Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 17, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small joins us with the latest legislative news and highlights from the Arizona State Capitol.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Do state lawmakers have a budget plan for the governor? Who’s the replacement for state senator Jake Flake, who died last Sunday? Joining me now with an update on what is going on at the state legislature is Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small. Jim, good to have you back. Let's start with the budget. First of all, any progress whatsoever?

Jim Small:
There seems like there's been a little bit of progress. We got a little bit of a speech today on the House floor from Speaker Jim Weirs who said that there’s been what he termed “huge progress” in the budget negotiations this week. There was a meeting yesterday where the groups looked at what items they wanted to sweep, what dedicated fund sources they wanted to sweep. And this morning there was kind of an impromptu meeting called at about ten to 10:00. Right before, in fact, the House and Senate were scheduled to go on the floor today. They called an impromptu budget meeting for about 45 minutes or so, came out of that, Republicans certainly seemed in good spirits about it. Seemed to be that things were moving in the right direction and a deal may not be imminent but it’s certainly -- they are moving that way. Speaker Weirs actually said he hopes that the legislature will be here on Friday because his goal would be to pass a budget on Friday.

Ted Simons:
It seems as though some of the talk down there is now dealing with what happens should the deadline not be met. It sounds like, are Plan B’s being thrown around?

Jim Small:
That was actually the subject today of a special joint appropriations committee meeting. Members of the appropriations committees sat down for about 2 hours today, heard a -- got a revenue update from the budget analysts and got some guidance from the legislative council, which is kind of like the legal council for the legislature. They were told, basically, there’s no road map for what happens if you guys don’t have a budget by July 1st, because it’s never happened before. There’s no court cases dealing with it, nothing in the constitution, nothing in statute that says if you don't have a budget in place by the start of the fiscal year you can do this and this, but not this. So what it comes down to basically is they think that they can go ahead and agencies that get their money every other year, that get a bi-annual budget, can go ahead and still operate. Agencies that get an annual budget, which is pretty much all the big ones: education, corrections, DPS, things like that…they can't. They would have to shutdown. That would in turn mean you’re looking at about 30,000 plus employees that would have to be what’s called rift-reduction-in-force, temporarily. A number of those would actually not be able to get their jobs back. It would be a big hassle if they didn’t have the budget done.

Ted Simons:
Is this an apocalyptic-type buster or are these folks really trying to figure out what could happen?

Jim Small:
Well, I think there’s probably a little bit of both. I think, certainly, it’s something that needs to be looked at kind of a worst-case scenario. That was the feeling among certainly the Chairman of the Committee Representative Russell Pearce and Senator Bob Burns as well as a number of other fiscally conservative people. On the other side, a number of the critics lashed out in the meeting and said, “Look, this is time that could be well-spent actually trying to get a budget done instead of talking about shutting government down.” Some people viewed it as a way to maybe try to attack the governor or go after the governor in some sense. It’s really unclear what’s going to happen. The meeting today though kind of came on the heels of news that the negotiations were kind of moving forward and we're kind of picking up speed. It’s kind of a mixed bag as far as what happened today.

Ted Simons:
We’re also hearing of a very ambitious economic stimulus plan that combines a bunch of ideas that have been floating around into one massive package.

Jim Small:
Right. The idea would be to take, I think, four components, create an entertainment district kind of down south of Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Let voters in Tucson decide whether or not they want to institute a tax similar to the one here in Maricopa County for the Cardinals Stadium that they could use down there to do some renovations to Tucson Electric Park and to help the Cactus League and maybe build a new stadium to attract a new team down there. And it would also include tax credits for businesses that do research and development, as well as tax credits for businesses that build components of solar panels. The idea would be to create a couple thousand really high-paying jobs and really kind of try to help push Arizona’s economy away from the service industries and from the housing industries.

Ted Simons:
Again, this is something that takes a lot of ideas, puts them in one particular plate. Odds of getting through? Sounds like it's on the fast track.

