds and they want to let them go

Matt Benson:
Regardless of how PR savvy he is I would question how effective he can be in continuing to do these sweeps. He's been doing this with the authority of the 287G Federal program. And if they change it to the point where he can't use it, how can he continue to do these sweeps and after the water parks and some of these other folks?

Mike Sunnucks:
He says he can do it under the human smuggling law. He says, I'll arrest anybody breaking the law. They're going to go out and it happens to be where there's a lot of illegals.

Matt Benson:
But his manpower, they're making these arrests, using federal authority to enforce immigration law under 287G. If they remove that authority

Mike Sunnucks:
Joe’s argument is if you're doing something to break the law, he's going to arrest you he doesn’t care what your status is.

Dennis Welch:
One way or the another, he's going to find a way

Mike Sunnucks:
And a wild card in this is If the agreements call for the local police to process these folks. So he's got all of these folks down at the county jail and they get shipped off to I.C.E. at some point, if you get rid of that agreement Joe says the feds can have them and see how it works out.

Ted Simons:
Very quickly give me an answer, no explanation- winners, losers, legislature. Governor, legislature, who won with the special session?

Matt Benson:
Well, you're going to hate this but I think the game is still going, I don’t think we can pick a winner or loser.

Ted Simons:
Who's leading?

Matt Benson:
I think the governor is in the lead.

Ted Simons:
Ok, that's good enough. Who's leading the game?

Dennis Welch:
Just to be contrary I'm going to say that the legislature is in the lead.

Ted Simons:
Ok.

Mike Sunnucks:
I'd say the legislature because she can't seem to get the votes for the sales tax increase.

Ted Simons:
You just couldn’t do it could you, you had to give me an explaination.

Mike Sunnucks:
I’m sorry I’m difficult Ted, that’s just how I was raised.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizon." Next week, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard joins us to discuss the latest news from the A.G.'s office, including details of a big case to be unveiled Monday. Again, that's Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday, Kevin McCarthy, director of the Arizona Tax Research Association, offers his perspective on revenue options available to lawmakers as they look for ways to balance the budget. Wednesday we look at how proposed healthcare reform will affect kids. Thursday, former state land commissioner Mark Winkleman talks about his oversight of the department during an historic time for sales of state trust land. And Friday we're 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 weekend.

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