Journalists Roundtable

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Local reporters review the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Casey Newton of "The Arizona Republic," Daniel Scarpinato of "The Arizona Capitol Times," and Paul Giblin of "The Arizona Guardian." The governor signed most of the budget plan today, but did pull out the veto pen. Daniel, we've got four things signed, one complete veto, and a couple of partial vetoes. Any surprise here?

Daniel Scarpinato: The bottom line is she rejected the permanent repeal of the state property tax and salvaged some funding-- or actually got rid of a lot of cuts to education and welfare entitlements and so forth. Surprises? Well a lot of people speculated leading up to this that she would veto the permanent repeal of the property tax as kind of maybe her last card to play in still pushing for that sales tax referral and it would have been hard to justify, you know, a tax cut or however you want to frame it, when she's been out there staking her entire political career on a tax increase.

Paul Giblin: Right, she called that unconscionable. If she would have allowed that to happen in light of the sales tax referral going down the toilet.

Ted Simons: Was it a surprise, Casey? This was a big thing for the GOP this legislative session.

Casey Newton: It doesn't help her make friends with anyone in the GOP right now. As Daniel said, this was her last card to play. She's boxed into a corner and wants that sales tax referral so bad but doesn't have a lot of leverage. This equalization property tax repeal is the last card left.

Ted Simons: Go ahead.

Paul Giblin: She boxed herself in the corner further. During the press conference she kept talking about extremists within her own party and the democratic party. Talking about getting herself into a box. She's gone to an extent to alienate the people who pass the legislation she wants.

Daniel Scarpinato: The other sound bite she had was, "I will not surrender." So she sees this as a battle, an ongoing battle and, in fact, it's going to stretch into next year because she wants them to come back and deal with the referral and these other issues but it could go into January and beyond.

Paul Giblin: Right, she said today she's given up any hope of getting this sales tax increase referral done this year. But she also wants the legislature to come back by the 30th of this month to fix up some funding that went down with the bill that she vetoed and that affects things like the Arizona Lottery, the Arizona Corporation Commission, 12 agencies in general, that are in a bad way, and need some help.

Casey Newton: Lawmakers said today if you want us to deal with those things, we need to talk about this property tax repeal again.

Ted Simons: And for the record, the budget veto also you included a freeze on the impact fees and prohibition on building codes and these sorts of things. Let's get numbers here. As far as education cuts, $220 million restored? What's the number here?

Paul Giblin: That's what we heard. That's what the governor's office said, $220 million. Later on, the Republican legislative leaders, Kirk Adams and Bob Burns came up with a slightly higher number and I wasn't sure where that number was coming from. We were trying to figure that out before we started taping today.

Casey Newton: The important thing, though, is that it's money the state doesn't have. The budget is based on revenues that just aren't coming into the state. At some point down the road, they are going to have to make tough decisions.

Ted Simons: The DES budget as well, 50 million dollars that line item happened. The temporary sales tax, as you mentioned, it still -- she really does think that is necessary. Is anyone extreme going to budge on this?

Paul Giblin: What she can hope to do to get this done, she's going to need some Democrats, she's probably gonna have to lose more Republicans off the right end of the spectrum there and take a middle group of Republicans and Democrats. I think that's the only hope she has. But she's working hard to alienate both sides by calling both extremists and there's wasn't a whole lotta love lost today.

Daniel Scarpinato: All things being equal, I don't see any of the votes changing. There needs to be other changes, in some cases very big ones, to have movement on the tax referral and legislative leadership isn't really willing do that. So, I don't know. I don't know where we go from here.

Paul Giblin: The Democrats got a lot of what they had been asking all along today with what the governor did, cutting back on the cuts to education, for instance. That's what the Democrats wanted. So they got a lot of what they wanted but Brewer didn't bring them along the way and could have used that to her advantage to bring Democrats with her. But she didn't do it. And the Democrats, they had a press conference later on where they were criticizing the governor for excluding them and they were kind of doesn't seem there's a lot of love there either. A lot of bitterness at the capitol right now.

