Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 27, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>> Ted Simons:
tonight on HORIZON, the governor now has the state budget on her desk. We'll look at some key elements of the spending plan. Sheriff joe arpaio targets the city of mesa and a ban on same-sex marriage fails, at least for now, in the senate. That's all next on HORIZON.

>> HORIZON is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your arizona pbs station. Thank you.

>>> Ted Simons:
hello and welcome to HORIZON. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me to talk about the budget and other issues, Mary Jo Pitzl of the arizona republic, Le Templar of the east valley tribune and Mike Sunnucks of the business journal. Lawmakers approve a $9.9 billion budget, mary jo, oh, boy. Before we talk about everything that happened, as of broadcast time right now things are happening still.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
yes. As i was driving out here my colleague amanda crawford texted me from the senate floor and things have gotten nasty she said. They've -- two senators were filibustering on a tax-related bill, discussion got broken off by the chair, jack harper, and i guess there's lots of yelling and fingerpointing and points of order being called. This appears to be a bit of blowback from their marathon budget session of, what, 36 hours ago, where pretty much the inverse was true and the Republicans felt like they were shut down.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
the Republicans got very little out of this budget. It essentially was the governor's budge wet less bonding. She got the universities bonding, she got school bonding, she got an expanded lottery, she got traffic cameras. State highways. And people are kind of searching for what the rs got on this.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
to go back at why they're at fisticuffs now, they're holding out. There's a core of Republicans who very much want to get a vote on the gay marriage amendment, but there were some contingencies attached, first we've got to do all these other bills, they spent the better part of the day negotiating that. Those bills, most are now being heard, which allegedly would clear the way for the gay marriage vote. But who knows? I mean if they're arguing right now, we don't know where this is going to go.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
they've shown no ability to keep their caucus together, the Republicans, at all. This has kind of magnified what's happened in past years, they cannot get the votes and they just can't take the governor on.

>> Ted Simons:
well., i was going to say le, isn't this deja vu all over again? Didn't we just go through this last year.

>>Le Templar:
this is exactly what we went through last year, in that the house wanted a lower budget, you know, spend less, borrow nothing, and very little as possible, and the senate because they can't get 16 votes in which you have Democratss and Republicans working together, cooperated at the center, in this case the Republicans, the far right Republicans, found themselves on the outside even though they were a majority in the house, and enough house members said we're tired of waiting to get it done. It only took three Republicans.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
but in past years Republicans have been able to get some tax cuts out of the governor. She'd veto a property tax cut before, then the last budget they'd get it out of her and this year there was a property tax repeal for an item that's going to come back after a three year hiatus if they don't do anything and they didn't even get that and they're not even going to refer it to the ballot.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
to your point, ted, it is deja vu all over again. What did einstein say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again without a change in results. And this year as we saw last year, we had three of the four caucuses agreeing pretty much on The budget, well, i shouldn't even say that though, because most of the Republican caulkus and senate did not agree with this budget plan, and the governor, one lobbyist said to me this wasn't just the governor's budget. She ran the whole process, and leadership was just nowhere to be found.

>> Ted Simons:
what does that say about -- let's start with the house, because we got the first budget from the house, and a day later it was old, old news. What does that say about house leadership, what does it say about senate leadership?

>>Le Templar:
it all comes down to the fact there are 16 solid votes in the senate to do on budget matters even though there are 17 Republicans compared to 13 Democratss, because back in march there was a strategy between senate and house leadership to have a legislative budget put on the table and negotiate with the governor. But since they couldn't get 16 Republicans to vote for that budget, that stymied their plans, then two months spinning their wheels with the deadline coming up july 1st, if you don't have a budget in place you're risking shutting down a large part of the state government. That gave all the leverage to the governor. She had a budget proposal on the table. At least on paper looks balanced.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
the idea was to pass a bipartisan budget and give conservatives, give Republicans something to go along with that and i don't know what they got. They didn't get the property tax repeal or the kind of spending they wanted and the governor got all the bonding and lottery she wanted.

