Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 13, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Donít miss HORIZONís weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the weekís top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday, January 13, 2006 and the headlines this week governor Janet Napolitano delivered her annual state-of-the-state address on Monday laying out her agenda for the opening year. During the first week of the new legislative session, pushing for tax rate cuts. And the new announcement or who will run for tom delay's post. Next on Horizon.
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. This is the journalist round table. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mike Sunnucks of the business journal. Howie Fischer of capitol media services and Richard Ruelas joins us from the "Arizona Republic." the ongoing lobbyist scandal in Washington, D.C. involving Jake Abramoff has many ties to the Arizona congressional delegation. Today John Shadegg announced he's going to run for majority lead of. Why?

Mike Sunnucks:
He says he want to take the republicans back to the newt Gingrich contract for America that swept them in 1994. He's got several for from the delegates on board. He's seen as an underdog candidate. Jeff Blunt from Arkansas is in there, and John Bomer is in there. Shadegg is going to appeal to the conservative base of the house. He's stepping down as policy chairman for that house which sets the agenda. I think it's number 5 on the house leadership.

Michael Grant:
In fact, Kyle occupies the similar spot in the senate.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think he's going to try to tap into some of the discontent within the conservative base of the party with deficits and spending and some of these scandals.

Richard Ruelas:
He's kind of a blank slate outside of Arizona and maybe possibly in Arizona. Some people don't know the name. If they're looking for fresh face and fresh blood.

Mike Sunnucks:
They say he's low key. He is low key. He's been active on homeland security issues and some policy issues but certainly not out in the forefront.

Howard Fischer:
One of the problems becomes he's making the assumptions that in fact the party, the republicans really want this newt gingrich kind of base. We're all Reagan republicans and Goldwater republicans, although they're two different things. But that's never bored them. When you ask them why they want to lead the party, do they really want to get rid of earmarks? Each of these people send out press releases, we all get them. 3, 4, times a week. I got this money for this bridge, this money for this road, this money for this round about. They love that kind of stuff. They all talk big. But when it comes to voting in close session for majority leader, that's going to be the downfall.

Richard Ruelas:
They wouldn't make Jeff Flake a candidate.

Mike Sunnucks:
He doesn't bring any pork back. He voted against the Medicare bill. I don't know if he would bring a lot of clout or pork home to the state. I don't know that Shadegg would be into it. They don't have anybody settled. There's no appointed candidate.

Michael Grant:
It is interesting, though. Jeff Flake was one of the earliest to say, this tom delay being a majority leader while indicted is not a good plan of attack.

Richard Ruelas:
He began the Goldwater institute here and didn't speak directly to tom delay but rallied support among his fellow represents to say, maybe it's time for you to step down.

Howard Fischer:
Flake never minds being the outsider. Here's a guy, in the Republican Party, it has catered to the Cubano community for many years. Here's a guy who wants to reopen ties with Cuba and sees no problem with it. Wants to abolish the department of education.

Michael Grant:
For the guest worker program. That's not part of the package you're ignoring a large part of the issue.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly.

Richard Ruelas:
Disagree with his politics but he seems to be having principles.

Michael Grant:
Washington times running a story about 5 central figures involved with Jack Abramoff and one of them in Arizona?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. They ran a story early this week that listed 5 federal lawmakers including J.D. Hayworth and Harry Reid, the Democratic senator from Nevada being one of the first targets. There's been some dispute on if that story's accurate. But J.D. is very much caught up in this. He's one of the top recipients of Abramoff related money. He gets it directly from the lobbyist himself or some of the tribes. He seems to be the focus of the democrats.

Howard Fischer:
He's letting it bleed by saying I'm not going to give it back. I'll give back the direct money but money from the tribes I'll keep. You don't do this bit by bit. Every time you make a little shift you get another headline. John McCain understood that. You go up, you do a mea kulpa and stand there for the press and make it the end of the story. J.D. never did that.

Mike Sunnucks:
J.D. and Reid and others insist they have they've worked on the tribal issues for years. But it looks tainted.

Michael Grant:
Well, speaking of Harry Reid, he's in town talking about ethics at the same time the Washington times story runs.

Howard Fischer:
This is great. Jim Peterson has decided one of his issues is going to be ethics issues. Who does he bring into town but Harry Reid? Harry says this is a Republican scandal. Wait a second, Harry. You took some money. Did you ever look at what Peterson is saying, every time you met with a lobbyist you need disclose that? Probably not. If this is supposed to help Peterson I'm not sure it did.

Michael Grant:
Did it help him monetarily, though?

Howard Fischer:
Every time you bring in these Washington people you bring in money. Obviously he's not the draw of a president like Kyle had but certainly you bring in money. But if you were trying to generate news, his campaign was busy calling us, come out, meet Harry Reid. I think the story he got in many of our papers was not the story he wanted how he and Harry Reid are going to work again special interests but how Harry Reid is maybe a little two faced on this.