Jim Small:
It sounds like it's on fast track. It’s supported by Republican leadership. It certainly has its critics. Some of the fiscal conservatives are not too happy with it. Representative Eddy Farnsworth today said he didn't like it. He saw this as one of the bad sides of politics where government gets involved when in reality government should just be backing off and taking its hands off, you know, the markets and letting them sort it out. It seems to have a lot of support though. Democrats are lining up in support of it. So I would imagine that this is going to move pretty quickly.

Ted Simons:
Surprised that so many Republicans seem to be in support?

Jim Small:
I don't think so. If you look at what this is going to do, you know, the tax credits are issues that a number of Republicans have pushed for in the past. R & D Tax Credit Research and Development has been a big pet project for Representative Michelle Reagan who is the sponsor of this legislation and I know that she’s been working hard on it for several weeks.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Sylvia Allen, the replacement apparently for the late senator Jake Flake. Who is Sylvia Allen?

Jim Small:
Sylvia Allen is a former Republican Party Chairwoman from Navajo County. She actually ran for the state house in 2004; ran against Bill Copenicky, Republican and Jack Brown, long time Democrat, lawmaker from Saint Johns. She lost that election. Didn’t run for any office two years ago. This year she was actually set to run for the House again to try to go after Senator Brown again. She’s actually now not only been appointed to replace Senator Flake for the rest of the term but she’s actually been selected to replace him on the ballot in the fall. So she is going to go ahead and run unopposed for the senate in the fall. She is a very conservative Republican, fiscally and socially.

Ted Simons:
Bill Copenicky, on this program and elsewhere, saying he wanted that seat and certainly wanted to succeed Senator Flake, and now, obviously, that dynamic has changed. He is going to continue to run for the House?

Jim Small:
Right he will continue to run for the House. I believe this will be his final term actually before term limits kick in for the House. I’m sure he's pretty disappointed that he didn't get selected by the precinct committee in his district to be on ballot in the fall.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, the real ID bill signed by the governor - a little bit of surprise there?

Jim Small:
In the past she had been a strong proponent of the real ID program. She issued a signing letter with the bill today and said that her support for real ID was always contingent on the federal government providing money and so the state wouldn’t have to pick up the tab on its own. She said that money doesn't seem to be forthcoming, so it makes no sense to continue into the program.

Ted Simons:
Alright, Jim, thanks so much for joining us as always.

Jim Small:
Great. Thank you Ted.

Peter Singer

  |   Video
  • Doctor peter singer is known internationally as a philosopher and professor of public ethics. His views on issues have drawn attention as well as controversy. Larry Lemmons sat down with Dr. Singer to talk about his ideas.


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Dr. Peter Singer is known internationally as a philosopher and professor of public ethics. Singer has written extensively on bioethics, the philosophical study of the moral questions that arise from such things as life sciences, medicine and biotechnology. His views on issues have drawn attention as well as controversy. Larry Lemmons sat down with Dr. Singer for a conversation.

Larry Lemmons:
Dr. Singer, I would like to begin with something of a definition for utilitarianism. People might not know what that is. That sort of philosophical tradition that you come from – Bentham, Mills. Could you describe that? What is the basic idea of utilitarianism?

Dr. Peter Singer:
The essential idea is that we should judge actions by the consequences. If you want to know whether something is right or wrong, you ask, does it have better consequences all things considered for everyone affected than anything else that I might have done under those circumstances.

Larry Lemmons:
In the past, I know that the definition would include whatever would create more happiness for people. Is that not something -- you say consequences now, better consequences.

Dr. Peter Singer:
That’s the most general form of utilitarianism. Now, if by consequences you mean happiness then that’s what we call classical or hedonistic utilitarianism. That’s the form that Bentham himself, for example, held. I hold what’s called preference utilitarianism. So for me, the consequences are better if they satisfy more preferences all things considered. So if that's what people want, or, I’d include non-human animals as well, if that's what all of those beings, conscious beings who are affected prefer to any other outcome, all things considered, then that makes it better consequences.

Larry Lemmons:
Since you brought animals into it. We’ll talk about your new book, “The Ethics of What We Eat.” That is the correct title, you can hold that up.

