Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 1, 2007


Host: Jose Cardenas

Arizona Capitol Times


  • The Arizona Capitol Times, which covers the state capitol, is celebrating it's 100th anniversary. Learn more about the founding of the paper.
Guests:
  • Eileen Willett - Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge
  • Bill Brunson - IRS
  • Dan Zemke - Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue


View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, night court has started in Maricopa County. Find out more. The company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times is celebrating its 100th year in business. And it's tax time. Learn the latest on tax laws and tax filings. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening. Welcome to Horizon. I'm Jose Cardenas. Ever wish you could take care of court business off hours? Your wish has been granted. Beginning this week Maricopa County Superior Court is holding proceedings during evening and weekend hours in the family and juvenile court divisions. At the request of litigants, family court hearings can be scheduled on nights and Saturdays. Here with details and more about the new night and weekend court hours is Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge Eileen Willett. Judge, welcome to Horizon.

Eileen Willet:
Thank you so much for having me here.

Jose Cardenas:
How did this come about?

Eileen Willet:
In the juvenile court and the family courts journey to go from good to great, we really embrace the court's goal for greater accessibility to the public. So we asked the public. We asked them what we could do as a court to better meet their needs. And they told us resoundingly, could we please have our hearings set at times that do not conflict with our work schedule and that's how it came about.

Jose Cardenas:
So that's how we got night court? It wasn't because somebody was watching old reruns of a comedy show a few years ago?

Eileen Willet:
There is no bull at family court or at juvenile court or any of the other characters from the night court episodes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. But it's limited right now at least to one particular facility. Where is that located?

Eileen Willet:
Family court is limited to the Northeast court facility. That's located at the 51 Freeway and Union Hills. And Juvenile court we're down at Durango at 3131 West Durango.

Jose Cardenas:
And this just started Tuesday. What are the hours?

Eileen Willet:
From Tuesday through Friday the hours run from 5:00 until 9:00 and on Saturdays from 8:00 to 5:00.

Jose Cardenas:
I realize you only have a few days of experience so far, but how is it going?

Eileen Willet:
So far, so good. The litigants appear to be very, very happy with the ability to come after work.

Jose Cardenas:
Tell us a little bit about the staffing, what people at juvenile court would find specifically.

Eileen Willet:
People at juvenile court would be greeted at the door by an information desk staff person. And they would then have their hearings held in one of the courtrooms. And that courtroom would have in it a judicial officer and a bailiff and a clerk of the court. There will also be other staff people to support that judicial division.

Jose Cardenas:
How does the process get started? Is it only at the request, for example, in family court of the litigants?

Eileen Willet:
In family court, it is at the request of the litigants. The litigants file their pleadings, or call to schedule their hearings, their hearings will be scheduled for the evening hours they've requested. In juvenile court the hearings are going to be set by the court for evening hours for particular proceedings. The proceedings that are most heavily self-represented proceedings, which are our probate guardianship matters, or title 14 consensual guardianships and also private adoptions.

Jose Cardenas:
Now family court encompasses a whole range of different services that are offered to people; will that be offered to the participants in the evening and weekends services?

Eileen Willet:
There will be full services offered through family court during evening and weekend hours. So anything you could have done during the day in family court you'll be able to do during the evening hours.

Jose Cardenas:
Now on the juvenile side, it's a little different. You are setting those without necessarily a request from the parties?

Eileen Willet:
That's correct.

Jose Cardenas:
And if somebody wants to opt in or out of that how do they do it?

Eileen Willet:
They would need to file a motion with their judicial officer.

Jose Cardenas:
Are there any other kinds of proceedings that we'll be seeing in the juvenile court setting?

Eileen Willet:
We really hope to be able to grow our program, to have a better panoply of services offered for litigants. So in the future we hope to see more, but right now we're starting with our guardianships and adoption matters to expedite permanency for children.

Jose Cardenas:
And your Saturday sessions- this Saturday will be the first day. What are the hours and how will that differ if at all from what people will find from the regular proceedings-regular day?

Eileen Willet:
The proceedings will begin from 8:00 and the court will close at 5:00, so you can have hearings anytime from 8:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays. The proceedings won't differ from the evening proceedings that are going to be held from Tuesdays through Fridays. You'll see the same variety of hearings on Saturdays that you would see during the week.

Jose Cardenas:
And again, very little difference if any between what somebody would encounter if they were going during the regular working day?

Eileen Willet:
Correct.

Jose Cardenas:
Any particular expectations for how nevertheless Saturday might differ from the evening offerings-are there in terms of the types of matters or the nature of the workers who might be showing up on Saturdays?

Eileen Willet:
I hope that we see litigants who have a need to be able to hold hearings outside of their normal working hours. I imagine that we will be seeing a lot of people. I think that this is going to meet a tremendous need of the public.

Jose Cardenas:
Now is this a good thing or a bad thing in terms of children of people going through a divorce? ‘Cause I guess in one sense at least they would be in school during the day if they weren't involved directly in the proceedings in the evenings. They might have to find some other accommodations. Any sense for that?

Eileen Willet:
We are sensitive to different needs of different families. In family court, protracted litigation is never a good thing for children or for families. These families are in crisis. And at least they are in transition. So stability is very important for them. If they choose to come to night court it's by their request. In juvenile court the guardianship hearings are almost 100\% self-represented. And these are folks working during the day, taking care of family members children for the most part, so in the evening hours, if for some reason they would be unable to appear, they would just need to file a motion with the court and we could accommodate that.

Jose Cardenas:
And by self-represented we mean lawyers who aren't typically involved in these?

Eileen Willet:
Correct. They don't typically have lawyers.

Jose Cardenas:
Any plans to expand this beyond family court and juvenile court proceedings?

Eileen Willet: At this point in time, we are looking at all different types of options. Criminal court runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week now. Whether or not that expands I would have to defer to the criminal court presiding judge and the presiding judge of the county superior court.

Jose Cardenas:
Judge Willet, thank you for joining us on Horizon to talk about this exciting new program. Hopefully we'll have you back to discuss the initial results.

Eileen Willet:
I would love to. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Thank you. For 100 years capitol insiders have relied on the Creighton family to let them know what's going on at the Arizona legislature. In 2005 Ned and Diana Creighton sold their company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times. Paul Atkinson reports, the Creighton's have left the Capitol but their legacy will live on.

Paul Atkinson:
With a staff of two dozen, the Arizona Capitol Times publishes a weekly newspaper, daily legislative report and various reference publications. It covers the political process at the state Capitol, but doesn't play politics with its coverage.

Diana Creighton:
We think of it as a community newspaper for the Capitol. By that and because of that, we've never had an editorial page because we haven't wanted to take a position because our readers are from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the political spectrum or all sides, and they just want us to report stories that interest them.

Paul Atkinson:
The capitol times does more than report stories. It also offers a state-of-the-art online bill tracking system called Lola, available only by subscription.

Diana Creighton:
We were one of the first online services in the nation because our customers kept saying, well, what I'd like to see, why can't we get this on computer so I don't have to rearrange it to get it all in the order I want it in?

Paul Atkinson:
The program was developed by Ned Creighton, whose grandfather started providing legislative updates in 1906.

Ned Creighton:
He'd send a wire of what the territorial legislative was doing to these interests, the copper industry and the rail industry. They obviously had exposure here in Arizona and wanted to know what was going on, so my Grandad would send those wires from the lobby of the Old Adams Hotel downtown.

Paul Atkinson:
Creighton's father began helping out around World War II and added a newspaper in 1946. Ned began reporting for the paper in 1966 and became publisher a few years later.

