Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 9, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local journalists review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" -- it will be the last state-of- the-state speech for Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is set for Monday this before she heads for her new job in the nation's capitol. Secretary of state Jan Brewer gets ready to take over gubernatorial duties. We'll look at the issues she'll be dealing with and the trains have been up and running for almost two weeks now and it looks like valley residents are embracing light rail. That's next, on "Horizon." Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me are Mary Jo Pitzl of "the Arizona republic," Casey Newton of "the Arizona republic," and Mike Sunnucks of "the Business Journal." Governor Napolitano starts a new chapter in her political career as homeland security secretary in the Obama administration. Monday though, she gives her last state-of-the-state speech in the valley. I'll get there eventually Mary Jo, and she will get there eventually as well; the question is what's she going to stay.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well as you said that this will be the governor's what we expect to be her last state of the state speech. It starts at 1:30 on Monday, for all of those of you who are interested in picking it up on cable. Or come down to the capitol. She is expected to recap the Napolitano years, the contribution that she's made to the state and also lay out a roadmap for a few things that she would like to see the state get done. Specifically, preservation of some level of state trust lands and the next move in transportation infrastructure. Both of those as you might recall were issues that she wanted to get on the ballot last fall. That didn't happen. They couldn't get anything through the legislature, so she's going to give it another run.

Mike Sunnucks:
It will be interesting to see what she says about the budget deficits. They are going to be at what probably 4 billion, 4.5 billion dollars if we count the curtain year, next year. She's not going to be part of that, so it's going to be obviously Jan Brewer and the legislature are going to decide that. It's going to be interesting to see what she tries to recommend. How she does that to republicans who are going to make those decisions.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think that most of any specifics that governor Napolitano will have on the budget, I'm told that we won't see until the end of the week, next Friday, when she will release a budget for fiscal 2010 and of course the thinking of the legislature is that most people will promptly take that and throw it in the round file and take a look at what Governor Brewer or other law makers comes up with. But you never know and she will leave behind a road map on spending and as Mike said, it will be interesting to see how that contrasts with what we might get from the republican legislature, especially given the state's very deep deficits.

Mike Sunnucks:
The question is, maybe the state will be better served to have Brewer up there giving the state of the state since she is the one that's going to have to deal with this budget mess.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
but she's not the governor.

Mike Sunnucks:
Some folks would like to see Napolitano step down way before this. She's standing in the doorway to moving forward with this budget mess.

Casey Newton:
As a matter of fact, the house republicans put out a schedule saying this was actually the farewell address from Governor Napolitano which somewhat rankled the Napolitano staff. That lets us know, this is the state of the state.

Ted Simons:
Well the thing is we had her on the program, I asked her, your critics are saying you should have maybe resigned a little bit earlier allow for the Brewer administration to come in. She said I'm not going to resign because I'm not yet the secretary. I have to be confirmed, and B the law says she has to give the state of the state speech. She had to address the legislature on the state.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Not just the law, the state constitution says that.

Ted Simons:
so basically shorter than usual.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, we're led to believe it will be quite a bit shorter than usual.

Ted Simons: Okay, and as far as her week, you've got this going on and confirmation hearings start

Mary Jo Pitzl:
… on the 15th. Before the U.S. Senate's homeland security and -- there's another name, her confirmation hearings are supposed to start on the 15th. We're led to believe it'll be a pretty speedy process. The game plan there is to have Obama's security team, the attorney general, homeland security, defense, secretary, have them through the committee hearing process so that they can hand that to President Obama as soon as he has taken oath. And if he so chooses, he could send it up for the full senate on January 20, inauguration day, the next day, the 21st for confirmation and -- boom -- they could be in place right away.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah but there is no indication that there's going to be any problem. McCain and Kyl, Republicans, have both endorsed her nomination. And the question is we know she's kind of splitting time between here and Homeland security, and homeland security is a big job, that's a huge agency. Border Patrol, TSA, customs, anti-terror stuff, fema, and you know is she getting enough time to prepare for that when she's kind of splitting time coming back here and dealing with us yahoos.

Casey Newton:
It tells you how certain Brewer's staff is that Napolitano will become the secretary. That they've scheduled the inauguration for the 21st, they say it'll take place at 1 pm.

Ted Simons:
Interesting

Casey Newton:
They're ready

Mary Jo Pitzl:
and they're planning to move into the offices next weekend on the 17th and the rest of Napolitano's staff will basically trade places with them. So there's some level of a game plan. I don't think we'll be seeing much of Janet Napolitano in this state at least as Governor Napolitano after Monday.