>>Ted Simons:
so again, i ask again, house and senate leadership, is that going to change drastically because of this? And i mean like all the way up, i mean, there has to be some really serious change here i would think.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
well, there's obviously there will be change in leadership in the senate because tim bee is term limited and he's running for congress. Whether there will be change in the house remains to be seen. Every year you hear somebody's going to overthrow speaker weirs and he remains speaker weirs. There's also been some talk might have changed with some developments today, that the Democratss might have a good shot at taking back the house of representatives, which would really be a change in leadership. That's less likely to happen. What this says is wires and his crew, they want to at least make a charge up the hill and show they've got a budget, it's got the kind of principles they believe in, which is more spending cuts and minimal borrowing at a time of great budget duress, and yeah, it didn't get anywhere but at least they waved the flag.

>> Mike Sunnucks
:i think you'll see a big run at the weirs, i think you'll see some conservatives go after o'halloran, with some independent expenditures towards maybe getting him out of there because he was a big vote on the governor's side on the budget issues, and this has happened in the past with carolyn allen and bender where some liberal moderate Republicans sided with the governor and they just can't keep their caucus together. They need i guess more of a stick and start taking some of these people down.

>> Ted Simons:
you mentioned blowback from the initial senate debate, the one that lasted until 5:30?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
5:30. Yeah.

>> Ted Simons:
talk about senators ron gould and jack harper and their techniques and whether or not, a, they made any friends, and b, they were effective at all.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
did they make any friends? Certainly not among the Democratss. What happened on wednesday night into thursday morning is that senator gould used every trick, and i shouldn't say trick, every option in the senate rule book to try to delay a vote. Asking -- he wanted to have debates, discussion on every item, they imposed a two minute limit on each member on when they could speak. This all appeared to be designed to drag out the whole process. He didn't like this budget. Everybody saw the budget was going to pass anyway. Thus the argument for why you should just have some limitations. Harper was sort of his comrade in arms and would back him up and they'd trade questions back and forth to each other which prolongs things. I thought most of the senators for as long as i was there, and i only lasted until 3:00 a.m., you know, were rather civil with it, but they would try to use every trick they could find in the rule books to combat them. So there's a lot of sympathy among Republicans for harper and gould. They felt they were mistreated by the rules of the senate, the way they were interpreted, and by the Democratss.

>>Le Templar:
exactly, normally the senate likes to think about is the course congenial, this type of tactic doesn't go over well with senators of either party, but i've heard the same thing in the last 24 hours, that a lot of the Republicans actually weren't going to participate but were quietly cheering senators harper and gould on because Republicans were getting nothing out of this budget and wanted to make some points and weren't happy particularly that tim bee as president was cooperating with Democratss to keep things rolling.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
and certainly they haven't backed down. I mean today senator gould showed up with the mohave county phone book on his desk as a message that if necessary he would open up the phone book and start reading it, an old filibuster tactic.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
the governor had had an agen da. She had her plan, five or six things, bonding, expanded lottery, traffic cameras, protect her programs she likes from cuts, and you look at the Republican leadership, i don't know what they even cared about this year. You couldn't get a sense of what their priorities were

>> Ted Simons:
one of the things they cared about was getting the gay marriage ban passed through, at least letting the voters decide on this. And this now has got some interesting facets to it, because at first senator johnson was up in the white mountains, wasn't going to be there, is she there today?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
oh, yes, senator johnson is there. She was sort of targeted as the person who made it impossible for them to pass this last week i think is when the senate voted on it. And they brought it up again this wednesday and with senator johnson not here, it failed. But today senator johnson's back and senator pamela gorman, who had left yesterday for chicago, arrived back today, so arguably that gives the Republicans enough votes, as long as they keep enough people literally on campus.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
it's a huge frustration with kind of the rank and file Republicans, they hold this vote when johnson's not there, when they didn't have the vote why would you do that? That's kind of the first rule of blocking and tackling, you got to count your votes and don't bring it up and lose the votes and they've done this year after year.

>>Ted Simons:
so we're still waiting on this?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
as of, you know, 5:15 p.m. friday, we are.

>> Ted Simons:
ok. Let's get to budget specifics as i'm coughing my way through this. Bonding for school construction 593 million, less than originally thought here?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
yeah, the governor wanted more and that was one thing the Republicans got, if they're going to hang their hat on less bonding they maybe need to get into a new game. But she got the bonding she wanted and they're going to use it via lottery tickets, trying to expand the lottery. They're going to finance it, back it via lottery tickets.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
no, that's for university construction.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
for both.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
no for schools.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
for universities but she got both,. She got schools and universities.