Mike Sunnucks:
He didn't answer the questions very well. Very defensively. I think two-thirds of the money went to the G.O.P.

Howard Fischer:
two-thirds of the people in power are in the G.O.P.

Mike Sunnucks:
Abramoffs ties were to these power brokers. Abramoff's secretary went to the white house after she worked for him. Went to work for Karl Rove. She has the honor of appearing before both grand juries. It's more geared towards republicans. That's because they're in the majority. But you get the money you take the consequences.

Michael Grant:
Jim Peterson announcing some shifts at the top of his campaign personnel.

Mike Sunnucks:
He brought in two Arizona savvy veterans to head up his campaign. He's gotten some heat for bringing in too many folks from Washington, D.C. He's got Joe Yuhass, a deputy director of commerce, ran the gaming -- restaurant association. And he's got Mario Diaz, kind of a reputation for playing hardball.

Richard Ruelas:
I wonder if Jim probably has figured this out. But if he's going to have to answer questions about what he thought of pious peak.

Michael Grant:
Fill in those blocks a little bit more, Richard.

Richard Ruelas:
Mario Diaz supposedly made some phone calls to try to get a very obscure city parks commission that renames things?

Mike Sunnucks:
He was a member of the state naming board.

Richard Ruelas:
Who had ties to the city of phoenix police. So he might have provided some muscle. He left Janet's employ after that after she was seen as sort of strong-arming the name change.

Mike Sunnucks:
Then Mario worked on Kerry's primary campaign. He had some issues there with they brought up Lieberman's Jewish religion during that campaign. Mario is a very savvy, smart guy.

Michael Grant:
Local legislative goings-on? We'll get to the state-of-the-state and this week's stuff in just a minute. But the David Burnell Smith case was argued before the Arizona court of appeals this week.

Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things, one of the lawyers feeling faint. Obviously that wasn't part of the script there. There wasn't any surprise in terms of the arguments. David Burnell Smith arguing about the law and what he had done and his immunity as to whether he's immune from service during the legislative session. Of course the a. G. Saying, wait a second. You didn't appeal it therefore you're not a legislator therefore no immunity. The court has promised a decision next week. A five-day stay after that. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court concludes, court of appeals did a good job. You're out of there. Or whether they'll take it up. Which will determine whether Burnell smith is ejected.

Richard Ruelas:
I happened to be on the floor next to him right after they had the first sort of preliminary session before the governor came in. He was very proud of the fact he hit that green button and a light turned on that counted him present. He said, look. This button means I'm a lawmaker. And he felt very at home. Everyone sort of welcomed him back he said at least from his own party.

Michael Grant:
Muskett is really jazzed about his Christmas tree. This Jack Harper thing, the ethics committee -- the investigator who was checking out the voting machines reported back, yeah, there's something curious going on there. Why don't you pick it up from there?

Howard Fischer:
Well, this started out with Jack Harper investigating the district 20 republican primary. What happened is it was close enough for recount between McCormish and Anton Orlich. They fed the same bats between both machines. 480 some votes show up. Changed the vote.

Michael Grant:
Very dramatically. It was a marked turn around.

Howard Fischer:
A marked turn around. So of course the Jack Harper, the conspiracy theorist that he's convinced that somebody must have screwed with the machinery. He couldn't get the senate leadership to fund an outside investigator. They hired somebody pretty well known in computer technology and voting machines. What happened is, in order to get access to the voting machines you had to have a subpoena. Jack Harper issues a subpoena so the new times expert can have access to the voting machines. What senator Brotherton said is very simply, you're issuing a subpoena for a private party. He's filed a complaint. That goes before the ethics committee Monday.

Michael Grant:
Richard, if nothing else, though, it does raise some questions about the voting machines. Now, I guess we should note here that a lot of the innards of these things have now been changed.

Richard Ruelas:
It's sort of academic. Now I guess the technology has caught up with the way people vote. Early voting really took off. And where as before you would go and there would be a pen provided there for you and you would mark it and the machine could read that mark. Now people started using sharpies or glitter pens or somehow polish, whatever they had around.

Michael Grant:
Add their kitchen table.

Richard Ruelas:
Yeah. And these machines are not designed to read all those marks. Now, what that does mean is that if you did vote early, it's kind of a crapshoot whether or not your ballot got read depending on what you used. And if you used a round stick like a Bic pen and just made one skinny mark between the two arrows it might not have gotten counted.

Michael Grant:
I know two things I'm taking to the ballot box. My drivers' license and a glitter pen. Arizona legislature opened its new session on Monday. Governor Janet Napolitano kicking things off by delivering her annual state-of-the-state address. Howie, why was she late?

