Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 7, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary K. Reinhart - The Arizona Guardian
  • Casey Newton - The Arizona Republic
  • Dan Nowicki - The Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary K. Reinhart of the "The Arizona Guardian," Casey Newton of "The Arizona Republic," and Dan Nowicki of "The Arizona Republic." The budget battle goes on. Mary K., did anything happen today of note? It seems like the days go tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow -- keeps creeping.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow --

Ted Simons:
Yeah.

Mary K. Reinhart:
The sun will come out and all of that good stuff. A little thing happened today. A little ray of hope, perhaps. When senate president Bob Burns introduced two bills for potential action in the senate appropriations committee on Monday. Monday is going to be a key day to find out if indeed they can come up with one final deal, that being dividing what is now one big tax bill into two. Separating them so that the increases are in one bill and the cuts, the temporary one cent is in another. That's intended to hopefully draw the 16th vote of senator Carolyn Allen and the question becomes how many votes does it lose over in the house. There's some thinking, and house speaker Kirk Adams says he's not sure it's going to fly over there. We'll see.

Ted Simons:
So we're clear. Splitting -- for one side, you've got the sales tax increase in an attempt to woo Carolyn Allen.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Correct.

Ted Simons:
And the other side, an attempt to woo senator Gorman.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Senator Gorman is the one that seems most likely to be wooed if at all. On Tuesday, she resigned her majority whip position over this. She won't have to vote for one bill that includes both. One is a sure thing and one is a maybe.

Casey Newton:
As Mary K. points out, this creates uncertainty in the house. When this bill was won over in the house, you had 32 lawmakers voted for it but they didn't have the option of voting for the tax cut package and not referring the sales tax to the ballot. So if you come back at them a second time, they may not want to vote for both bills.

Ted Simons:
The holdouts so far in the senate -- Gorman, Gould and Allen, correct?

Casey Newton:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Gould is simply not a player at all? It sounds like someone is pitching -- I'm not hearing Gould's name.

Casey Newton:
There's no hope that he'll vote for a temporary vote.

Ted Simons:
Basically he's taking himself out of this?

Casey Newton:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
What's going on down there as far as the mood and atmosphere?

Mary K. Reinhart:
People are on vacation for the most part. I think 19 members came to the house today.

Dan Nowicki:
A lot of these key players aren’t even in the state.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Most people can watch the show and know that the senate majority leader is coming home from a week-long Caribbean cruise. Jim Waring is on the east coast. Everybody is trying to get a little bit of vacation in. Kids go back to school for a lot of us on Monday and clearly they didn't expect to be in this situation in August.

Casey Newton:
I'll tell you where the frustration is. With the counties that are getting ready to put on an election on November 3rd. You need at least 90 days before an election so you can get the arguments pro and con into the publicity pamphlet. We most recently heard that Monday was going to be the drop dead deadline and now if a vote happens it's not going to happen until Tuesday at the earliest so you have a lot of people scratching their heads saying, when can we translate this into the multiple languages we need it?

Ted Simons:
So Monday was a drop dead -- critically ill day. [Laughter] What happens if nothing is done on either Monday or Tuesday?

Mary K. Reinhart:
That's the drop dead date for a November 3rd election and that's the preferred date. The first Tuesday in November is when we typically go to the polls. They've been saying, the governor's office and others say we could push it out farther. Once you get close to Thanksgiving, I'm not sure that's ok for folks. But I think the thinking is that they can have an election a little bit later than the 3rd if they absolutely have to.

Casey Newton:
You start running into other deadlines. August 17th is the deadline for the state to tell the county recorders to go ahead with the state equalization property tax repeal. If that's not resolved by then, lawmakers could lose their chances to repeal the tax.

Mary K. Reinhart:
It's where we're in uncharted waters. What happens if the tax bills go out? I think it's a week from Monday, the deadline for that. And right now as it sits they don't have to pay that. If the legislature comes back and says they don't have to pay it, is there some way to refund? Its uncharted waters.

Ted Simons:
And indeed, perhaps another method to get Senator Allen on board and get that 16th vote. The idea of perhaps a clause in which the tax cuts don't go into effect should voters not approve the sales tax increase. Is that a play?

Mary K. Reinhart:
Conditional enactment clause is what it's called. I think it's not. It would be nice for some if that were in the bill. But what you then have, of course, is again the definite income tax cuts and the maybe of the sales tax referral.

Ted Simons:
And I want to get to the Kyl and McCain story. Regarding the fallout, you mentioned Gorman out and Pierce in as whip. What does that do to the dynamic?