>> Le Templar and the only reason there wasn't more bonding for primary schools, and this is the fact they're counting on fewer students enrolling.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
right, in fact --

>> Le Templar:
so, you know, the governor got exactly what she wanted in the end, just not as much as originally projected.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
both budgets, one from the house Republican leadership and the senate budget, both account about $180 million in savings just because they think that you won't have to spend as much on school construction because of the declining enrollment le's talking about.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
couple weeks ago Republicans were saying there's no support for this university bonding component of this, there's nobogy that supports this and then there it is.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
just to be clear for the viewers, there's borrowing for k-12 school construction, then along comes a somewhat dormant idea of the university construction bonding to pay for that. That was called a job stimulus program.

>> Ted Simons:
was there surprise that the lottery was being used to back this up? I mean, did that come out of the blue? was that always talked about?

>> Le Templar:
no, it was out of the blue. There has been talk for a couple years about expanding the lottery. There was this limit on how much money they could spend in advertising and the lottery staff always said we can spend more we'd get a lot more people gambling here, and we'd make more money for the state, and so i'd heard that discussion before, but not until tuesday did either the idea of using it to pay for the university construction project --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
pretty lofty projections about the growth. And you have a question how many play the lottery now and how many more lottery customers are out there. I think people know about the lottery. Not like it's a new product.

>> Ted Simons:
they're thinking more advertising, better prizes, those machines, vending machines, $1.2 billion over the next decade. That's a lot of people gambling.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
it is what they project, and that money will go to pay off the bonds that will be taken out by the universities for a whole array of construction projects as well as repairs at universities. And interestingly, the house when this -- when they were looking at this, they wanted to prioritize and say shoot, we shouldn't let all the decisions be left to the board of regents, we'll prioritize. If the house had it way they would have repaired buildings first, secondly the medical campus in downtown phoenix, and lastly new buildings. That wouldn't fly because it doesn't spread the goodies around far enough. What's in northern arizona, for example, in a university construction project if you don't give n.a.u. maybe like the new buildings it's looking for.

>> Ted Simons:
was there much in the way of moral indignation at using --

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
yeah, there was some, you know, from the center for arizona policy, you know, which is long opposed to any form of gambling, and some lawmakers are very upset. Especially this fell out of the plan, but there was a plan to bring in some video monitor type games for the lottery, and i think that ran into two objections, the moral one, my goodness, in restaurants and bars all over the state. Secondly, it risked violating the agreement that the state has with the indian tribes, and could have invoked the poison pill that's in the indian gaming compact. And they had to pull that out.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
there was more of a fiscal conservative outrage towards this that we're spending, we're bankrolling our state finances and schools on scratchoff tickets. You think you'd have more of that in a barry goldwater state.

>> Le Templar:
hard to be indignant when the voters keep approving using the lottery to fund state functions.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
voters approve everything that's popular. If you put it in front of their face and say it's for universities, it's for the children they"re going to approve it.

>>Le Templar:
but as a lawmaker after a while you figure out where the voters are going to be going and find something else to be mad about.

>> Ted Simons:
that was one surprise. Was anyone else surprised it seemed out of the blue, photo enforcement came back.

>> Le Templar:
no, the governor never let that go, i mean, i personally wasn't surprised it was in there. It's $90 million. It's a huge chunk of money in order to get, solve the shortfall problem and get a balanced budget.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
darn it, le, you ruined my line. I was going to say faster than a speeding lamborghini, in comes the photo enforcement idea.

>> Ted Simons:
it wasn't talked about that much. It may have been on the table the whole time but it was.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
it shows one of the problems with how the budget gets done in the state. She aired it in the speech inch january but since budget talks are behind closed doors, who knows what they were going back and forth on, and as we have learned the governor's very tenacious in negotiating tactics and as le points out, they see this could bring them $90 million in revenue, not that they've built that into budget projections for the new year.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
cities love it, you're going after speeders, there's no constituents, no association of speeders lobbying.