Ted Simons: The governor's actions, were they anyway shaped by the bipartisan talks --

Daniel Scarpinato: The bipartisan talks didn't really appear to go anywhere and to the extent there was any kind of real bipartisan negotiating other than just talking, I don't know that that's clear. The interesting thing about this is that in the lead-up to this, there were people saying, wellmaybe she'll just sign them. Maybe she'll just cave. Maybe she's ready to be done and that's what people have said in the lead-up to every one of these rounds and I think now it's pretty clear that's not going to happen regardless of what her re-election plans are. As we said, very strong language.

Paul Giblin: And another curious thing, during the press conference the governor had today, I asked her, what are you going to do strategically different to get the no votes to turn yes? She said she didn't know. She said it was a terrible situation but didn't have a strategy in mind. So it will be interesting to see what she comes up with.

Ted Simons: Do we have a balanced budget?

Paul Giblin: No.

Ted Simons: So what happens when -- the treasurer is running around saying if we don't have a balanced budget, he can't go to banks or borrow money. What's changed today?

Daniel Scarpinato: We haven't had a balanced budget in a year or two. It's been constant fiddling and declining revenues. I don't know that -- I mean, yeah, it needs to be balanced, but it's -- balanced, it's not as if it's any different than we were before.

Casey newton: What we were told the state has to January before it has to borrow money and gives us three months to figure it out.

Paul Giblin: It's a good fiscal policy. The state constitution says the budget has to be balanced. We have an illegal state action right now.

Casey Newton: We're a lawless state.

Paul Giblin: We are a lawless state. Someone is going to file a lawsuit here.

Ted Simons: I thought the juiciest rumors was the governor would go to Mexico for the conference and then while there, would just come in and say, veto. Or whatever Terry Goddard might want to do. Was that ever a realistic possibility? Boy, it got a lot of speculation.

Paul Giblin: I think it's a great rumor. I don't know if there's any truth to it.

Ted Simons: This kind of talk happens when all of the other earlier craziness occurs.

Paul Giblin: We asked that too. Today, why did you take this action today rather than the past couple of days, and she said she was trying to work it. She said she was working the thing right to 10 minutes before the press conference, so she said she was working it that whole time.

Daniel Scarpinato: But there were reports her staff was indicating to people yesterday at the league of cities and towns conference down in Tucson that, in fact, she had made up her mind and dean Martin was one person who said, why didn't she just tell us then rather than just making us wait? So I don't think that it really was up to the 11th hour in terms of the decision.

Paul Giblin: Well, there's a strategic advantage by announcing it fairly late on a Friday afternoon. You don't have to deal with the pesky reporters for a couple of days. They go away.

Ted Simons: The governor signed other portions of the bill, including the sale leaseback of facilities, including the house and senate building, am I wrong?

Paul Giblin: You're right, that's part of the laundry list of buildings that the state could sell to an investor who could lease it back to the state. The state would pay more than they got for selling it, but they'd have the cash up front and the worst about this, two of the buildings are the senate and house buildings which are perhaps the two ugliest buildings in the entire state. So if it gets sold to an outside investor and leased back for thirty years, that means we can't destroy them and --

Daniel Scarpinato: I'm a fan of those buildings and I'm a fan of post-modern architecture.

Paul Giblin: They're awful to look at and work in because you're in the committee rooms and you can't even see the speakers. They're terrible buildings.

Ted Simons: The state fairgrounds included and the state hospital and the idea of privatizing prisons as well. Didn't almost every official come out and say please don't do this because of security grounds and jobs lost as well, correct?

Casey Newton: Absolutely. Said from the start this is not something they want to see happen. Raises questions about the liability for the state when you have a private company controlling the prisoners, but we already do have some private prisons in Arizona--

Ted Simons: The sale leaseback, quick cash and obviously pay it back over -- why is that preferrable to so many lawmakers as opposed to a tax increase?

Daniel Scarpinato: Because it's not a tax increase. But in the long term, it costs a lot. I guess the view is if you believe the government spends too much, a tax increase just gives the state the opportunity to spend more, continue spending at current levels and a lot of people see this as an opportunity to make cuts they've wanted to make for a long time. They don't necessarily see it as a bad situation.

Paul Giblin: The other argument to that, if do you the sale leaseback, you don't have to cut as much. That you might -- you can cut less if you do that as well.

Casey Newton: And you can ride out the cycle. Because of the tax cuts, all of these businesses are going to move into Arizona and tax revenues will increase and we've have gotten money upfront to help us through the hard times.