Casey Newton:
What it may do is give President Burns an ally. I don't know that he had a real ally in senator Gorman. At least in scaring up votes. It seemed like they were butting heads for most of the session. Senator pierce seems more comfortable with that plan that the legislative leadership has put together.

Ted Simons:
We had a whip change. Sounds like some aren't happy that the majority leader is off in the Caribbean. Serious talk about moving him out?

Mary K. Reinhart:
I think behind closed doors on Tuesday when they named Steve pierce as the acting whip -- Steve Pierce, there was a lot of grumbling and a lot was discussed but I don't think it's going to go anyway.

Ted Simons:
The grousing and the grumbling, how much tension in the GOP caucus?

Mary K. Reinhart:
It is sort of where all the action is and at the same time, you have a Republican governor who at least on paper, you should think this is a match made in heaven. She's standing back going, well, what do you want me to do? I've tried everything I can try. Meanwhile, they're not showing their best face forward because here we are in early August without a budget.

Ted Simons:
And with that in mind, there seems to be growing interest in a challenge to Governor Brewer in the GOP primary. We're hearing Dean Martin's name and starting to hear more about Ken Bennett. Is that becoming more of a possibility? Dan, you can talk about this as well. The concept of someone challenging the incumbent should they decide to run again or run period.

Dan Nowicki:
There's question whether the governor is going to even try to run again.

Casey Newton:
I think she's encouraged that. She's been asked multiple times, are you going to run and she says I've not have time to focus on that, been focused on the budget. So I think that politicians who may be considering running for governor may smell a little bit of weakness and encouraged them to think about how they would put together a statewide run.

Dan Nowicki:
When she took over for Symington in the late 'the '90s and seemed to be in retrospect in a stronger position than the current governor is.

Casey Newton:
I think the reason there's so much speculation is that Governor Brewer by endorsing a temporary sales tax increase has given an opening to any conservative Republican who doesn't support it. That person can run and say I'm just as conservative but I won't raise your taxes. All of a sudden, you've got a real primary.

Ted Simons:
Let's get to senator Kyl and McCain opposing the Sotomayor confirmation.

Dan Nowicki:
There was some speculation early on with -- would McCain return to his maverick ways. Obviously, Arizona has a large Latino community and McCain has been very much a friend to them. Reached out to them and was on the campaign trail with them during the prior primaries in '07 and '08 and took many, many arrows from Republicans across the country for defending immigration reform. There's some question that maybe McCain would be a guy who would stand up and vote for her. Ultimately, he didn't. The situation is a little bit different. I think McCain is probably more worried about a primary challenge next year than a general election challenge.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask. How worried is he of a primary challenge?

Dan Nowicki:
Chris Wilcox, the minuteman founder, and probably -- McCain is not taking any chances, he's got his office opened up at 16th Street and Highland, I guess, and got a new campaign office. He's running and raising money and definitely not taking anything for granted.

Ted Simons:
He mentioned, he called her a, quote, immensely qualified candidate, but expressed concern regarding judicial activism. Is the kind of vote that the minute the name was mentioned, it was pretty much a no.

Dan Nowicki:
That's another big question. Clearly Republicans, McCain and Kyl included -- concluded that this threat of a Latino backlash wasn't worth voting for her. They'd rather vote against her. But I think, you know, especially in the case of Jon Kyl, this is a guy who spent his career in the federal courts, argued three cases before the Supreme Court. Takes it seriously and you can see him actually -- you know, he reads -- some of these senators don't read anything. They get something prepared before they sit down at the committee. Kyl is a guy who takes everything home and reads it. And certainly Kyl in this case probably has legitimate concerns about her judicial philosophy.

Ted Simons:
He was worried about foreign law applied to the U.S.?

Dan Nowicki:
That was one of the things he quizzed her on during the committee hearing. Some other issues. The wise Latina, obviously, empathy, and if the Republicans claim any victory, kind of blew apart the whole concept of judicial empathy, which President Obama mentioned when he was looking for justice Souter's replacement. He said that it's an essential ingredient. The Democrats said, no, no, no, we don't want that.

Ted Simons:
Moving from that to the cash for clunkers program. Senator Kyl came out and said he's not happy with it. He wanted to get more accountability. Tried to get an amendment through. Didn't make it. How does this play into the Republican idea of the stimulus plan, any stimulus plan coming from the Obama administration not being right?

Dan Nowicki:
This was a program that seemed to stimulate something out in the market. Got people rushing to the car dealers. There's a lot of criticism of it. For one thing, some said should be -- should we be subsidizing new car dealers at the expense of used car dealers? Seemed to have struck a chord with buyers. Kyl's objection was there was some question how the money was tracked and wanted to suspend the funds for cash for clunkers until they put in a series of measures to better track the money and do other accountability things.