Howard Fischer:
Well, She was convinced somebody was going to come get her. This is one of those funny things that happens when you start off a session and given that the governor's office and the legislative offices haven't been talking she was waiting up in her office. They presumed she was coming. So until they finally figured it out it ended up being about 10 or 15 minutes. Let me tell you. I was doing a live radio broadcast of the speech waiting on this. If you've got to spend 15 minutes.

Richard Ruelas:
You have to kill time.

Howard Fischer:
Talking. It's amazing that all these little details about the history of state-of-the-state that you can come up with to fill a lot of dead air.

Richard Ruelas:
Could we check an air check of that for future Horizon broadcasts?

Howard Fischer:
She got there, gave quite frankly a night republican speech.

Michael Grant:
You know, there were all smiley faces afterwards because it was a very republican speech. But I think if you take a look at it in terms of not a state 2006 gubernatorial campaign, I would say she did very well in sounding a lot of themes that she should have sounded.

Richard Ruelas:
The big one was immigration. It was the one soft spot she had. And she sounded tough. Now, at the speech when she says, let's put troops on the border, National Guard on the border, that sounds great. I think you look a few days later what she actually proposed which is if Donald Rumsfeld sends me the money I will send some troops down to the border to help out with what they're will already doing and maybe drive a few around in orange cars.

Mike Sunnucks:
When Rumsfeld or the Bush administration says no, she'll say, look, it's the republicans.

Richard Ruelas: She can say, we're going to get tough on employers. But what she's saying in the details is, if the employers are somehow found guilty of violating this toothless federal law then we'll go after them. It's stuff that sounds great and does give her some cover on saying it. The way it's enacted might not be to so tough.

Mike Sunnucks:
If you're going out and illegally hiring undocumented folks, you're not playing by the rules, probably not paying them what they deserve, not giving them insurance. The voters are for that. She knows that. That takes away a key issue. It may annoy some of the business leaders but it's good politically for her. If she wants to run for U.S. Senate down the road, if a democrat wins the next presidential race to be attorney general, this shows her to be kind of a tough Mark Warner democrat.

Howard Fischer:
Except for the fact there's nothing there. This whole thing with the guard, and she says, well, I've always supported the guard on the border. It's only the federal funding issue. She has been all over the board on this. She recently said last year, we have 147 troops on the border in support. The guard is already stretched thin, guard troops in Afghanistan, guard troops in Iraq. So the question came up, well, what changed? Well, we can get federal money. That doesn't answer the underlying question there. I'm in agreement with Richard. I think this was a lot of sound and fury in many ways signifying nothing.

Richard Ruelas:
But the problem; you pay attention. I think the republicans have shown you can get a lot of mileage by saying things and enacting bills that really don't do anything. Prop 200 got a lot of political mileage with no actual consequences. Not suddenly illegal immigrants have gone home.

Mike Sunnucks:
At the federal level they haven't gotten anything done. Probably nothing done next year. The only thing they can pass is tougher enforcement and employer sanctions.

Richard Ruelas:
Bill Brotherton I think is going to do this, enact a bill that would force Arizona businesses and maybe at least those who do business with the state of Arizona to verify that their employee social security numbers match up with what they have in Washington.

Michael Grant:
Richard, as I understand, it the tool does exist for employers to do that. It's just it's not mandated that they use it.

Richard Ruelas:
It's almost too good to be true. It's essentially a website. You would type in the social security number and the name that goes with it and the computer will tell you in a second or two whether those match up. And it's very simple. It would cost nothing. The government would have to make some more bandwidth to handle the employers. But if he introduces that, and I hope he tacks it on as a rider to every one of these immigration bills, if he does you're going to see the chamber of commerce come out of the woodwork to make sure this doesn't pass because they don't want to know.

Howard Fischer:
Let me tell you the other piece of it. Even more stringent sanctions in the Russell Pierce bill say, if you are fired before an illegal is fired you can go to court and get your job back and tripping the wages. Here's the situation. You fire an employee because they're a screw up. They go into court and say, Jose over there is illegal. The employer has to hire back the screw up and pay him extra money. There's just so much in there.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think you'll see the governor vetoes more of those extreme measures. I think she's going to try to draw a hard line but not go too extreme.

Howard Fischer:
I don't know. I think that everyone is watching her and just like the three of us will be looking at her, we're been talking on this show for months. They're going to send her bills. Janet, you made a lot of noise in your state-of-the-state speech. You really get it now. Are you going to veto more immigration bills this year?

Mike Sunnucks:
I think last year she signed the bill where judges can take into account somebody's immigration status for bail. That was kind of a tough measure. She vetoed some of the English language --

Richard Ruelas:
I think she would still have cover in reso towing some of the ridiculous bill like make trespassing a state crime or deputize the police. Which they don't want. I think more so the republican legislators would have to explain why they are not supporting employer sanction bills.