Dr. Peter Singer:
This is the hard back. The publishers then decided that “The Ethics of What We Eat” was a neater, shorter title. So they’ve gone for that for the paperback.

Larry Lemmons:
You have talked in this book that it is wrong to eat animals primarily because why?

Dr. Peter Singer:
Well, because in turning them into food essentially we are not taking account of their preferences, of their interest in having a decent life. I imagine here in Arizona you are pretty well aware of that because you recently had that initiative where you voted to add law two of the worst forms of factory farming. The, uh --

Larry Lemmons:
-- putting the pigs in the small pens.

Dr. Peter Singer:
That's right pigs and veal calves. Those are two of the worst forms of factory farming and I’m really delighted you decided to ban them here. But there are still a lot of others that still go on. So that’s why I argue in this book that ethically, really, we should not be buying the products of methods of farming that essentially are abusing animals, ignoring their interests.

Larry Lemmons:
Well then, you are just talking about the way that the animal is produced as it were as opposed to, is it wrong to eat animals generally.

Dr. Peter Singer:
Well I’m not saying that it's always wrong to eat them. Certainly if you needed to eat them to survive that would be a completely different matter from if it’s just a matter of walking in the supermarket and saying I will have this or that. And if they were really, you know, if they really had good lives, if they really were outside in the fields in their sort of natural social group and then they were painlessly killed, say where they stood in the field, without being transported to slaughter and put through the slaughter house. You might be able to argue then that that's ethically defensible meat production. I’m not taking in this book a sort of absolutist line against it. I’m just saying that as it is in practice, it's really very difficult to find ethically produced meat or animal products. It’s therefore better to avoid them.

Larry Lemmons:
Another aspect -- I think people might have a misconception about what you're doing in terms of calling it irony then that if you would take this position, then you would have the same position that if a parent wants to euthanize an infant that they know is going to be severely disabled, you say that's okay, and so you’ve obviously gotten a lot of flack for that.

Dr. Peter Singer:
I certainly have gotten a lot of flak for that. It’s clearly not a popular view especially not in this country where there's a pretty strong conservative religious group who believe in the sanctity of all human life. My view is consistent with my general philosophy, that it depends on the preferences of those affected. If we’re talking about a newborn infant, it doesn't really have awareness of its own life. So parents, generally, are in the best position to decide whether that life is going to be a miserable one with a lot of frustration and pain and distress because of some disability or whether it’s going to be sufficiently rewarding for the child and for the family. I think the parents and families’ concerns also have a legitimate place in that calculation. At present, doctors already make decisions to let infants die under some circumstances. So they will withdraw a respirator from an extremely premature infant that's had a massive brain hemorrhage say, because they know that essentially that infant will be a vegetable. They will withdraw the treatment if the infant can't breathe, they will withdraw the respirator and the infant will die. But they won't go the other step. Of course it's illegal so they can't now. Of saying -- having made the judgment that it’s better that the infant not live. There’s not really a big difference between turning off the respirator on the one hand and giving the baby a lethal injection on the other.

Larry Lemmons:
But I can see how, not just from the religious right, I would think that there would be people who would say, “Well who makes that ultimate judgment then?” Is it the parent’s right once a child is born? Once you open that door, it's going to be very difficult then to close it. I would expect people to make a lot of bad choices I would think.

Dr. Peter Singer:
What I’m saying is in a way the doors are already opened because we allow doctors to withdraw treatment knowing that the infant will die without that treatment. So that already makes that decision about the quality of life, whether it's worth prolonging the life or not. I do think that it's important that that decision should primarily be that of the parents. Although of course they have to be advised and have to consult with the doctors. I don't want the state to get into that business. I think that would certainly be a bad way of doing it. But if it's an individual family decision with doctor's advice, I think that's a reasonable safe guard If the doctors are not comfortable with the decision the parents reach, if they think that that’s, you know, the parents have grossly exaggerated the severity of the problem for the infant, then they should be able to go to the hospital ethics committee in the first instance, perhaps to a court and then the infant could be taken from the parents' custody if the parents, you know, want to reject the infant and think the infant is better if the infant die but the doctors and the committee or the courts say no, then maybe the infant should be put up for adoption.