Ted Simons:
Was it the program or the -- that he was opposed to or the department of transportation?

Dan Nowicki:
He criticized it for being a rush job, passed as an emergency measure and said in haste, that it probably wasn't implemented properly.

Ted Simons:
The cash for clunkers program seems to be going great guns. Philosophically, we'll find out if it's a sugar high and then we crash. But right now, cities and states, getting buckage out of this?

Casey Newton:
It seemed I was driving by 10 dealerships saying: Cash for clunkers! And they're -- I'm pretty sure the cities and towns at least are happy there'll be more money for the clunkers.

Ted Simons:
Same thing you're seeing. Has to help the coffers.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Clearly. Cities and towns are in the same place as everywhere else. To have an infusion, as Casey points out, is huge for them.

Ted Simons:
Talk more about the relationship right now between the state and cities and towns. There's been pushing and shoving and a little bit of fighting and bite regarding taking money and put it over there. How is that dynamic working?

Mary K. Reinhart:
Cities and towns, I have to look at the latest version that came through. We've been myopic on this. I think this budget deal, they came out ok last week. The 10-bill package that passed the house and the senate appropriations committee, I think is -- is there anymore BLT hits?

Casey Newton:
It seems every few days there's a new amendment. I think the concern, if in the final bill the state attempts to take the vehicle license money. Cities are confident they can sue and win, that the legislature will not have had the authority to seize that money. If that's the case, all of a sudden there's another $40 million hole that the legislature has to fill and this sort of gets to the larger concern about the budget, in some cases the legislature is trying to balance the budget with money that's not there.

Ted Simons:
The Democrats -- obviously, they're waiting to see who is going to pitch woo to them. Will they have anyone come knock on their door?

Casey Newton:
I don't think so. The Democrats have been waiting for eight months for someone to come. And every couple of weeks, we go to a press conference or David Lujan says we're over here, we're ready and they've been marched up to the governor's office and had terribly unproductive discussions and I think the odds of the Democrats getting a real crack are slim, unless there's a complete collapse on Tuesday. And we don't rule that out.

Mary K. Reinhart:
We can't rule out a complete collapse the way things are going and I think Monday or Tuesday we'll know. If the last-ditch effort doesn't work, the new majority whip is talking about being more inclusive and having Democrats at the table. But the Democrats are saying, ok. But when you come back, we're going to start with our budget and the democratic budget, speaking of cities and towns, it does the broadening of the sales tax base so taxing the barber and so on and it's going to hang on to what cities and towns might have come out of the deal. I think $1.7 billion with a B to balance the budget. That's not a deal the cities and towns are going to be happy about.

Ted Simons:
And the democrat, relative high profile, the president for the third time visiting Arizona.

Dan Nowicki:
For the third time since taking office this year. Clearly, the white house, seems Arizona is a significant state in the president's 2012 re-election strategy.

Ted Simons:
Going to the Grand Canyon and taking the whole family out there. A national parks tour.

Dan Nowicki:
A western swing of several scenic areas. Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. The White House hasn't released many details but at least partly raise awareness of the national parks and the issues.

Ted Simons:
And we have. VFW national convention in town as well.

Dan Nowicki:
And the White House wouldn't confirm the president will appear. But there's speculators among organizers of the event. It's going to be a fairly safe bet.

Ted Simons:
On a national level, is Arizona increasingly looking like a state at play?

Dan Nowicki:
I think so. I know explicitly that the Obama strategy think they can flip the state. Missouri and Arizona are the two states they're targeting to flip that McCain won. The way they see it, McCain beat them because of his home state advantage but they won New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado. They don't see Arizona that much different. And in Missouri, McCain won by a fingernail and so they think they can win Missouri as well.

Ted Simons:
Quickly, does that mind set permeate the state capitol at all or just a whole different orbit as far as they're concerned?

Casey Newton:
Typically, the floor speeches that begin each session involve much condemnation of President Obama, at least from the Republican side. If he picks the state up in 2012, there might be surprised Republicans at the state house.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us. "Horizon" will be preempted on Monday and Tuesday for special programming, but we're back on Wednesday with the director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts to talk about how the economic crisis is impacting arts and entertainment. Thursday, we'll hear what Arizona Congressman Trent Franks has to say about healthcare reform and other issues. Also Thursday, a debate on a plan for allowing casino games at dog and horse tracks. The racing industry says "racinos" can help solve the state's budget problems. 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 weekend.

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