Ned Creighton:
I had a phone call and my dad had a heart attack. So I went over to his house. He lived over on Wilder Road, and he was on a stretcher being carried out to the ambulance. And he looked up at me and said this is ridiculous. He said make sure you get the report out. It was like a movie line. And I thought, sure, I'll get the report out, no problem. And I came down and he was out of commission for quite a while, though the heart attack did not kill him. And that's when I learned how to run this business.

Paul Atkinson:
Ned was the ultimate one-man band, turning out a daily legislative report and a weekly newspaper all by himself.

Dianne Smith:
When I started in the chief clerk's office in 1979, that's when I first became acquainted with Ned, and he would come in, and pick up all the information that he utilized to send out to all of his subscribers. And he was always dedicated, hard working, there until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning many nights, not like, you know, nowadays where we meet once in a while late at night. There were a lot of late nights. And his dedication was phenomenal.

Diana Creighton:
He used to come in on the weekends and very early in the morning. He's an early bird. So he'd be in here when it was dark, like 4:30 or 5:00 and he would listen to opera. And he loves Puccini. So during the legislative session and even sometimes when the staff was here, he would close his door and crank up the Puccini and he'd start writing legislative bills. And that was one way he kept everything else out and focused his mind. And, yes, he read every bill.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana Creighton came to work at the paper after raising their three children. She started out writing summaries of attorney general opinions.

Ned Creighton:
Then she said you know I bet we could sell advertising in this paper. Well this paper never had any advertising except public notice advertising and really only one main client for public notice advertising; it was a much smaller operation than it is today. And I thought, display advertising in a specialty newspaper this size? Well, let's see, and she did it.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana became president of the company and helped expand its operations. But after three generations and 99 years of covering the legislature, the Creighton's sold the paper to Dolan Media, a company they say has the same commitment to quality journalism.

Diana Creighton:
Sad thing for us is that we were going to be leaving all of our staff who we know very well and like very much, and who really helped create this, and we're going to be leaving all these clients that after a time, you know clients so well they become your friends. And that's the way it is. That's the way it is in business, I think. So those are the things we'll miss. Our kids are not- I mean, this is a third generation family business. Not many last past three generations. And our children are interested in other things that are in other places. And so it seemed like this is the right time to do it. And it's-- we leave it with some sorrow, but also with a great deal of good feeling about the hands it's in now. I mean, we think it's in good hands.

Ned Creighton:
There's no doubt in my mind that in two years, this place is going to be much bigger and more useful than it is now. No question about it.

Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Capitol Times may become bigger and better, but it will be without Ned Creighton and his vast legislative knowledge.

Unknown:
It worries me that we don't have him here now to bounce ideas off of, to say do you remember what happened in 1984, or something like that. So that we will really miss.

Paul Atkinson:
Not to worry. Over the years, Ned filled an entire wall with tidbits of knowledge, information you won't find anywhere else.

Ned Creighton:
We had to fill the paper with editorial material. And he didn't have the horses to write those stories then, so we created all these boxes of information to fill the paper with editorial material, and they turned out to be really valuable all by themselves because nobody else pays any attention to this stuff. It will put most folks into a coma, but should you need to know who vetoed the most bills or how many propositions were on the ballot in 1936 and how many of them passed or what is the general trend in propositions for or away from, we can tell you. We can tell you anything.

Paul Atkinson:
The sale of the Capitol Times is not just another statistic. Another business sold. For many at the state Capitol the paper is a tremendous body of knowledge, and the Creightons its heart and soul.

Jose Cardenas:
By now you should have all the documents to file your taxes, but as it happens every year, there are changes in tax law. Here to bring us up to date on tax laws and tax filing is Bill Brunson, a local IRS spokesman; also here is Dan Zemke, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Revenue. Gentlemen thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, the tax season is under way in Ernest yesterday was a significant deadline. What can you tell us about that?

Bill Brunson:
Well that's the day that folks should have received W-2 wage and tax statements, the 1099 information statements like interest and dividends. If you own a house and pay mortgage interest, a 1098. So those forms should have been mailed to you, made receivable to you by January 31. Now if an individual has not received them by February 14, they can contact the I.R.S. and we will work with them in getting an issuance either from the person that should have issued them or provide a substitute W-2 that they can attach, sign a statement and file in a timely manner. Now, if you've moved and you didn't let that person know that was supposed to issue this paperwork, shame on you in that area. And you should call them and let them know. But yesterday was the day that individuals should have received W-2's and 1099's.

Jose Cardenas:
And if you haven't, wait a couple of weeks and then take the follow--

Bill Brunson:
You have to give people a little bit of reasonableness with anything. So, and that would be a reasonable amount of time before we as an agency, the Internal Revenue Services, is going to act.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, we just mentioned that January 31 was the deadline to get information, but as I understand it, some people have already filed their taxes.

Dan Zemke:
Yes, that is correct. We have received at the state just under 100,000 tax returns already.

Jose Cardenas:
And you mentioned January 12, Bill. Is that a deadline of some sort? That's electronic filing?

Bill Brunson:
January 12 was the day that we opened up the electronic gates, if you want to call it that, Jose, where people could submit electronically their tax returns. And people could submit paper returns prior to that, but that was the opening date, January 12. And the electronically filed tax return is the absolute best way to file a tax return because it's fast, it's accurate, it's secure. It's fast in the sense that once it's transmitted, 48 hours later, we can let you know we received it. It's accurate in the sense the software does the math for you, and it's secure in the sense we can direct deposit that refund in your checking account as little as ten days, and that can't get lost in the mail. And I think the state has a similar program.

Dan Zemke:
Yes that we do. We basically piggyback on the IRS program. You can effectively file both your federal return and your state return via e-file at the same time.

Jose Cardenas:
And then the really big news at the state level is the cut in the income tax rate.

Dan Zemke:
Yes. The thing that affects the most people is a 5\% across the board decrease in the income tax rates for individuals. And that's this year, the 2006. And there's also going to be another 5\% decrease for the 2007 taxes.

Jose Cardenas:
Any sense for how many people are filing their returns electronically at the state level?

Dan Zemke:
At the state level last year, there were roughly 45\% of the people who filed and we received a little over 2.5 million returns. So it's a significant number. We'd like it to be more because obviously electronically filing means nobody has to slit open that envelope and unfold the tax return and then key the information that's on the return. So electronic filing works to the benefit of both the government and the taxpayer.

Jose Cardenas:
Typically, though, the people who do the electronic filing are the ones who don't owe taxes or getting refunds?

Dan Zemke:
Not necessarily. By e-filing, if you owe taxes you can actually set up a range that your taxes that are owed will be withdrawn from your checking or savings account on the deadline. You could file the return now, owing the money, but say please take it out of my checking account on that filing deadline or any date before that.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, in terms of the federal side, you have seen a significant increase there too of e-filing, haven't you?

Bill Brunson:
Yes we have each year. E-filing became available to the general public for their 1985 return in 1986 and we are basically at about 60\% of all Americans electronically file. We anticipate 136 million returns for this year. 80 million will be electronically filed. Here in Arizona it's about 2.4 million returns to be received, 1.4 million will electronically file. And it's because of the benefits that are for the taxpayer and their ease and convenience. You can file from your home say on a Sunday in your pajamas from your kitchen table if you wanted to by using your home computer. There's an item called free file that if you go to the IRS website and click on this icon it will take you to 20 different software providers. And it provides free file to 70\% of all Arizonans, 70\% of all Americans. It's based on an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less. So if you're income is $52,000 or less, you can go online through the IRS website and file your federal income tax return for free.