Ted Simons: Alright, let's get to the governor's political outlook after today's actions, can she get out of the GOP primary because of the equalization rate veto? Does that one issue make it very difficult for her to get out of the primary?

Paul Giblin: I don't think it's just that one issue. I think everything since she's been in office, she's had a difficult time imposing her will on the legislature. Quite frankly, gets disrespect from the legislature and she has for months. I think she'll have a difficult time getting through a Republican primary.

Daniel Scarpinato: I disagree, the business community has been behind her strongly. They actually came out against the permanent repeal, and for the sales tax referral. Most people don't know who any of these other people are. They think Dean Martin is a member of the rat pack and you go out there and talk to people, including Republicans, not activists, but there are people who believe she's standing up to her party. So I don't know that she's as damaged as people in the legislature think. Because, you know, even among primary voters, it's a larger group of people than tea party activists and she's also -- she vetoed, or signed those abortion bills, she's been strongly supported by the NRA and built a coalition that could certainly aid her.

Ted Simons: Do you agree with that?

Casey Newton: I actually do. I think when you look at the things most important to Arizona voters, like education, be able to say this legislature tried to pass enormous cuts to education and I wouldn't let them. That's not to say it's not going to be a tough challenge. I think it's going to be one of the more interesting primaries we've had in awhile here. But at the end of the day, I don't think Jan Brewer is toast.

Ted Simons: Do you think that plays well in a primary the most conservative rock solid of that party vote-- she can call them extremists but that's a lot of folks who vote in the primary.

Casey Newton: It absolutely is. That's why it's going to be a tough primary. We don't have that. We don't have any formal declarations from big players. We have some people saying they're starting to think about it. Ultimately, a lot will depend on how it shakes out. We've been trying to figure out, whatever the budget looks like is going to affect who runs for governor and who wins-- we still don't know what it looks like.

Paul Giblin: Well, Casey I think we know we aren't going to have a budget until the end of the year. And I believe that the fact you've got people who are saying they're going to run against her, who are considering running against her, showing their cards, I think that shows disrespect for the governor. I think she'll have a tough time.

Ted Simons: We've got a speech coming from the president speaking to children and this has caused -- speaking to children. What's the ruffle?

Casey Newton: President Obama wanted to deliver a live address in Virginia where he's in a classroom talking to children and some of the curriculum that was distributed across the country raised hackles among talk show, bloggers, having schoolchildren write letters saying what they could do to help the president. There are plenty of people who want to help the president out of office and don't necessarily want to invest a lot of time seeing what they can do for him. This has been quite a firestorm. The White House has had to backpedal and they're changing the curriculum. And children -- refusing to let the children even hear what the president had to say.

Ted Simons: The former president George H.W. Bush do this in office as well and president Reagan? Obviously, the classroom, how can you help the president, the lesson plan wasn't quite there. But speaking to schoolchildren is not new for a president.

Paul Giblin: No, it's not and I don't see how it's a bad idea. If there's concerned parents, perhaps they should listen to the speech and have a discussion at the dinner table with their son and daughter and say, here's the opposing point of view, junior.

Daniel Scarpinato: Imagine two years ago if this was president bush who was very unpopular and who liberals spent eight years protesting against, I think you would have seen a similar reaction. This is real interesting to see the switch in activism. We talked about this a couple weeks ago when the president was here and I think it's the same dynamic.

Paul Giblin: Do you think the speech is going to be different than what he said at ASU? He was saying work hard to polish your own resume and that sort of thing. It's going to be the same message, just geared down to a younger audience.

Daniel Scarpinato: I don't doubt that, but you need to be careful when talking about the curriculum and what the students are being asked to do and is it a critical look, and all of those need to be factored in and that's part of what stirred this.

Ted Simons: Is there a touch of the Democrats being tone deaf, just even thinking this would not get attention in the current climate? Are they just not paying attention to that sort of thing? What's going on here?

Casey Newton: It's possible, I think that the Democrats would argue there was a tiny opening here and that conservatives seized on it and blew it up. I think if you're a democrat you can look at the speech that the first president bush gave and say, hey, the Republicans did it too. But Democrats stood up and said, you are bringing propaganda into our schools.

Ted Simons: We had Tom Horne saying this is too worshipful to the president, for his attempts, and an eye to the attorney general's office. Is that helping in Arizona?

