Legislative Update

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An update on legislative news with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: A new collection of budget concerns hit the state capitol this week. Here to tell us about it is "Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Jim Small. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: These concerns deal with the healthcare reform law. It seems like a lot of folks still aren't sure what's going on with this thing.

Jim Small: You're right. The Democrats announced on Monday they believe that cuts that were enacted last week, two weeks ago, in the upcoming budget year will jeopardize Arizona's federal healthcare funding with the new law that President Obama signed the other day. Republicans are -- say they're investigating it they're looking at it, they have budget staff examining the new law, the reconciliation bill still working its way through congress and what it means for Arizona and whether all of our money is indeed in jeopardy.

Ted Simons: Indeed, and this is because of getting rid of kids' care and maintenance of effort. Once the president signs the law, whatever's there has got to stay there.

Jim Small: And that's the argument that the democrats made. Once that federal law was enacted it took a snapshot of every state's enrollment and eligibility standards for public health programs and any deviation from those between now and 2014, any lessening of those, means a state is basically in breach of the law and no longer eligible to receive federal money. Because the kids care law, even the vote on it to repeal it was a week or two ago it actually doesn't go into effect until the middle of June so at that point the theory goes we would lose all of our money.

Ted Simons: And at that point, you have to wonder about, is there general consensus that kids care must return?

Jim Small: Not yet. I think that if Republicans do, in fact, determine ok. This is the way it works and we have to do something about it. We can't just restore it later and apply for it, or there's not some sort of out where we can get rid of this one program and still get all the rest of the money. I think that's what's going to happen, because no one envisioned that the vote on the budget would take away upwards of $7 billion worth of federal health care money.

Ted Simons: So democrats are saying--The tax exemption on retail warranties, just take that one item away and you pay for kids care. Is that getting traction over there?

Jim Small: Not a whole lot. Governor Brewer came out right away and said this bill isn't even 24 hours old and the Democrats are suggesting a tax increase. Took a little bit of a political shot at them. Republicans really haven't said what they are willing to do. They say they need to examine it and see what's on the table. One thing that came up today is that Democrats are proposing a repeal of an accounting tax credit. It's an item in the special session that we just completed and passed the house with bipartisan support and didn't pass the senate. They couldn't muster up the votes to pass it, but it has support from the governor's office and supported by Republican leadership so their bringing that out there and saying this brings in the same amount of money and we can use that money to pay for kids care, it's something that we already really discussed.

Ted Simons: One way or another, they're going to find a way to get kids care back. Especially considering the consequences. Very quickly, I know three ballot measures are making their way through the house. Lengthening legislative terms but not term limits, correct?

Jim Small: Correct. It would have legislative terms from two years to four years and senators staggered. 15 senators would have four-year terms beginning in the next election, and the other 15 would go in the other election following.
Ted Simons: Pretty popular?

Jim Small: Got a preliminary voice vote in the house, hasn't had a formal vote, so we'll see.

Ted Simons: Okay, and referral to ask voters to suspend protection of some spending. Sounds like help us to spend some of the money that's protected right now.

Jim Small: Yeah, there's a constitutional provision that protects spending approved by voters. This would lift that for a few years, let the legislature take half of any money that's sitting there and also half of future revenue streams.

Ted Simons: Is that the kind of thing that Democrats are going to fight, tooth and nail?

Jim Small: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: And the third one, sounds like lawmakers say when the federal government gives us money; we want to control all of it as opposed to the governor controlling some of it. How far does that go?

Jim Small: It's an idea that passed the house and senate numerous times in the past. Usually it has been in bill form, which goes to the governor and most governors don't want to have that power taken away. So they veto it. This one would go to the people. We'll see, I think it will probably end up on the ballot.

Ted Simons: We'll have 47,000 things to be voting on apparently when we get that ballot in November.

Jim Small: It might be a very lengthy ballot.

Ted Simons: Jim, thanks for joining us.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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