Jose Cardenas:
In your pajamas.

Bill Brunson:
In your pajamas, Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.

Jose Cardenas:
Got it. But today itself is another day to celebrate in a way, February 1 is, as I understand, earned income tax credit awareness day? Is that right?

Bill Brunson:
Right. We want to get the word out that folks that do qualify for this valuable credit to take advantage of it. Each year, Jose, we see a 20 to 25\% of taxpayers who qualify fail to claim the credit.

Jose Cardenas:
Now why is that? It's been around since 1975.

Bill Brunson:
You know, it's a hard issue to actually, you know, make one point or the other as to why. But there are variable factors. And these are folks that don't make a lot of money but do work. They earn around $39,000 or less this year, and the credit could be as much as $4500 or slightly more if they did qualify. So these folks that don't file, we want them to file because they've earned this money and they should, you know, file to get the item.

Jose Cardenas:
It's awareness day. What are you doing, though, to spread that awareness?

Bill Brunson:
Well we are coming here on Channel 8. We worked with the City of Phoenix today. We're working with various city governments, united way across the country, getting words out with various coalitions, letting them know that this is something that your constituents, your citizens may qualify for. Please let them know. And what we also are doing is opening up free tax help sites today as well. And these sites are geared toward lower income people that have English as a second language, handicapped, elderly that would benefit from a free tax help side. And they specialize in making sure if an individual qualifies to include that on the return, this earned income tax credit and other credits that they may qualify for. So today was the day to let folks know about the earned income tax credit and to let them know that there are free tax help sites available within the community to file for that credit.

Jose Cardenas:
You have had campaigns like this in the past?

Bill Brunson:
Yes, we have. The awareness item has not been as big as it has been today where we went in a joint effort across the country to let folks know.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, other things that people should be aware of on the state side is that the deduction is gone up. Can you tell us about that?

Dan Zemke:
The standard deductions increased this year for effects of inflation. It happens every year, but the standard deduction has increased. Also probably one that will affect obviously not everybody but in 2006 for the first time Arizona will not tax any military income. So that - and that's not just combat income but any military income is now not taxable by the state of Arizona.

Jose Cardenas:
You know, the thing that's gotten some attention in the press this week, if I recall correctly, was the governor's proposal to extend the filing deadline for Arizona to match the federal.

Dan Zemke:
That's correct. The governor did ask that the legislature enact a change in statute to allow Arizona to have the same filing deadline as the federal government, eliminate the confusion that would have reigned otherwise.

Jose Cardenas:
And that would make it what, April 17?

Dan Zemke:
That would make it April 17 this year.

Jose Cardenas:
Now the other thing that's of importance to Arizona taxpayers is the bigger tax credits for school contributions.

Dan Zemke:
Yea, that's correct. Married couples filing jointly will find that the maximum amount of credit allowable for the contributions to the public schools is $400 this year. More than it was in the past. The credit for contributions to private school tuition organizations for a married couple filing jointly is up to $1,000 for 2006, and the contribution for - excuse me, the credit for contribution to charities who assist the working poor is maxed at $400 this year for married couples filing jointly.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, who needs to file and who should file if those are two different questions?

Bill Brunson:
They are two different issues. Statutorily let's say if you are a married couple filing jointly, both spouses under age 65 and not blind, the dollar amount would be $16,900. Once you reach that threshold, you have a filing requirement. Single individual, $8,450 under age 65 and not blind. But you could have, say, a son or daughter who worked over the summer that goes to school and they had withholding from wages paid, and they don't need a threshold based on their marital status, then they would want to file to get that money refunded to them. Another item would be for say, the earned income tax credit, which if you work and you don't make a lot of money, you may not have had any withholding then we can cut that individual a check for up to $4600 if they do qualify for that credit. Another issue would be the telephone excise tax refund where people that have paid long distance tax on telephone calls, the item is a refundable amount but they need to file paperwork, file a return to get that item sent to them.

José Cárdénas:
Now this was the tax that was imposed to finance the Spanish American War?

Bill Brunson:
Imposed to finance the Spanish American War and remained on the books until recently. There were five court cases that basically said to the IRS you cannot collect this. We acquiesced and then we stopped collecting it as of August 1, 2006. Now there's 41 months there --

Jose Cardenas:
We're about out of time now. I think we're going to have to wrap it up there. But thank you both, Bill Brunson, Dan Zemke, thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Dan Zemke:
Thank you.

Bill Brunson:
Thank You.

Larry Lemmons:
City of Scottsdale decides to turn on the speed cameras again on the Loop 101 while a state senator wants to put photo radar on the ballot. And Randy Pullen is new chairman of the Arizona Republican party, and within three days of his election four office members resign. The Journalists' Rountable, Friday at 7 on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
That's the Thursday edition of Horizon; stay tuned for Horizonte, it's up next with an interview with Cheech Marin. Thank you and good night.

Night and Saturday Court


  • Maricopa County Superior Court conducts its first night session this week. Maricopa County Superior Court Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Eileen Willett joins us to talk about the new night and Saturday hours at Superior Court.
Guests:
  • Eileen Willett - Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge
  • Bill Brunson - IRS
  • Dan Zemke - Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue
Category: Law

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, night court has started in Maricopa County. Find out more. The company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times is celebrating its 100th year in business. And it's tax time. Learn the latest on tax laws and tax filings. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening. Welcome to Horizon. I'm Jose Cardenas. Ever wish you could take care of court business off hours? Your wish has been granted. Beginning this week Maricopa County Superior Court is holding proceedings during evening and weekend hours in the family and juvenile court divisions. At the request of litigants, family court hearings can be scheduled on nights and Saturdays. Here with details and more about the new night and weekend court hours is Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge Eileen Willett. Judge, welcome to Horizon.

Eileen Willet:
Thank you so much for having me here.

Jose Cardenas:
How did this come about?

Eileen Willet:
In the juvenile court and the family courts journey to go from good to great, we really embrace the court's goal for greater accessibility to the public. So we asked the public. We asked them what we could do as a court to better meet their needs. And they told us resoundingly, could we please have our hearings set at times that do not conflict with our work schedule and that's how it came about.

Jose Cardenas:
So that's how we got night court? It wasn't because somebody was watching old reruns of a comedy show a few years ago?

Eileen Willet:
There is no bull at family court or at juvenile court or any of the other characters from the night court episodes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. But it's limited right now at least to one particular facility. Where is that located?

Eileen Willet:
Family court is limited to the Northeast court facility. That's located at the 51 Freeway and Union Hills. And Juvenile court we're down at Durango at 3131 West Durango.

Jose Cardenas:
And this just started Tuesday. What are the hours?

Eileen Willet:
From Tuesday through Friday the hours run from 5:00 until 9:00 and on Saturdays from 8:00 to 5:00.

Jose Cardenas:
I realize you only have a few days of experience so far, but how is it going?

Eileen Willet:
So far, so good. The litigants appear to be very, very happy with the ability to come after work.

Jose Cardenas:
Tell us a little bit about the staffing, what people at juvenile court would find specifically.

Eileen Willet:
People at juvenile court would be greeted at the door by an information desk staff person. And they would then have their hearings held in one of the courtrooms. And that courtroom would have in it a judicial officer and a bailiff and a clerk of the court. There will also be other staff people to support that judicial division.

Jose Cardenas:
How does the process get started? Is it only at the request, for example, in family court of the litigants?