Mike Sunnucks:
The one thing that's got to be said there's been a lot of public posturing between Napolitano and the legislature and the republicans on this. A lot of stuff is going on behind the scenes. The Brewer folks are meeting with agencies and with the legislature on the budget. It's not like they're starting from scratch. While we see all this stuff out on public, behind the scenes, I think Napolitano is taking a step back and Brewer's team is looking at the budget and what to do with that.

Ted Simons:
And I do want to get to the budget in a second, but first I guess we can now as of today anoint Ken Bennett as our next governor. Is that the idea, Casey?

Casey Newton:
Well, certainly, there's a long and proud history in Arizona of secretaries of state ascending to the level of governor. Maybe Ken Bennett will be the next one. Today, just after noon, the secretary of state announced that Ken Bennett will be the next secretary of state. I met with him and he said he's going to be a close partner of Brewer. In fact, the staff says he'll serve much as a lieutenant governor might in another state. Because both Brewer and Bennett are republicans, they'll be working closer together than Brewer worked with Napolitano. Even to the point on working on the budget. Bennett, who was the senate president from 2003 to 2006, says he wants to use his experience and crafting budgets to help get the state out of its fiscal mess that it's in right now.

Ted Simons:
is that somewhat unusual to have a secretary of state that closely aligned and involved with the governor?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I can't think of anyone in recent history, in any kind of history in Arizona that's done that. The reason I sort of guffawed there is that Bennett, while becoming secretary of state, he is not entitled -- if anything were to happen to Jan Brewer in the next two years he would not be entitled to ascend to the governorship or to be anointed. That would pass to the next popularly elected official which would be the attorney general. However, I think that Bennett has indicated that he intends to run for the seat in his own right, in 2010 and that would put him next in line to the governor.

Mike Sunnucks:
That job doesn't officially have a lot of power. They oversee elections, lobbyists and campaign finance, that type of thing. It's not like a lieutenant governor job where you're second in charge. It's an informal relationship there in terms of him doing the budget, but he's certainly dealt with budgets and finding compromises within the legislature and obviously with Napolitano when he was with the senate.

Ted Simons:
and I would imagine a tough incumbent to defeat once he's in there a couple of years and gets his feet firmly planted.

Casey Newton:
Absolutely. I think it's fair to say that he was a popular law maker. He has a reputation as a solid conservative. I think he will be a formidable incumbent.

Mike Sunnucks:
the only thing you'll see come up in the election is obviously the case with his son, who had an incident at a camp and there were some questions about the type of sentencing he got with the assault. And he's an energy executive. He has an oil company up in Prescott. And has been involved with energy issues and republicans and oil companies probably don't always mix that well with voters sometimes.

Ted Simons:
Alright, the budget doesn't seem to be mixing well with anyone. Mary Jo, we've got now our treasurer but you know what, let's hold off on the budget for a second. Let's talk about our treasurer and our governor and a not so cordial meeting they had this week.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The treasurer and governor don't really like each other very much. And if you needed any evidence of that you just had to pop into the meeting of the loan commission. Who ever heard of this group? But the treasurer, Dean Martin, convened a meeting of the state loan commission yesterday because the state laws said if the state has to borrow and martin is convinced the state has to borrow money to get through the rest of this budget year, through some cash flow hiccups, you have to set interest rates. So okay the loan commission means it's itself, it's the governor, it's the head of the department of administration and it was just great theater. The governor came in there and basically almost immediately made a motion that this item be tabled. She says it's premature; we don't need to go out and borrow yet. Lots of things can happen. The legislature can resolve the budget deficit. Later in the day we learn that she's telling people that you know the state might be getting a big chunk of change like maybe a billion dollars from the feds, which would take care of a lot of problems. She just said it's too early to do this. She and Martin just talked over each back and forth, weren't listening to each other. For about 15 minutes it was an interesting exchange.

Mike Sunnucks:
and both of them kind of went in the theater part of it. Martin takes on the governor, so that helps him with his base and the governor stands up to Dean Martin and helps her with democrats. But the point is that she's not going to be part of this decision. He could have had this in a few weeks with Jan Brewer and done this so it was kind of for show.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right, in fact, Treasurer Martin did say afterwards that there would have been no harm if he had waited for two or three weeks.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask about that I mean it sounds like he said well it doesn't matter, when she's gone I'll do it anyway with no harm done. Kind of wonder why it was done.