Casey Newton: I think it's a great example of a politician finding an opening and seizing it. You have the superintendent of state schools who happens to be a Republican who would like higher office and here you have a case where he's able to come out and say, if it were up to me, this kind of thing would never happen.

Daniel Scarpinato: And talk about a person who has a problem perhaps with his party's base, it may be more Tom Horne than Jan Brewer who will have that next year. But I think the whole thing -- you know, the Democrats thought they had this permanent majority, just like the Republicans thought they had a permanent majority a few years ago, and when you take things for granted like that, you know clearly, things are shifting now where the president isn't as popular as he was when he came into office.

Paul Giblins: I think you're on to it, Casey. President Obama has alienated a lot of people with government spending and I think it's boiling up. This is the way it's boiling up against him. I think the message will be pretty inspiring but he has a negative track record now.

Ted Simons: We're moving on to a story we have done in the past. At least in mentioning and may do so again in the future. And that is the concept of Sheriff Joe Arpaio showing interest in the governor's race. The blogosphere blew up on this for a while. I'm not sure how long that fire will rage. Is this another kind of --

Paul Giblin: This is the craziest thing I've heard. People seem to forget that he's under an FBI investigation. That's detailed. Looking into things like civil liberties violations and looking into things like abuse of office, looking to -- who knows what else? I'm not convinced that -- in Arizona we've had people busted after they were in office, but before is stretching it.

Daniel Scarpinato: But Paul, you talked about how the governor is so vulnerable. Sheriff Joe, popular among Republicans. Why would it be ludicrous?

Paul Giblin: But he's losing his popularity among Republicans. It would have been true about two years ago where everybody sidestepped around him. Arpaio is going to say maybe we should have a sheriff who abides by the law while he's upholding it. I think he has a lot of troubles, and he's not going to become governor.

Casey Newton: When you look at the source of these rumors, I think it's a stretch. Apparently some blogger asked Sheriff Joe, are you thinking about running for governor? And his response was, "Never say never," which is a far cry from even saying "I'm thinking about it." I don't think that Sheriff Joe is going to seek the governor's race.

Ted Simons: But, the fact that he's out there, has this kind of interest, suggests that in terms of name recognition alone, he's all over the place.

Paul Simons: Well, Cunningham has good name recognition as well. But he's not running for office.

Ted Simons: For a while, he has a number now instead of a name. GOP chairman comes out and says attorney general and Kyrsten Sinema both violated resign to rule laws --

Casey Newton: Saying if you announce a formal candidacy for another office before you have -- with more than a year remaining in the office you currently hold, then you have to resign. You can't use the advantage of your incumbency to seek a higher office. He's saying these two particular officeholders made statements that constitute a formal announcement and they should be investigated.

Paul Giblin: If I can elaborate. Terry Goddard was speaking at a meeting and someone asked if he was going to run. And he said since you were kind enough to ask, I intend to run for governor. Kyrsten Sinema who is the democratic leader in the house at the state. There was a facebook page and posted this message: Hi, this is my brand-new political page. I'm running for state senate in 2010 and would like to have your support and she went on from there.

Ted Simons: So, how is that not an announcement you're intending to run for another office?

Daniel Scarpinato: This law is so vague, and this comes up every election cycle, and Republican -- you know, I remember when Tim B__ was running for congress and our friend Emily Bittner over at the democratic party was constantly drolling out these press releases -- oh, he was breaking the law. Republicans defended him but when these folks do it, it's bad. We dug up over at the Cap. Times that Ray Barnes who's in the house is actually violating it right now. He's filed -- I called him up and he said he didn't know the law existed. So it happens, and nobody has sued, the courts haven't weighed in and practically speaking, you know, what's the difference between an exploratory committee and a regular committee?

Casey Newton: That's why I think the big surprise is. If you're an average Arizonan, it may be news to say I'm running for state senate in 2010, doesn't constitute a formal declaration that you are.

Paul Giblin: The law says you can't have a formal declaration of candidacy, but doesn't define it. So Sinema said it was a typographical error she only "intended" to run.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it right there. That's the rules. [Laughter] Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Casey Newton:The Arizona Republic;Daniel Scarpinato:The Arizona Capitol Times;Paul Giblin:The Arizona Guardian;

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