Eileen Willet:
In family court, it is at the request of the litigants. The litigants file their pleadings, or call to schedule their hearings, their hearings will be scheduled for the evening hours they've requested. In juvenile court the hearings are going to be set by the court for evening hours for particular proceedings. The proceedings that are most heavily self-represented proceedings, which are our probate guardianship matters, or title 14 consensual guardianships and also private adoptions.

Jose Cardenas:
Now family court encompasses a whole range of different services that are offered to people; will that be offered to the participants in the evening and weekends services?

Eileen Willet:
There will be full services offered through family court during evening and weekend hours. So anything you could have done during the day in family court you'll be able to do during the evening hours.

Jose Cardenas:
Now on the juvenile side, it's a little different. You are setting those without necessarily a request from the parties?

Eileen Willet:
That's correct.

Jose Cardenas:
And if somebody wants to opt in or out of that how do they do it?

Eileen Willet:
They would need to file a motion with their judicial officer.

Jose Cardenas:
Are there any other kinds of proceedings that we'll be seeing in the juvenile court setting?

Eileen Willet:
We really hope to be able to grow our program, to have a better panoply of services offered for litigants. So in the future we hope to see more, but right now we're starting with our guardianships and adoption matters to expedite permanency for children.

Jose Cardenas:
And your Saturday sessions- this Saturday will be the first day. What are the hours and how will that differ if at all from what people will find from the regular proceedings-regular day?

Eileen Willet:
The proceedings will begin from 8:00 and the court will close at 5:00, so you can have hearings anytime from 8:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays. The proceedings won't differ from the evening proceedings that are going to be held from Tuesdays through Fridays. You'll see the same variety of hearings on Saturdays that you would see during the week.

Jose Cardenas:
And again, very little difference if any between what somebody would encounter if they were going during the regular working day?

Eileen Willet:
Correct.

Jose Cardenas:
Any particular expectations for how nevertheless Saturday might differ from the evening offerings-are there in terms of the types of matters or the nature of the workers who might be showing up on Saturdays?

Eileen Willet:
I hope that we see litigants who have a need to be able to hold hearings outside of their normal working hours. I imagine that we will be seeing a lot of people. I think that this is going to meet a tremendous need of the public.

Jose Cardenas:
Now is this a good thing or a bad thing in terms of children of people going through a divorce? ‘Cause I guess in one sense at least they would be in school during the day if they weren't involved directly in the proceedings in the evenings. They might have to find some other accommodations. Any sense for that?

Eileen Willet:
We are sensitive to different needs of different families. In family court, protracted litigation is never a good thing for children or for families. These families are in crisis. And at least they are in transition. So stability is very important for them. If they choose to come to night court it's by their request. In juvenile court the guardianship hearings are almost 100\% self-represented. And these are folks working during the day, taking care of family members children for the most part, so in the evening hours, if for some reason they would be unable to appear, they would just need to file a motion with the court and we could accommodate that.

Jose Cardenas:
And by self-represented we mean lawyers who aren't typically involved in these?

Eileen Willet:
Correct. They don't typically have lawyers.

Jose Cardenas:
Any plans to expand this beyond family court and juvenile court proceedings?

Eileen Willet: At this point in time, we are looking at all different types of options. Criminal court runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week now. Whether or not that expands I would have to defer to the criminal court presiding judge and the presiding judge of the county superior court.

Jose Cardenas:
Judge Willet, thank you for joining us on Horizon to talk about this exciting new program. Hopefully we'll have you back to discuss the initial results.

Eileen Willet:
I would love to. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Thank you. For 100 years capitol insiders have relied on the Creighton family to let them know what's going on at the Arizona legislature. In 2005 Ned and Diana Creighton sold their company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times. Paul Atkinson reports, the Creighton's have left the Capitol but their legacy will live on.

Paul Atkinson:
With a staff of two dozen, the Arizona Capitol Times publishes a weekly newspaper, daily legislative report and various reference publications. It covers the political process at the state Capitol, but doesn't play politics with its coverage.

Diana Creighton:
We think of it as a community newspaper for the Capitol. By that and because of that, we've never had an editorial page because we haven't wanted to take a position because our readers are from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the political spectrum or all sides, and they just want us to report stories that interest them.

Paul Atkinson:
The capitol times does more than report stories. It also offers a state-of-the-art online bill tracking system called Lola, available only by subscription.

Diana Creighton:
We were one of the first online services in the nation because our customers kept saying, well, what I'd like to see, why can't we get this on computer so I don't have to rearrange it to get it all in the order I want it in?

Paul Atkinson:
The program was developed by Ned Creighton, whose grandfather started providing legislative updates in 1906.

Ned Creighton:
He'd send a wire of what the territorial legislative was doing to these interests, the copper industry and the rail industry. They obviously had exposure here in Arizona and wanted to know what was going on, so my Grandad would send those wires from the lobby of the Old Adams Hotel downtown.

Paul Atkinson:
Creighton's father began helping out around World War II and added a newspaper in 1946. Ned began reporting for the paper in 1966 and became publisher a few years later.

Ned Creighton:
I had a phone call and my dad had a heart attack. So I went over to his house. He lived over on Wilder Road, and he was on a stretcher being carried out to the ambulance. And he looked up at me and said this is ridiculous. He said make sure you get the report out. It was like a movie line. And I thought, sure, I'll get the report out, no problem. And I came down and he was out of commission for quite a while, though the heart attack did not kill him. And that's when I learned how to run this business.

Paul Atkinson:
Ned was the ultimate one-man band, turning out a daily legislative report and a weekly newspaper all by himself.

Dianne Smith:
When I started in the chief clerk's office in 1979, that's when I first became acquainted with Ned, and he would come in, and pick up all the information that he utilized to send out to all of his subscribers. And he was always dedicated, hard working, there until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning many nights, not like, you know, nowadays where we meet once in a while late at night. There were a lot of late nights. And his dedication was phenomenal.

Diana Creighton:
He used to come in on the weekends and very early in the morning. He's an early bird. So he'd be in here when it was dark, like 4:30 or 5:00 and he would listen to opera. And he loves Puccini. So during the legislative session and even sometimes when the staff was here, he would close his door and crank up the Puccini and he'd start writing legislative bills. And that was one way he kept everything else out and focused his mind. And, yes, he read every bill.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana Creighton came to work at the paper after raising their three children. She started out writing summaries of attorney general opinions.

Ned Creighton:
Then she said you know I bet we could sell advertising in this paper. Well this paper never had any advertising except public notice advertising and really only one main client for public notice advertising; it was a much smaller operation than it is today. And I thought, display advertising in a specialty newspaper this size? Well, let's see, and she did it.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana became president of the company and helped expand its operations. But after three generations and 99 years of covering the legislature, the Creighton's sold the paper to Dolan Media, a company they say has the same commitment to quality journalism.

Diana Creighton:
Sad thing for us is that we were going to be leaving all of our staff who we know very well and like very much, and who really helped create this, and we're going to be leaving all these clients that after a time, you know clients so well they become your friends. And that's the way it is. That's the way it is in business, I think. So those are the things we'll miss. Our kids are not- I mean, this is a third generation family business. Not many last past three generations. And our children are interested in other things that are in other places. And so it seemed like this is the right time to do it. And it's-- we leave it with some sorrow, but also with a great deal of good feeling about the hands it's in now. I mean, we think it's in good hands.

Ned Creighton:
There's no doubt in my mind that in two years, this place is going to be much bigger and more useful than it is now. No question about it.

Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Capitol Times may become bigger and better, but it will be without Ned Creighton and his vast legislative knowledge.

Unknown:
It worries me that we don't have him here now to bounce ideas off of, to say do you remember what happened in 1984, or something like that. So that we will really miss.

Paul Atkinson:
Not to worry. Over the years, Ned filled an entire wall with tidbits of knowledge, information you won't find anywhere else.

Ned Creighton:
We had to fill the paper with editorial material. And he didn't have the horses to write those stories then, so we created all these boxes of information to fill the paper with editorial material, and they turned out to be really valuable all by themselves because nobody else pays any attention to this stuff. It will put most folks into a coma, but should you need to know who vetoed the most bills or how many propositions were on the ballot in 1936 and how many of them passed or what is the general trend in propositions for or away from, we can tell you. We can tell you anything.

Paul Atkinson:
The sale of the Capitol Times is not just another statistic. Another business sold. For many at the state Capitol the paper is a tremendous body of knowledge, and the Creightons its heart and soul.

Jose Cardenas:
By now you should have all the documents to file your taxes, but as it happens every year, there are changes in tax law. Here to bring us up to date on tax laws and tax filing is Bill Brunson, a local IRS spokesman; also here is Dan Zemke, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Revenue. Gentlemen thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, the tax season is under way in Ernest yesterday was a significant deadline. What can you tell us about that?

Bill Brunson:
Well that's the day that folks should have received W-2 wage and tax statements, the 1099 information statements like interest and dividends. If you own a house and pay mortgage interest, a 1098. So those forms should have been mailed to you, made receivable to you by January 31. Now if an individual has not received them by February 14, they can contact the I.R.S. and we will work with them in getting an issuance either from the person that should have issued them or provide a substitute W-2 that they can attach, sign a statement and file in a timely manner. Now, if you've moved and you didn't let that person know that was supposed to issue this paperwork, shame on you in that area. And you should call them and let them know. But yesterday was the day that individuals should have received W-2's and 1099's.

Jose Cardenas:
And if you haven't, wait a couple of weeks and then take the follow--

Bill Brunson:
You have to give people a little bit of reasonableness with anything. So, and that would be a reasonable amount of time before we as an agency, the Internal Revenue Services, is going to act.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, we just mentioned that January 31 was the deadline to get information, but as I understand it, some people have already filed their taxes.

Dan Zemke:
Yes, that is correct. We have received at the state just under 100,000 tax returns already.

Jose Cardenas:
And you mentioned January 12, Bill. Is that a deadline of some sort? That's electronic filing?

Bill Brunson:
January 12 was the day that we opened up the electronic gates, if you want to call it that, Jose, where people could submit electronically their tax returns. And people could submit paper returns prior to that, but that was the opening date, January 12. And the electronically filed tax return is the absolute best way to file a tax return because it's fast, it's accurate, it's secure. It's fast in the sense that once it's transmitted, 48 hours later, we can let you know we received it. It's accurate in the sense the software does the math for you, and it's secure in the sense we can direct deposit that refund in your checking account as little as ten days, and that can't get lost in the mail. And I think the state has a similar program.

Dan Zemke:
Yes that we do. We basically piggyback on the IRS program. You can effectively file both your federal return and your state return via e-file at the same time.

Jose Cardenas:
And then the really big news at the state level is the cut in the income tax rate.

Dan Zemke:
Yes. The thing that affects the most people is a 5\% across the board decrease in the income tax rates for individuals. And that's this year, the 2006. And there's also going to be another 5\% decrease for the 2007 taxes.

Jose Cardenas:
Any sense for how many people are filing their returns electronically at the state level?

Dan Zemke:
At the state level last year, there were roughly 45\% of the people who filed and we received a little over 2.5 million returns. So it's a significant number. We'd like it to be more because obviously electronically filing means nobody has to slit open that envelope and unfold the tax return and then key the information that's on the return. So electronic filing works to the benefit of both the government and the taxpayer.

Jose Cardenas:
Typically, though, the people who do the electronic filing are the ones who don't owe taxes or getting refunds?

Dan Zemke:
Not necessarily. By e-filing, if you owe taxes you can actually set up a range that your taxes that are owed will be withdrawn from your checking or savings account on the deadline. You could file the return now, owing the money, but say please take it out of my checking account on that filing deadline or any date before that.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, in terms of the federal side, you have seen a significant increase there too of e-filing, haven't you?

Bill Brunson:
Yes we have each year. E-filing became available to the general public for their 1985 return in 1986 and we are basically at about 60\% of all Americans electronically file. We anticipate 136 million returns for this year. 80 million will be electronically filed. Here in Arizona it's about 2.4 million returns to be received, 1.4 million will electronically file. And it's because of the benefits that are for the taxpayer and their ease and convenience. You can file from your home say on a Sunday in your pajamas from your kitchen table if you wanted to by using your home computer. There's an item called free file that if you go to the IRS website and click on this icon it will take you to 20 different software providers. And it provides free file to 70\% of all Arizonans, 70\% of all Americans. It's based on an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less. So if you're income is $52,000 or less, you can go online through the IRS website and file your federal income tax return for free.

Jose Cardenas:
In your pajamas.

Bill Brunson:
In your pajamas, Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.

Jose Cardenas:
Got it. But today itself is another day to celebrate in a way, February 1 is, as I understand, earned income tax credit awareness day? Is that right?

Bill Brunson:
Right. We want to get the word out that folks that do qualify for this valuable credit to take advantage of it. Each year, Jose, we see a 20 to 25\% of taxpayers who qualify fail to claim the credit.

Jose Cardenas:
Now why is that? It's been around since 1975.

Bill Brunson:
You know, it's a hard issue to actually, you know, make one point or the other as to why. But there are variable factors. And these are folks that don't make a lot of money but do work. They earn around $39,000 or less this year, and the credit could be as much as $4500 or slightly more if they did qualify. So these folks that don't file, we want them to file because they've earned this money and they should, you know, file to get the item.

Jose Cardenas:
It's awareness day. What are you doing, though, to spread that awareness?

Bill Brunson:
Well we are coming here on Channel 8. We worked with the City of Phoenix today. We're working with various city governments, united way across the country, getting words out with various coalitions, letting them know that this is something that your constituents, your citizens may qualify for. Please let them know. And what we also are doing is opening up free tax help sites today as well. And these sites are geared toward lower income people that have English as a second language, handicapped, elderly that would benefit from a free tax help side. And they specialize in making sure if an individual qualifies to include that on the return, this earned income tax credit and other credits that they may qualify for. So today was the day to let folks know about the earned income tax credit and to let them know that there are free tax help sites available within the community to file for that credit.

Jose Cardenas:
You have had campaigns like this in the past?

Bill Brunson:
Yes, we have. The awareness item has not been as big as it has been today where we went in a joint effort across the country to let folks know.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, other things that people should be aware of on the state side is that the deduction is gone up. Can you tell us about that?

Dan Zemke:
The standard deductions increased this year for effects of inflation. It happens every year, but the standard deduction has increased. Also probably one that will affect obviously not everybody but in 2006 for the first time Arizona will not tax any military income. So that - and that's not just combat income but any military income is now not taxable by the state of Arizona.

Jose Cardenas:
You know, the thing that's gotten some attention in the press this week, if I recall correctly, was the governor's proposal to extend the filing deadline for Arizona to match the federal.

Dan Zemke:
That's correct. The governor did ask that the legislature enact a change in statute to allow Arizona to have the same filing deadline as the federal government, eliminate the confusion that would have reigned otherwise.

