Capitol Update

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Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small gives us the latest on what’s happening at the state capitol, including the most recent news on the budget stalemate.

TED SIMONS: Good evening, welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The governor's request for the state supreme court to force the legislature to submit budget bills they've already passed, that request turned down yesterday by the court, so what's next? Here with the latest is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Jim, good to see you again.

JIM SMALL: Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: Fallout from the supreme court decision, what's going on there?

JIM SMALL: Well, what's going on, the supreme court said what the legislature was doing really was wrong, you know, wasn't in the spirit of what the constitution says as far as sending bills to the governor to be signed or vetoed. But at the same time they said we're not going to make you do it, even though we don't think what you're doing is proper, we're at the end of the year, only seven days left in the fiscal year when they issued the ruling yesterday and you've already promised that you'll be sending these bills by the end of the fiscal year, so we'll just let things, given the circumstances, let things go the way they are and so that's what's happening. Legislature's still holding onto the bills and they're still meeting with governor Brewer on negotiations on a budget, the same story Monday before the court.

TED SIMONS: It's interesting that negotiations and the talks continue. Is there any sense that there's movement, any sense that we're not going to have this last hour deadline game of chicken going on?

JIM SMALL: Well, when you talk to the participants in the meetings, you know, the senate president and the house speaker, they seem very optimistic that a deal is going to get done and it's not going to come down to, you know, the threat that they've been holding over the governor's head, which is sending her a budget with only a couple hours left in the fiscal year and making her make the decision to do I sign a budget I don't like or shut down state government. House speaker Kirk Adams said today he thinks the deal going to be done soon and the legislature won't even be working in July, so they will get all of their business wrapped up by Tuesday the 30th. So it still remains to be seen and what we keep hearing is that progress is being made in these meetings but no one is willing to come out and talk about how much progress, what areas are still left, what areas have been resolved, because obviously those are parts of ongoing negotiations.

TED SIMONS: And if we do get a situation where there would be a government shutdown, there's an interesting new poll out that shows the public would pretty much blame the legislature.

JIM SMALL: Yeah. It was a poll done by actually by a firm out of Portland, Oregon. It's a firm that's, they've been around about 20, 30 years, but they've never really done any political work in Arizona and it's called more information I think or more input. And I talked to the pollster yesterday in fact and he said he wasn't commissioned to do the survey. He wasn't being paid by, you know, by anti-tax groups or groups supporting the governor's plan or anything. He was doing it actually as a way to boost P.R. for his company, in order to get a foothold here so he can do some political work here in the future and in that respect it actually maybe makes it, maybe the poll that we could probably trust the most because, you know, it doesn't have kind of ties to any of the camps and it showed that the public overwhelmingly would support the governor if the government shut down, not the legislature. They would blame the legislature, and right now even they say the governor has a better job approval rating than the legislature does.

TED SIMONS: And tt also says that the public would genuinely approve of the idea of a temporary sales tax increase.

JIM SMALL: It does. In fact a majority of voters surveyed of the 500 voters in this poll said that they would support a temporary tax, just with no additional information, when they were given additional information that it would be dedicated for education, public safety, healthcare, things like that, the number jumped up to actually 64% which is very large and it's in the ballpark with figures we saw back in March from a poll that was commissioned by a group of businesses that later put out that plan, the building a better Arizona group that later put out that plan that was going to target lawmakers to support the governor's plan and at the time people kind of dismissed the polling they had done, you know, saying look, it was kind of designed to get this answer, it's by the governor's people, so we don't really know how seriously to take it. But these numbers are very close to those and in some respects probably more favorable to the governor.

TED SIMONS: So you've got a poll that's favorable to the governor but you've got the governor also, I know that the governor's office sees it's a win, but, you know, pragmatically speaking it was not a win because she didn't really get the relief she was wanting, so you've got these two things happening. It sounds like quite a split in the Republican party here. Is there increasing talk that the governor may not even run again?

JIM SMALL: That's been talk we've been hearing since March really, when she came out and said point blank she thought a tax increase was necessary. People at that time speculated, well, she's doing this because she's not going to run again, because why else would she come out and say this, you know, because she's pretty much assuring she won't win. That talk is still around and, you know, it bubbles up every now and then. I think honestly in the past week it's probably a little less than we've heard it, if only because lawmakers and lobbyists now are scurrying around trying to get bills through now that the logjam is running as fast as it can.

TED SIMONS: Speaking of that how fast is the legislature working and how much concern is there that these things they're looking at aren't properly vetted?

JIM SMALL: Dozens of bills are going through every day. The senate has been doing bills nonstop for more than week now. The house is. It has been trickling bills out through floor votes up to this point and it's since pulled out all the stops and has done several dozen bills on a couple different days. A number of lawmakers are very concerned about the pace of work and about the possible ramifications that this could happen to public policy, committee I was watching today, this morning in fact, in the house commerce committee, one of the republicans voted against an idea, bill from another republican and said I only had 18 hours to see this, you know, we haven't looked at the language, a striker amendment that came out yesterday afternoon in a committee voting at 9:00 in the morning, just not enough time to really examine the issue and to know what all the potentially unintended consequences might be.

TED SIMONS: And it sounds like Democrats, they're saying we're not a part of this, nobody's paying any attention to this. A lot of them are walking out of committees.

JIM SMALL: Yeah it's happened and kind of a political maneuver from time to time. If you've got a committee, majority republicans on all the committees, but if there's a couple of members missing Democrats might take a walk and leave the room because then they lose a quorum and that means the Republicans can't vote on the bills and so most of the measure is moving forward right now are Republican. So, you know, in essence you kind of stall things or you can kill some bills given the fact that there's not enough time to schedule another committee hearing right now. That happened this morning in a house committee and the way it was -- the solution that Republican leadership came up with was to appoint a member, a new Republican member to the committee in the middle of the committee who came on, sat down, voted on, you know, 10, 15 bills, and the committee ended and so that really kind of it rubbed Democrats the wrong way.

TED SIMONS: I was going to say, that sounds quite unusual. Last question here, the governor she still can veto any dog gone thing she wants. Is that something that you think or you're hearing at least down there could be part of her arsenal, toward the end? If they push her, will she shove back with veto power?

JIM SMALL: I wouldn't be surprised if it came down to it. If the legislature ended up they couldn't get an agreement and sent up a budget to her on the 11th hour, final day of the fiscal year, it wouldn't surprise me too much if that was the response from the governor. Anything is really possible at this point and there hasn't been any specific talk about that being a possibility, but, you know when push comes to shove I think, you know, you use what you have at your dispose and that's certainly, you know, her biggest weapon.

TED SIMONS: All right. Exciting times, interesting times, Jim, thank you so much.

JIM SMALL: Thank you.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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