Mike Sunnucks:
It raises his profile. I mean he's taken on the governor and it's been in the papers and we're talking about it.

Casey Newton:
There's also been a big effort on behalf of the republicans lately to pin the budget deficit on Napolitano to make sure that it's her legacy. So that for the rest of this year as the new governor, Brewer, deals with the budget deficit she doesn't get flagged with all of the fallout.

Ted Simons:
What are we talking here? We're talking $2.5 billion to $5.5 billion -- the numbers.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well for the budget deficit for the current year they are now saying it is probably going to be about $1.6 billion in a deficit, which is about 16\% of the budget. By the time they get around to doing the work, which will begin Monday or Tuesday, they've got about five and a half, maybe five months left in the fiscal year to get 16\% savings out of the budget. It's going to be an ugly process but we are led to believe it's going to be a very quick process.

Ted Simons:
Interesting.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah and we're looking at two to three for the next fiscal year -- billion. To his point, you know, Janet does take some blame in this. It was her budget. The legislature signed off on this, the voters approved a lot of these things, but for the past year, she was the composer. She got everything she wanted. The economy certainly isn't her fault, but the fiscal situations we're in; she does face some of the consequences.

Ted Simons:
And as far as the borrowing aspect, we had Treasurer Martin on the program, and he said that if there was some kind of federal stimulus package coming in, maybe help for three months tops. Was he unaware of what the governor was speaking regarding a billion dollars perhaps coming in?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think he was unaware of that.

Ted Simons:
Okay so basically when she says he doesn't know everything that's going on he may not know certain aspects of what's going on.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right, but what we understand is if and this is all very conditional, but if this billion were to materialize, maybe half of it would come to the state for this fiscal year. Well that's 500 million. The state deficit is 1.6. That only goes a third of the way down the road. It's going to take cuts and I think everybody, democrat and republicans -- certainly the republicans are resigned and resolved to that fact that they're going to have to make some pretty painful cuts.

Mike Sunnucks:
Well the real challenge is we have the highest percentage deficit of our total budget; higher than California, higher than New York. And the legislature and whoever's governor can't touch a lot of that because it's voter protected and they've gone through and raided everything they can; they've swept a lot of stuff so their options on the table are, there's just not a lot there right now.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about that table Jan Brewer basically says everything is on the table, and she means everything from taxes to all-day kindergarten and all points in between. Are you getting a sense? It was interesting to hear you say that it may be a relatively quick process. That suggests either a whole lot of preplanning or maybe rolling everything back to '06 levels, something along those lines.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well I think for the current year budget, that's what's going to be quick. Senate President elect Bob Burns is saying that they'll have something out; they'll have options out by the end of next week. Obviously there are documents that are being worked up now and I think they're trying to sell this to their members now. He said there will not be hearings with what they are going to do with '09 because they had hearings last year when they were creating the '09 budget and both of the incoming appropriations chairmen have said that they think they'll have something on Brewer's desk by the end of January.

Mike Sunnucks: The big peril for Republicans is if they come out with jerconian cuts you know cutting all these social services and children's programs either it's just going to get killed in the media and with voters and hearing Burns and Adams talk at the state chamber thing the other day, they didn't talk at all about tax increases; they talked about tax cuts, they want to cut property taxes and keep the tax environment low per republican dogma so I think you could see some major cuts proposed.

Ted Simons: And Senate President Burns saying no action on bills as far as he's concerned until the budget is fixed.

Casey Newton:
That's right and what would be a big change for law makers, the committees, rather than working on all of the bills that lawmakers will be showing up with on Monday, they are going to be paired off and what Burns is calling, for lack of a better word, a buddy system so that a member of the appropriations committee will work with a member of each of the standing committees to try to figure out some cuts. Burns says he's going to hold the line as much as he can and not hear any bills until there's a budget.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
and we're talking not one budget but two. First fix the current year budget, then build the budget for 2010. Now In recent history, for at least as long as I've been running around down there, they don't get that next year's budget done until late June but this is a new crew coming in and Burns and his counterpart in the house, Kirk Adams, are pretty resolved that the budget comes first, that is the priority, and while the house will hear some bills while working on the budget, the intent is get the budget done first and have the bills come later.

Ted Simons:
Is it possible to have all of these people, with the bills ready to go and they're all waiting for this to get done?