Jose Cardenas:
And that would make it what, April 17?

Dan Zemke:
That would make it April 17 this year.

Jose Cardenas:
Now the other thing that's of importance to Arizona taxpayers is the bigger tax credits for school contributions.

Dan Zemke:
Yea, that's correct. Married couples filing jointly will find that the maximum amount of credit allowable for the contributions to the public schools is $400 this year. More than it was in the past. The credit for contributions to private school tuition organizations for a married couple filing jointly is up to $1,000 for 2006, and the contribution for - excuse me, the credit for contribution to charities who assist the working poor is maxed at $400 this year for married couples filing jointly.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, who needs to file and who should file if those are two different questions?

Bill Brunson:
They are two different issues. Statutorily let's say if you are a married couple filing jointly, both spouses under age 65 and not blind, the dollar amount would be $16,900. Once you reach that threshold, you have a filing requirement. Single individual, $8,450 under age 65 and not blind. But you could have, say, a son or daughter who worked over the summer that goes to school and they had withholding from wages paid, and they don't need a threshold based on their marital status, then they would want to file to get that money refunded to them. Another item would be for say, the earned income tax credit, which if you work and you don't make a lot of money, you may not have had any withholding then we can cut that individual a check for up to $4600 if they do qualify for that credit. Another issue would be the telephone excise tax refund where people that have paid long distance tax on telephone calls, the item is a refundable amount but they need to file paperwork, file a return to get that item sent to them.

José Cárdénas:
Now this was the tax that was imposed to finance the Spanish American War?

Bill Brunson:
Imposed to finance the Spanish American War and remained on the books until recently. There were five court cases that basically said to the IRS you cannot collect this. We acquiesced and then we stopped collecting it as of August 1, 2006. Now there's 41 months there --

Jose Cardenas:
We're about out of time now. I think we're going to have to wrap it up there. But thank you both, Bill Brunson, Dan Zemke, thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Dan Zemke:
Thank you.

Bill Brunson:
Thank You.

Larry Lemmons:
City of Scottsdale decides to turn on the speed cameras again on the Loop 101 while a state senator wants to put photo radar on the ballot. And Randy Pullen is new chairman of the Arizona Republican party, and within three days of his election four office members resign. The Journalists' Rountable, Friday at 7 on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
That's the Thursday edition of Horizon; stay tuned for Horizonte, it's up next with an interview with Cheech Marin. Thank you and good night.

Tax Time


  • It's time to start filing your tax return. Bill Brunson of the IRS and Dan Zemke of the Arizona Department of Revenue will talk about the latest changes in tax law and tax filing to help you as your file your return.
Guests:
  • Eileen Willett - Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge
  • Bill Brunson - IRS
  • Dan Zemke - Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue


View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, night court has started in Maricopa County. Find out more. The company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times is celebrating its 100th year in business. And it's tax time. Learn the latest on tax laws and tax filings. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening. Welcome to Horizon. I'm Jose Cardenas. Ever wish you could take care of court business off hours? Your wish has been granted. Beginning this week Maricopa County Superior Court is holding proceedings during evening and weekend hours in the family and juvenile court divisions. At the request of litigants, family court hearings can be scheduled on nights and Saturdays. Here with details and more about the new night and weekend court hours is Maricopa County Superior Court presiding Juvenile Court Judge Eileen Willett. Judge, welcome to Horizon.

Eileen Willet:
Thank you so much for having me here.

Jose Cardenas:
How did this come about?

Eileen Willet:
In the juvenile court and the family courts journey to go from good to great, we really embrace the court's goal for greater accessibility to the public. So we asked the public. We asked them what we could do as a court to better meet their needs. And they told us resoundingly, could we please have our hearings set at times that do not conflict with our work schedule and that's how it came about.

Jose Cardenas:
So that's how we got night court? It wasn't because somebody was watching old reruns of a comedy show a few years ago?

Eileen Willet:
There is no bull at family court or at juvenile court or any of the other characters from the night court episodes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. But it's limited right now at least to one particular facility. Where is that located?

Eileen Willet:
Family court is limited to the Northeast court facility. That's located at the 51 Freeway and Union Hills. And Juvenile court we're down at Durango at 3131 West Durango.

Jose Cardenas:
And this just started Tuesday. What are the hours?

Eileen Willet:
From Tuesday through Friday the hours run from 5:00 until 9:00 and on Saturdays from 8:00 to 5:00.

Jose Cardenas:
I realize you only have a few days of experience so far, but how is it going?

Eileen Willet:
So far, so good. The litigants appear to be very, very happy with the ability to come after work.

Jose Cardenas:
Tell us a little bit about the staffing, what people at juvenile court would find specifically.

Eileen Willet:
People at juvenile court would be greeted at the door by an information desk staff person. And they would then have their hearings held in one of the courtrooms. And that courtroom would have in it a judicial officer and a bailiff and a clerk of the court. There will also be other staff people to support that judicial division.

Jose Cardenas:
How does the process get started? Is it only at the request, for example, in family court of the litigants?

Eileen Willet:
In family court, it is at the request of the litigants. The litigants file their pleadings, or call to schedule their hearings, their hearings will be scheduled for the evening hours they've requested. In juvenile court the hearings are going to be set by the court for evening hours for particular proceedings. The proceedings that are most heavily self-represented proceedings, which are our probate guardianship matters, or title 14 consensual guardianships and also private adoptions.

Jose Cardenas:
Now family court encompasses a whole range of different services that are offered to people; will that be offered to the participants in the evening and weekends services?

Eileen Willet:
There will be full services offered through family court during evening and weekend hours. So anything you could have done during the day in family court you'll be able to do during the evening hours.

Jose Cardenas:
Now on the juvenile side, it's a little different. You are setting those without necessarily a request from the parties?

Eileen Willet:
That's correct.

Jose Cardenas:
And if somebody wants to opt in or out of that how do they do it?

Eileen Willet:
They would need to file a motion with their judicial officer.

Jose Cardenas:
Are there any other kinds of proceedings that we'll be seeing in the juvenile court setting?

Eileen Willet:
We really hope to be able to grow our program, to have a better panoply of services offered for litigants. So in the future we hope to see more, but right now we're starting with our guardianships and adoption matters to expedite permanency for children.

Jose Cardenas:
And your Saturday sessions- this Saturday will be the first day. What are the hours and how will that differ if at all from what people will find from the regular proceedings-regular day?

Eileen Willet:
The proceedings will begin from 8:00 and the court will close at 5:00, so you can have hearings anytime from 8:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays. The proceedings won't differ from the evening proceedings that are going to be held from Tuesdays through Fridays. You'll see the same variety of hearings on Saturdays that you would see during the week.

Jose Cardenas:
And again, very little difference if any between what somebody would encounter if they were going during the regular working day?

Eileen Willet:
Correct.

Jose Cardenas:
Any particular expectations for how nevertheless Saturday might differ from the evening offerings-are there in terms of the types of matters or the nature of the workers who might be showing up on Saturdays?

Eileen Willet:
I hope that we see litigants who have a need to be able to hold hearings outside of their normal working hours. I imagine that we will be seeing a lot of people. I think that this is going to meet a tremendous need of the public.

Jose Cardenas:
Now is this a good thing or a bad thing in terms of children of people going through a divorce? ‘Cause I guess in one sense at least they would be in school during the day if they weren't involved directly in the proceedings in the evenings. They might have to find some other accommodations. Any sense for that?