Larry Lemmons:
Within utilitarianism, how does this fall within the greater common good, as it were?

Dr. Peter Singer:
It’s really like my views about animals, my views about how we handle disabled children, my views about the obligations of the rich to the poor, they are all concerned to try and avoid unnecessary suffering. That seems to be the clearest and easiest way in which we can go about satisfying more preferences, avoiding the frustrations of preferences. And I think in all these cases, at present, we inflict a lot of pointless suffering. If we can change our practices a little, then I think in each of these cases we can spare animals a lot of suffering by the way we’re treating them. We can not have the pointless suffering of very severely disabled infants lingering on, or having lives that are difficult for them and their families. And I think we can help people who are living in great poverty elsewhere in the world.

Larry Lemmons:
Dr. Singer, thanks so much for talking to us.

Dr. Peter Singer:
Thank you, its been good talking with you.

T.I.M.E. Initiative

  |   Video
  • A measure heading for the November ballot would increase the sales tax to raise funds for transportation projects. The �T.I.M.E. Initiative� seeks to fund improvements to the state�s transportation system through a one-cent increase to our statewide sales tax over 30 years. David Martin with the T.I.M.E. Coalition talks about the measure. Martin is also president of the Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors.
Guests:
  • David Martin - T.I.M.E. Coalition and President, Arizona chapter of Associated General Contractors


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
A group called Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona’s Economy or the T.I.M.E. Coalition, is working to place an initiative on the November ballot. The measure, known as the T.I.M.E. Initiative, seeks to fund improvements to the state's transportation system through a one-cent increase to our statewide sales tax over 30 years. Here to talk more about the initiative is David Martin with the T.I.M.E. Coalition. Martin is also president of the Arizona chapter of Associated General Contractors. David, good to have you on “Horizon.”

David Martin:
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to talk about this extremely important subject.

Ted Simons:
You bet. Let’s talk about just what exactly the T.I.M.E. Initiative is and what it does.

David Martin:
Well, a little bit of background real quick just so you know, we are a group of business leaders and business organizations in the state that felt that transportation and infrastructure were extremely important to our economy and our quality of life. We organized about a year, year and a half ago to encourage the legislature and policy makers to act on what we consider one of biggest issues that need to be addressed with our explosive growth.

Ted Simons:
General contractors, why are they supporting this?

David Martin:
Our organization obviously builds roads and streets and freeways. Obviously there’s a public good that comes with our work.

Ted Simons:
Sales tax only. Why not combine other avenues of funding with a sales tax and lower that sales tax as opposed to going ahead and putting this one-cent thing through.

David Martin:
Well we contemplated that on a number of fronts. Let me answer that in two ways. First of all whenever you are running an initiative or for that matter a referendum you get into dual-subject issues. So we had to keep it as clean as possible to avoid the dual-subject issue. Secondarily, we did polling -- extensive polling -- with the voters about what type of a tax they would like to implement. And obviously the number one tax which appealed to a number of people were impact fees for example. So if you were to bring an impact fee of 1,000 per structure statewide that would bring $86 million. Not really enough to put a dent into a significant transportation plan. The next tax that was popular or actually a couple down was a statewide sales tax that was palatable to the constituents out there. That brought in $1.4 billion a year. From a critical mass process, we obviously felt that the sales tax was the better choice.

Ted Simons:
In other words, if the impact fees and developer fees and these kinds of things, the user fees in general, were combined with the sales tax, the thought was that’s just too complicated?

David Martin:
Well it gets too complicated because you get into the dual subject issue of the constitution specifically states when you take an issue to the voters it has to be single subject. That’s why we were very careful in crafting the initiative to make sure that it dealt just solely with transportation and a single revenue source.

Ted Simons:
I know that some mayors around town here in the Valley are not too pleased with this because it will raise taxes obviously in general, some of the cities -- residents of the cities paying up to 10% I imagine research has shown. They are also saying this kind of puts them behind the eight ball because when they want to raise taxes for something much more local they will not be able to do it now because the taxes are already up there.