Mike Sunnucks:
In the past, they haven't had that kind leadership or coordination down there. They've messed around with the license plate bills and the guns in bars bills and all the immigration stuff and some of the social stuff so they need to deal with this and I think we have to watch out for some really big cuts to things like university, city shared revenue and all-day kindergarten because you're not going to get their eliminate the department of congress, that's not going to make it to their 4 or 5 billion dollars.

Ted Simons:
All of this, of course, hinging on the economy which we just can't seem to find good news anywhere. We've got gas prices going up here recently. We've got Sky harbor traffic now. We've got unemployment up. I mean, we're still waiting to hit bottom, are we not?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, people were talking about the middle of this year. That's out the window. They're looking at next year now across the board. Crude oil is down but gas prices are going up a little bit. The job picture is bad across the board; small business, construction, manufacturing, big companies Boeing cut jobs today.

Ted Simons:
and talk about layoffs and departments cutting personnel and folks. The attorney general's office; cuts there.

Casey Newton:
This may be the canary in the coal mine. The attorney general has a budget separate from the general fund and said they act independently of the general fund so they were the first to act among the state agencies we believe they did the first layoffs of this particular budget cycle. They cut 20 people, attorneys included among them. And frankly we expect to see a lot more of this in weeks to come.

Ted Simons:
So you're talking attorney investigators even as well?

Casey Newton:
Yeah, and that, of course, can prevent the attorney general from doing its job and even from collecting revenues that go to the state. I've spoken with Attorney General Goddard and he's very concerned that making any more cuts will really hamper his office's ability to do his job.

Mike Sunnucks:
And that's already kind of a resource poor office compared to other states. We don't go after people like California, some of the bigger states like Florida too. They tag on that but we don't. We have a lot of fraud going on here they want to go after some of these mortgage scams and things like that and they're not going to have the resources to do that.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It's hard to believe that once the legislature gets to work, these attorney general layoffs will be the only ones we'll see in the state. A lot of the state dollars are caught up with salaries; a lot of those are in positions that they actually have budget authority that are not voter protected. But this has really rattled state employees who a lot of them say, you know look, I'm sort of making a trade-off I'm taking a somewhat lower paying job but I'll have the security of this job and I can ride it out to retirement and that may not be the prospect.

Ted Simons:
Alright let's move on here, another story from today. U.S. Supreme Court to consider E.L.L. This is a win for Tom Horne and folks, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes it is. For the past Republican leadership of the legislature, as well as superintendent of education, Tom Horne, they've been making the case that when it comes to English language learner instruction that the federal government has gotten a little too intrusive. There's a federal framework that says you must provide fair and equitable education. So if you're a student who isn't proficient in English, there's an obligation to bring those students up to par. However, the state's argument which apparently the Supreme Court is very interested in entertaining is that let us figure the path to get there. We don't want a federal judge telling us which way to go and how to do that. So that will be taken up by the Supreme Court at some point and we have Ken Starr on board representing our lawmakers and Horne's got a different set of attorneys. This will be a very interesting case to see that this has gotten to this level this can be very president setting.

Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think that Starr's brief on this won't be as interesting as some of his previous works.

Ted Simons:
Probably not, the E.L.L., but it's the story that never stops.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No, and you look at the budget situation with the state, last we checked, I mean, his fee far exceeded what the state's risk management guidelines would allow. So I'm not sure if they're going to backfill that from some of the slush fund they had left over from the house or if they worked out or renegotiated a new deal with Mr. Starr, but I don't think the state's going to be able to dig much deeper and pay him what he normally asks for.

Ted Simons:
Well maybe they can perhaps encourage Mr. Starr to ride light rail.

Mike Sunnucks:
They sure could.

Casey Newton:
That's right.

Ted Simons:
Debuts, Casey, I know you're all over this story.

Casey Newton:
I am.

Ted Simons:
You've torn the lid off of it from the variety of angles.

Casey Newton:
I appreciate that Ted.

Ted Simons:
Did you ride it the debut day?

Casey Newton:
I absolutely did. I had to see what it looked like. It's many years in the making. $1.4 billion spent and of course for the first several days it was open, it was absolutely free. I got on the rail and rode it around and the people who got out there on the first few days seemed like they were pretty big fans.

Ted Simons:
Yeah, we tried to get on the first day, could not.