Eileen Willet:
We are sensitive to different needs of different families. In family court, protracted litigation is never a good thing for children or for families. These families are in crisis. And at least they are in transition. So stability is very important for them. If they choose to come to night court it's by their request. In juvenile court the guardianship hearings are almost 100\% self-represented. And these are folks working during the day, taking care of family members children for the most part, so in the evening hours, if for some reason they would be unable to appear, they would just need to file a motion with the court and we could accommodate that.

Jose Cardenas:
And by self-represented we mean lawyers who aren't typically involved in these?

Eileen Willet:
Correct. They don't typically have lawyers.

Jose Cardenas:
Any plans to expand this beyond family court and juvenile court proceedings?

Eileen Willet: At this point in time, we are looking at all different types of options. Criminal court runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week now. Whether or not that expands I would have to defer to the criminal court presiding judge and the presiding judge of the county superior court.

Jose Cardenas:
Judge Willet, thank you for joining us on Horizon to talk about this exciting new program. Hopefully we'll have you back to discuss the initial results.

Eileen Willet:
I would love to. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Thank you. For 100 years capitol insiders have relied on the Creighton family to let them know what's going on at the Arizona legislature. In 2005 Ned and Diana Creighton sold their company which publishes the Arizona Capitol Times. Paul Atkinson reports, the Creighton's have left the Capitol but their legacy will live on.

Paul Atkinson:
With a staff of two dozen, the Arizona Capitol Times publishes a weekly newspaper, daily legislative report and various reference publications. It covers the political process at the state Capitol, but doesn't play politics with its coverage.

Diana Creighton:
We think of it as a community newspaper for the Capitol. By that and because of that, we've never had an editorial page because we haven't wanted to take a position because our readers are from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the political spectrum or all sides, and they just want us to report stories that interest them.

Paul Atkinson:
The capitol times does more than report stories. It also offers a state-of-the-art online bill tracking system called Lola, available only by subscription.

Diana Creighton:
We were one of the first online services in the nation because our customers kept saying, well, what I'd like to see, why can't we get this on computer so I don't have to rearrange it to get it all in the order I want it in?

Paul Atkinson:
The program was developed by Ned Creighton, whose grandfather started providing legislative updates in 1906.

Ned Creighton:
He'd send a wire of what the territorial legislative was doing to these interests, the copper industry and the rail industry. They obviously had exposure here in Arizona and wanted to know what was going on, so my Grandad would send those wires from the lobby of the Old Adams Hotel downtown.

Paul Atkinson:
Creighton's father began helping out around World War II and added a newspaper in 1946. Ned began reporting for the paper in 1966 and became publisher a few years later.

Ned Creighton:
I had a phone call and my dad had a heart attack. So I went over to his house. He lived over on Wilder Road, and he was on a stretcher being carried out to the ambulance. And he looked up at me and said this is ridiculous. He said make sure you get the report out. It was like a movie line. And I thought, sure, I'll get the report out, no problem. And I came down and he was out of commission for quite a while, though the heart attack did not kill him. And that's when I learned how to run this business.

Paul Atkinson:
Ned was the ultimate one-man band, turning out a daily legislative report and a weekly newspaper all by himself.

Dianne Smith:
When I started in the chief clerk's office in 1979, that's when I first became acquainted with Ned, and he would come in, and pick up all the information that he utilized to send out to all of his subscribers. And he was always dedicated, hard working, there until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning many nights, not like, you know, nowadays where we meet once in a while late at night. There were a lot of late nights. And his dedication was phenomenal.

Diana Creighton:
He used to come in on the weekends and very early in the morning. He's an early bird. So he'd be in here when it was dark, like 4:30 or 5:00 and he would listen to opera. And he loves Puccini. So during the legislative session and even sometimes when the staff was here, he would close his door and crank up the Puccini and he'd start writing legislative bills. And that was one way he kept everything else out and focused his mind. And, yes, he read every bill.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana Creighton came to work at the paper after raising their three children. She started out writing summaries of attorney general opinions.

Ned Creighton:
Then she said you know I bet we could sell advertising in this paper. Well this paper never had any advertising except public notice advertising and really only one main client for public notice advertising; it was a much smaller operation than it is today. And I thought, display advertising in a specialty newspaper this size? Well, let's see, and she did it.

Paul Atkinson:
Diana became president of the company and helped expand its operations. But after three generations and 99 years of covering the legislature, the Creighton's sold the paper to Dolan Media, a company they say has the same commitment to quality journalism.

Diana Creighton:
Sad thing for us is that we were going to be leaving all of our staff who we know very well and like very much, and who really helped create this, and we're going to be leaving all these clients that after a time, you know clients so well they become your friends. And that's the way it is. That's the way it is in business, I think. So those are the things we'll miss. Our kids are not- I mean, this is a third generation family business. Not many last past three generations. And our children are interested in other things that are in other places. And so it seemed like this is the right time to do it. And it's-- we leave it with some sorrow, but also with a great deal of good feeling about the hands it's in now. I mean, we think it's in good hands.

Ned Creighton:
There's no doubt in my mind that in two years, this place is going to be much bigger and more useful than it is now. No question about it.

Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Capitol Times may become bigger and better, but it will be without Ned Creighton and his vast legislative knowledge.

Unknown:
It worries me that we don't have him here now to bounce ideas off of, to say do you remember what happened in 1984, or something like that. So that we will really miss.

Paul Atkinson:
Not to worry. Over the years, Ned filled an entire wall with tidbits of knowledge, information you won't find anywhere else.

Ned Creighton:
We had to fill the paper with editorial material. And he didn't have the horses to write those stories then, so we created all these boxes of information to fill the paper with editorial material, and they turned out to be really valuable all by themselves because nobody else pays any attention to this stuff. It will put most folks into a coma, but should you need to know who vetoed the most bills or how many propositions were on the ballot in 1936 and how many of them passed or what is the general trend in propositions for or away from, we can tell you. We can tell you anything.

Paul Atkinson:
The sale of the Capitol Times is not just another statistic. Another business sold. For many at the state Capitol the paper is a tremendous body of knowledge, and the Creightons its heart and soul.

Jose Cardenas:
By now you should have all the documents to file your taxes, but as it happens every year, there are changes in tax law. Here to bring us up to date on tax laws and tax filing is Bill Brunson, a local IRS spokesman; also here is Dan Zemke, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Revenue. Gentlemen thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, the tax season is under way in Ernest yesterday was a significant deadline. What can you tell us about that?

Bill Brunson:
Well that's the day that folks should have received W-2 wage and tax statements, the 1099 information statements like interest and dividends. If you own a house and pay mortgage interest, a 1098. So those forms should have been mailed to you, made receivable to you by January 31. Now if an individual has not received them by February 14, they can contact the I.R.S. and we will work with them in getting an issuance either from the person that should have issued them or provide a substitute W-2 that they can attach, sign a statement and file in a timely manner. Now, if you've moved and you didn't let that person know that was supposed to issue this paperwork, shame on you in that area. And you should call them and let them know. But yesterday was the day that individuals should have received W-2's and 1099's.

Jose Cardenas:
And if you haven't, wait a couple of weeks and then take the follow--

Bill Brunson:
You have to give people a little bit of reasonableness with anything. So, and that would be a reasonable amount of time before we as an agency, the Internal Revenue Services, is going to act.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, we just mentioned that January 31 was the deadline to get information, but as I understand it, some people have already filed their taxes.

Dan Zemke:
Yes, that is correct. We have received at the state just under 100,000 tax returns already.

Jose Cardenas:
And you mentioned January 12, Bill. Is that a deadline of some sort? That's electronic filing?