Mike Sunnucks:
Brotherton has already tied it to the tuition tax credit in committee or tried to. I could see the democrats pushing that on every avenue.

Michael Grant:
Mike, speaking of tax, taxes also played in the state-of-the-state and very heavily here. Have we seen a start of the abiding war? The governor came in at 100 million. The speaker and the senate president last week had suggested 250 million and then we got the plan just yesterday for 440 million.

Mike Sunnucks:
That's an across the board income tax cut pushed by Knaperek and the free enterprise club. There's going to be a lot of proposals out there. You'll probably see a mix. The governor's small business tax credit to help small business of healthcare benefits to their employees, I think that could have some legs.

Michael Grant:
What about just the across the board corporate income tax cut as a perceived popular election year issue?

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's going to be a mixed reaction. The governor doesn't seem to like it. She's kind of pooh-poohed the timing on it cuts of several years ago and said that kind of put us in the financial shape in. She's kind of pledged this targeted, fiscally disciplined tax poll policy.

Richard Ruelas:
The republican poll showed about two-thirds don't want the tax cut? They would rather have it go somewhere else?

Howard Fischer:
They say that. Nothing gets polling, but I think when it comes down to I voted for a tax cut with people running for the legislature, there's going to be probably close to 250 million in tax cuts. That's above and beyond the 500 million they can use to fix the old gimmicks, the one-time things they can do. The question is as Mike says there's going to be the mix. There will be some property tax relief. Whether it's this truth in taxation which changes the method there or across the board property tax cuts or whether there's going to be some income tax cuts. I think the one non-starter in there is the governor's vehicle license tax tied to whether you've got a more fuel-efficient car. Because there are a lot of constituencies in there who say, wait, if I have a big family I need a big car I pay more for vehicle license tax?

Mike Sunnucks:
You may see some car tax relief people don't like those taxes. It may not be what the governor originally offered.

Michael Grant:
Did we get a firm number on what the surplus is this week?

Howard Fischer:
As of last bidding it was just a hair above 850, but when Laura Knaperek talked about the tax cuts she assumed we may be closer to $1 billion. We keep waiting for the bubble to burst.

Michael Grant:
Running 18 to 20\% above last year?

Howard Fischer:
Yes. That was even above the year before. At some point we know it's going to burst. We know some of this is one time money, capital gains, construction. But as long as construction stays heavy and as long as the market is up, it hit another record this last week and people take the capital gains this could keep inflating.

Michael Grant:
Speaking of sending things old things back up to the 9th floor, there were a series of those. Legislature moving quite promptly. I guess chief among them, most prominent among them the tuition tax credit the bill the governor had vetoed. Legislature said, hey, you welched on the budget deal last session. This time they put in the hard five-year sunset issue the governor wanted.

Mike Sunnucks:
She's still skeptical toward it. She let the door open a little bit that she would sign it if they sent a Flores deal to her on language funding for the schools. This is key to the tax debate. If they can send her some tax debates early and force her hand separate from other issues that puts pressure on her. I don't think they can do that.

Howard Fischer:
It goes beyond that. She has covered a veto that she can say, I'm not signing a tax cut package until I see the entire budget. Then that becomes the issue. Then it becomes part of the negotiations like at the end of last session.

Michael Grant:
That's a long headline, though.

Richard Ruelas:
The short headline is, of course, the tax credits, in my opinion, which I get to state, are a scam. They help essentially middle class to rich kids who are pretty much already going there. To help poor kids go to private schools has not helped very many. Even though this one is tied to income in a bay. These are not very mobile students.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think they're overplaying this as a big issue. Maybe the catholic schools who have favored this in the past may take a negative view towards the governor because of this. But I think your average voter doesn't really care.

Richard Ruelas:
The catholic schools were actually suffering; they were saying the donations are down because they actually distribute the tuition scholarships based on need. But now under some of these new organizations you can actually target it to a student. People are actually targeting it to a student who might not need it so much as to a poor kid in Phoenix.

Michael Grant:
Panelists, we're out of time. Thanks very much. If you'd like to see a transcript of this program, please visit the website at azpbs.org. Click on the link transcripts. That's going to lead you to this and upcoming shows.

Announcer:
The city of Mesa has seen great improvements in the downtime but there may be a new property tax. Civil rights activist Lincoln Ragsdale and new research for macular degeneration. All new Monday on channel 8's Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday an update on light rail construction in the valley. Wednesday the governor will be on Horizon to talk about the legislative session and the budget. Thursday we'll tell you about new rules that could double your minimum credit card payments. All of that next week on Horizon. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday edition. Hope you have a great weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night. [Music]

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