Casey Newton:
It was absolutely packed. They told us that they were planning on serving between 100,000 and 200,000 people on opening weekend and they met that. Their figures show I think something like 286,000 people in the first five days it was open.

Ted Simons:
What about after the free weekend?

Casey Newton:
After, it seems like the traffic has held up and this is more anecdotal. We haven't seen the actual writer ship data. But if you talk to people who are riding the trains during the morning commute, they're very full. Maybe you can get a seat, but maybe you have to stand up and hold on to the poles.

Mike Sunnucks:
It does kind of face the challenge of the economy; you know people aren't traveling around as much. Obviously, people are out of work, people trying to cut back a little bit so that kind of works against it. We have obviously this honeymoon period where people try it out. The key is for it to be a good experience for people when they first try it out and get used to riding it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, in fact, I think that that might almost backfire on them a bit, because all of the enthusiasm of the opening days when it was free, I talked to somebody who had ridden it, and it took them an hour and a half to get home. But that probably won't be the case in two weeks.

Ted Simons:
Right, well when we finally got on the thing; you felt like, you know, one of 14,000 sardines in one can and you're kind of sitting there going I don't know if I like all this all that much. Let's wait for it to be a pay as you go system.

Casey Newton:
Welcome to public transit.

Ted Simons:
Exactly

Casey Newton:
I mean Phoenix residents are so spoiled. If you go on public transit anywhere in the world you are going to be shoulder to shoulder with people. That is part of the great joy of mass transit.

Ted Simons:
Okay, license plate frame crackdown, as far as the law is concerned. So if you don't like the light rail and you get in your car and drive. And it covers the word "Arizona"?

Casey Newton:
That's right.

Ted Simons:
How much are you going to get fined for?

Casey Newton:
The average is $135. And that varies from city to city based on what jurisdiction you're in. This is a new law effective January 1st. It was actually passed back in 2006 with a three-year delay so that automakers could come up with new frames. Well of course in the intervening three years everyone forgot they passed this law and so when media starting paying attention to it, motorists said are you kidding me. And so now you have a couple of members of the state senate saying well we're going to see what we can do.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I wonder how much auto dealers even paid attention to that because there I was on New Year's morning with my little screw driver and a car that was purchased in 2006 and I had to take the frame off because it blocked the word "Arizona". I mean, there's a whole cottage industry waiting for somebody to tap. They can just go around to parking lots and make money taking frames off cars.

Ted Simons:
There you go.

Mike Sunnucks:
Well, I mean, they need as much revenue as they can get. If they can get a few bucks out of Mary Jo for being such a scofflaw, such a horrible violation.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No, no, no, the frames off.

Ted Simons:
So basically if you have a license plate that says, "I love grandpa" or "Save the children" or something like that…

Casey Newton:
Forget grandpa. No you went to ASU, yeah, take that off.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
All of the university plates totally block out the word Arizona.

Ted Simons:
We've got about a minute left. Did anyone see "smile you're under arrest," and/or the Conan O'Brien appearance of Joe Arpaio.

Mike Sunnucks:
I saw a little replay footage of both the show where it's kind of a candid camera and cops together type deal. And then I saw our esteemed sheriff on Conan O'Brien with one of the Law and Order actors, who kind of had the look on his face like why am I here? It's on the fox reality channel which is somewhere up high in the Cox digital and it raises the question of is our sheriff really focused on the right things, resource wise. But in the sheriff's mind, he got on Conan O'Brien. You know, maybe Letterman's next and I think that's probably a big priority for Arpaio.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What's interesting is some networks got a show planned on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a reality kind of show there, ABC. So we're all wondering.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say, Arizona goes Hollywood. You just can't go wrong if you're an Arizona politician.

Mike Sunnucks:
Now that will be quite a race to see who has better ratings; if it's going to be Homeland Security or Napolitano or Arpaio.

Ted Simons:
Alright, that sobering thought will be the last for this discussion. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Governor Janet Napolitano gives her final state-of-the-state address before leaving for Washington, D.C. to become secretary of homeland security. "Horizon" will show the address in its entirety, have reaction from lawmakers, and discuss the speech. That's Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday, we'll talk about balancing the state budget. Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams will be here for that. Wednesday, senate and house minority leaders Senator Jorge Luis Garcia and Representative David Lujan join me to talk about the challenges the year will bring for democrats in the legislature. Thursday, the Polly Rosenbaum state archives and history building opens. We'll look at what it has to offer. We'll also look at the process to get it built. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great weekend!

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