Bill Brunson:
January 12 was the day that we opened up the electronic gates, if you want to call it that, Jose, where people could submit electronically their tax returns. And people could submit paper returns prior to that, but that was the opening date, January 12. And the electronically filed tax return is the absolute best way to file a tax return because it's fast, it's accurate, it's secure. It's fast in the sense that once it's transmitted, 48 hours later, we can let you know we received it. It's accurate in the sense the software does the math for you, and it's secure in the sense we can direct deposit that refund in your checking account as little as ten days, and that can't get lost in the mail. And I think the state has a similar program.

Dan Zemke:
Yes that we do. We basically piggyback on the IRS program. You can effectively file both your federal return and your state return via e-file at the same time.

Jose Cardenas:
And then the really big news at the state level is the cut in the income tax rate.

Dan Zemke:
Yes. The thing that affects the most people is a 5\% across the board decrease in the income tax rates for individuals. And that's this year, the 2006. And there's also going to be another 5\% decrease for the 2007 taxes.

Jose Cardenas:
Any sense for how many people are filing their returns electronically at the state level?

Dan Zemke:
At the state level last year, there were roughly 45\% of the people who filed and we received a little over 2.5 million returns. So it's a significant number. We'd like it to be more because obviously electronically filing means nobody has to slit open that envelope and unfold the tax return and then key the information that's on the return. So electronic filing works to the benefit of both the government and the taxpayer.

Jose Cardenas:
Typically, though, the people who do the electronic filing are the ones who don't owe taxes or getting refunds?

Dan Zemke:
Not necessarily. By e-filing, if you owe taxes you can actually set up a range that your taxes that are owed will be withdrawn from your checking or savings account on the deadline. You could file the return now, owing the money, but say please take it out of my checking account on that filing deadline or any date before that.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, in terms of the federal side, you have seen a significant increase there too of e-filing, haven't you?

Bill Brunson:
Yes we have each year. E-filing became available to the general public for their 1985 return in 1986 and we are basically at about 60\% of all Americans electronically file. We anticipate 136 million returns for this year. 80 million will be electronically filed. Here in Arizona it's about 2.4 million returns to be received, 1.4 million will electronically file. And it's because of the benefits that are for the taxpayer and their ease and convenience. You can file from your home say on a Sunday in your pajamas from your kitchen table if you wanted to by using your home computer. There's an item called free file that if you go to the IRS website and click on this icon it will take you to 20 different software providers. And it provides free file to 70\% of all Arizonans, 70\% of all Americans. It's based on an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less. So if you're income is $52,000 or less, you can go online through the IRS website and file your federal income tax return for free.

Jose Cardenas:
In your pajamas.

Bill Brunson:
In your pajamas, Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.

Jose Cardenas:
Got it. But today itself is another day to celebrate in a way, February 1 is, as I understand, earned income tax credit awareness day? Is that right?

Bill Brunson:
Right. We want to get the word out that folks that do qualify for this valuable credit to take advantage of it. Each year, Jose, we see a 20 to 25\% of taxpayers who qualify fail to claim the credit.

Jose Cardenas:
Now why is that? It's been around since 1975.

Bill Brunson:
You know, it's a hard issue to actually, you know, make one point or the other as to why. But there are variable factors. And these are folks that don't make a lot of money but do work. They earn around $39,000 or less this year, and the credit could be as much as $4500 or slightly more if they did qualify. So these folks that don't file, we want them to file because they've earned this money and they should, you know, file to get the item.

Jose Cardenas:
It's awareness day. What are you doing, though, to spread that awareness?

Bill Brunson:
Well we are coming here on Channel 8. We worked with the City of Phoenix today. We're working with various city governments, united way across the country, getting words out with various coalitions, letting them know that this is something that your constituents, your citizens may qualify for. Please let them know. And what we also are doing is opening up free tax help sites today as well. And these sites are geared toward lower income people that have English as a second language, handicapped, elderly that would benefit from a free tax help side. And they specialize in making sure if an individual qualifies to include that on the return, this earned income tax credit and other credits that they may qualify for. So today was the day to let folks know about the earned income tax credit and to let them know that there are free tax help sites available within the community to file for that credit.

Jose Cardenas:
You have had campaigns like this in the past?

Bill Brunson:
Yes, we have. The awareness item has not been as big as it has been today where we went in a joint effort across the country to let folks know.

Jose Cardenas:
Dan, other things that people should be aware of on the state side is that the deduction is gone up. Can you tell us about that?

Dan Zemke:
The standard deductions increased this year for effects of inflation. It happens every year, but the standard deduction has increased. Also probably one that will affect obviously not everybody but in 2006 for the first time Arizona will not tax any military income. So that - and that's not just combat income but any military income is now not taxable by the state of Arizona.

Jose Cardenas:
You know, the thing that's gotten some attention in the press this week, if I recall correctly, was the governor's proposal to extend the filing deadline for Arizona to match the federal.

Dan Zemke:
That's correct. The governor did ask that the legislature enact a change in statute to allow Arizona to have the same filing deadline as the federal government, eliminate the confusion that would have reigned otherwise.

Jose Cardenas:
And that would make it what, April 17?

Dan Zemke:
That would make it April 17 this year.

Jose Cardenas:
Now the other thing that's of importance to Arizona taxpayers is the bigger tax credits for school contributions.

Dan Zemke:
Yea, that's correct. Married couples filing jointly will find that the maximum amount of credit allowable for the contributions to the public schools is $400 this year. More than it was in the past. The credit for contributions to private school tuition organizations for a married couple filing jointly is up to $1,000 for 2006, and the contribution for - excuse me, the credit for contribution to charities who assist the working poor is maxed at $400 this year for married couples filing jointly.

Jose Cardenas:
Bill, who needs to file and who should file if those are two different questions?

Bill Brunson:
They are two different issues. Statutorily let's say if you are a married couple filing jointly, both spouses under age 65 and not blind, the dollar amount would be $16,900. Once you reach that threshold, you have a filing requirement. Single individual, $8,450 under age 65 and not blind. But you could have, say, a son or daughter who worked over the summer that goes to school and they had withholding from wages paid, and they don't need a threshold based on their marital status, then they would want to file to get that money refunded to them. Another item would be for say, the earned income tax credit, which if you work and you don't make a lot of money, you may not have had any withholding then we can cut that individual a check for up to $4600 if they do qualify for that credit. Another issue would be the telephone excise tax refund where people that have paid long distance tax on telephone calls, the item is a refundable amount but they need to file paperwork, file a return to get that item sent to them.

José Cárdénas:
Now this was the tax that was imposed to finance the Spanish American War?

Bill Brunson:
Imposed to finance the Spanish American War and remained on the books until recently. There were five court cases that basically said to the IRS you cannot collect this. We acquiesced and then we stopped collecting it as of August 1, 2006. Now there's 41 months there --

Jose Cardenas:
We're about out of time now. I think we're going to have to wrap it up there. But thank you both, Bill Brunson, Dan Zemke, thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Dan Zemke:
Thank you.

Bill Brunson:
Thank You.

Larry Lemmons:
City of Scottsdale decides to turn on the speed cameras again on the Loop 101 while a state senator wants to put photo radar on the ballot. And Randy Pullen is new chairman of the Arizona Republican party, and within three days of his election four office members resign. The Journalists' Rountable, Friday at 7 on Horizon.

Jose Cardenas:
That's the Thursday edition of Horizon; stay tuned for Horizonte, it's up next with an interview with Cheech Marin. Thank you and good night.

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