>>Ted Simons:
not all cities and counties like it. They have to process these things.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
but the cities want that revenue too.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
they're not going to get it.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
scottsdale gets their own revenue. Anytime they have a chance to go after an unpopular group of people, speeders, smokers, they're going to go after them and get revenue. It was a no brainer because there's nobody down there lobbying for them.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
in this case the state got to the speeders and scooped them up in their corners and cities and counties will be left holding the bag on processing costs, won't be getting the ticket revenue like with scottsdale's speed cameras.

>> Ted Simons:
is anyone now saying that photo radar in arizona is primarily for safety purposes? It almost seems as though it's quite obvious that it's being used to raise money.

>> Le Templar:
until now, it really has been a safety purpose because most cities that use it lose money on their photo radar programs, the tribune has reported that several time. So if you were looking to raise money photo radar was a bat investment but it does work to improve safety. All of a sudden we've changed the issue. Lawmakers at least in the senate i saw quoted were pretty honest about we need this to make money so we're going to design the program so it does that. That's why they waived the points on your driver's license if you get caught, you're not reported to insurance companies, premiums aren't going to go up. The only thing you have to do is pay the fine.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
only? I don't know what the trib's paying but $165 for a ticket isn't chump change. That might be a deterrent and senator bob burns said look, this is designed to be a deterrent. So he doesn't think it's going to raise as much money as they project because it will alter behavior. It certainly will for me. I'm not going to speed and risk paying $165.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
they're all sin taxes and are easy to go after, smokers, speeders, lottery ticket players, they're all sinners and they're going to help pay for university.

>> Ted Simons:
they're after you my friend, after you.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
i do all those things.

>>Ted Simons:
mary jo, you reported as well somewhere deep within the pages of this budget aims was mentioned and targeted.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
this was a real interesting one, and i can't wait until we can slow down and actually read the rest of the budget because it comes at you so fast and so thick that you can't do it all on deadline. But there is a provision that would limit the state -- that the state contract for aims writing that test is up this year. Normally it would be renewed for five years. This legislation changes it to a one-year contract. This blindsided tom horne at the department of ed. They had no idea. They were not consulted by lawmakers that worked on it in the governor's office. They're saying look, we're not going to get anybody to give us a decent bid if it's just for one year and we have to pay sky high costs. What the underlying thought is from supporters, there's been a lot of discontent about aims and using it as an exit exam from high school and they want -- this has been a goal of the governor's p20 education task force, to find a better exit exam and this will buy them a little time to do that.

>> Ted Simons:
a.c.t. is pretty much what they want?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
a.c.t., s.a.t., a couple other proficiency exams might be scrutinized.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
that's a drawback to like you said before the closed, secret budget process that goes on, the governor writes this thing for the most part and they give it to the legislators at 2:00 in the morning and they rubber stamp it and we don't know what's in it yet and one thing the governor's office does not do is come out and say their stances on a lot of issues because they give the line there's no bill introduced, it's not on her desk, we'll wait. We don't see anything until the session's over with so everybody's left holding the bag.

>> Ted Simons:
quickly before we leave the budget. State temporary worker plan is that still?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
it's gone. This was a plan for marcia arsberger and bill kopeniki got a lot of support from the speaker and the president signed on to the bill, the late senator jake flake before this, this would have set up arizona for a temporary worker program, bring in workers through mexico on two-year work visas, raised lots of questions but never got to the point where it could be fully vetted. They just couldn't get it ot of the committees and the ag interests that were backing this said no, it's dead. It didn't even come up.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
what would they have needed, some kind of congressional approval, and congress can't get anything done on immigration, Republican or Democratsic congress, so it's a good effort to show they were trying, if there was ever any progress it could be a pilot program but it could come up next year and not do anything.

>>Ted Simons:
the big solar project at gila bend is that being pushed around here?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
supposedly it's hanging by a little thread in the house. What this hinges on is a legislation that would extend a reduced property tax break for renewable energy projects, it ends in 2011. This bill would extend it to 2040. It passed the house months ago easily, stuck in the senate, stuck, stuck, stuck, senate dislodged it this week, it's on its way and all of a sudden stuck in the house. Geez, could it have anything to do with the fact the sponsor is representative lucy mason, one of the four Republicans who broke away and voted for the senate budget.

>> Le Templar:
complication with that, solar energy in general, is the goldwater institute today filed suit to challenge the arizona corporation commissions renewable energy standards and the underlying subsidies that fund a lot of this activity, claiming it's unconstitutional power that the corporation commission has grabbed.