David Martin:
That's a great question. First of all I would answer that two ways. It doesn't change the peridime as it relates to inner city competition. The disparity between city A and city B remains the same because it's across the board. The second piece of that that I think is extremely important for the voters to know is that 20% of this tax revenue goes to the cities and the counties specifically to be managed by them. So if they were contemplating, for example, a sales tax increase for transportation, no need, we're handling it here in 2008.

Ted Simons:
Right, yeah. I guess their concern is, if it's not for transportation, then they got to figure something else out. But I think you understand their concern.

David Martin:
Sure, definitely.

Ted Simons:
There are also concerns regarding the economy. Again, if we're not in a recession, it's certainly close and we're playing touch and go. Is there a concern that raising the tax, raising it this much, would hurt a fragile economy?

David Martin:
Actually to the contrary. But let me go into what I consider important information on the issue of the voters and how the voters feel. We asked the voters -- because we're not going to dump a lot of money into an initiative process where we're throwing money away where it's not plausible for this thing to pass. So we had to ask that question ourselves as a business organization whether or not we wanted to make this investment. And that question was asked to the voters. Do you want taxes or do you want to address the state's priorities? And on a 2-1 basis they said we need to address the state’s priorities. We followed up with a question on the sales tax and that was in the majority also. The other component, dealing with the fragile economy, this tax doesn’t go into effect until January 1 of 2010. And the beautiful thing about that is that ADOT and other communities that want to begin construction projects immediately after this passes, they can, because you can bond against that sales tax immediately as opposed to waiting until 2010. So we were cognizant of that.

Ted Simons:
The plan also seems to concentrates on upgrading transportation systems especially roads that are already in place as opposed to concentrating a lot on new roads. The thought behind that?

David Martin:
I don't know if that's the correct assumption. For example, we have in the plan the expectation to build the freeway system and widen the freeway system from Tucson all the way to Flagstaff. There are also a number of new corridors that are proposed in the plan. So I guess I’d challenge that premise.

Ted Simons:
Ok, so, the idea that there's some concern that it sounds like you're upgrading what's already there as opposed to piling on new freeways, you dispute that?

David Martin:
I dispute that, because there's also a huge portion in there for public-private partnerships that allow for connectivity from, let’s say, Apache Junction down to the Tucson area and also on the other side of I-10.

Ted Simons:
Ok, accountability and performance evaluation for when the construction starts, provided it passes. Are those abilities to measure there?

David Martin:
Yes, and the initiative specifically spells out that the -- general would be responsible for that, the legislative branch. And that those who commence on 2015 and every five years thereafter. Furthermore it specifies in the initiative that the -- general shall hire folks that are very specific to a specific mode. For example, you don't want to have a transit expert deal with freeways and you don’t want a freeway expert to be auditing obviously transit facilities. So it was very specific to lay that out.

Ted Simons:
The plan obviously shows a lot of specific projects from a trolley system in Tucson to widening, expanding freeways and such. How do you convince a relatively home body in Peoria that they should pay more taxes so that folks in Tucson get a trolley system?

David Martin:
Because we have here, and I can show you these if you’d like me to, some comprehensive fashion here that those projects that will also be beneficial to Peoria, as well as Tucson, as well as Flagstaff, etc. and every county in the state.

Ted Simons:
So, again, we’re kind of going back to the user fee aspect of all this. The idea of folks paying a sales tax that some folks may use more than others. Best way? Most equitable way?

David Martin:
Most palatable way for the general public. We tested the gas tanks, as an example of what’s on the bottom of the list. Obviously as gas prices are going up, that would be an obvious assumption that people would make. It’s equitable because at the end of the day, right, you have to get your shirt delivered to you. You have to buy goods and services and the sales tax, we believe, was the most equitable way to do that.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, how's the signature gathering going?

David Martin:
We’re doing fantastic there. We are at 210,000 signatures; we need 153,000, so we’re giving ourselves a really, really good cushion.

Ted Simons:
David, good stuff, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

David Martin:
Thank you very, very much for the time.

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