>>Ted Simons:
back to economic stimulus plans, tourism sports authority in tucson.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
that's a go.

>> Ted Simons:
that's a go.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
that'll allow them to impose new taxes on rental cars, restaurants.

>> Ted Simons:
in tucson for spring training.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
to try to bring more teams in.

>> Ted Simons:
entertainment district south of bank one ballpark? That's not happening at all?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
it's not going to get state assistance.

>> Ted Simons:
right. Ok.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
they tried to attach that thing to i don't know 20 different bills. And they had different incarnations of it. Some would help bill jensen, co-owner of the diamondbacks, helping develop around chase field, other proposals to help dmv develop stuff out in mesa by gateway airport and that was not going anywhere last we knew.

>> Ted Simons:
but the rock and roll theme park in eloy looks like it will get the governor's approval.

>> Le Templar:
it's on the governor's desk, no reason not to expect her to sign it. Atleast i haven't heard any objections from her.

>> Ted Simons:
really.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
correct.

>> Le Templar:
and there's no impact to the state. It succeeds and fails on its own merits and the sales tax revenue that would be charged at the park and the vendors in the park, and it could potentially create lots of jobs for the state so.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
it would be nice to see one of these things happen. Wasn't it a couple years ago the legislature approved one for up by williams, and well.

>> Le Templar:
the problem is they can't raise the matching private funds they're supposed to have, which is why developers of the decades theme park kept their match much, much lower, kept raising the bar on how much they could borrow.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
and there were some very high powered lobbyists pushing that bill.

>>Ted Simons:
we can't leave without the latest in the joe arpaio crime suppression sweeps, we had one today in mesa, yesterday in mesa. What happened?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
oh, he had a big push in mesa, had his big spat with the mesa police chief. There was a lot of media there following joe, invited by joe, and a few protestors, not quite as many as was expected. And they made some of the usual arrests and, you know, joe had his press conferences and he promises next time to not give any warning because he claims the mesa police chief kind of tipped people off.

>> Ted Simons:
not nearly as many protestors as feared, but still the pushing and fighting and shoving between gascon, police chief out in mesa, and arpaio, the sheriff, continues.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
yeah, joe never shies away from a fight, especially with the media cameras on. And i think some supporters of joe's, outside supporters, kind of stayed away this time, the militia type folks, stayed away to try to keep tempers down a bit.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
how many people did they arrest?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
not that many, couple dozen.

>> Le Templar:
23 the first day, haven't heard numbers from today.

>> Ted Simons:
14 illegal undocumented, 23 total.

>> Le Templar:
18 total illegal immigrants including nine found in a drop house.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
i wonder how much different that would be from a regular day without the circus.

>>Ted Simons:
real quickly, as we went on the air we heard that a representative in the house was arrested on assault charges related to domestic violence. Representative mark desimone. Aside and apart from the charges, what does that do to the dynamic in the house? There was some thought Democratss might make some inroads there. He's a Democrats in a Republican district.

>> Le Templar:
he's from district 11, the only Democrats running in that race, so he could sort of stand on his own in the general election. And you can't say for sure how this will play out, depending on how it affects voters, but you would assume that the Republicans in that race will try to make a lot of hay of that.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
but he is resigning, so he's out of there. And the Democratss will probably scramble to find someone to be on the ballot for the general election against the two Republicans. But i think it puts -- it certainly is a setback for the Democratss who thought if they hold that seat and hold this one and this one in yuma and pick up a few more they could get control of the house. It's going to be much harder and desimone came with great credentials, he was a business friendly Democrats, named freshman of the year by the arizona chamber, picked up the award yesterday.

>>Ted Simons:
we will stop it right there. Thank you so much. Good stuff. Monday on HORIZON, the economic impact of the 2009 state budget will be examined. Who will be the most affected and what will be cut or preserved? That and one on one monday night at 7:00 on HORIZON. Tuesday we look at how prepared arizona is for possible wildfires. Wednesday legislative leaders talk about accomplishments during the 2008 session. Thursday we look at baby boomers getting ready for an aging workforce, and friday we will be back with another edition of the journalists roundtable. Coming up, the mortgage makeover, is there any way to keep desperate homeowners in their homes? That's next on now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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