Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local reporters discuss the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Casey Newton of "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian" and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." Arizona went ahead and joined other states in taking on federal healthcare reform. Casey, how much are we talking about here?

Casey Newton: The chief counsel for Governor Brewer says he can do it for less than $5,000, cheaper than a divorce a lot of places because the lawsuits have been filed. 15 other states have already started these lawsuits and Arizona is signing its name to that lawsuit.

Ted Simons: Basically, joining what others have started.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, the attorney generals are leading the charge. That the feds have the right to regulate interstate commerce but they're going too far and even argue they can't do the carrot and stick thing. If the states don't want to abide the federal rules, they're going to challenge that too.

Ted Simons: There are two parts of the suit. What you discussed and the individual mandate where each person is required to have health insurance and there's two ways of going at this thing.

Casey Newton: I think there's more than two ways. Ask anyone who opposes it, they'll give you 15 reasons and you have 34 states choosing not to sue the federal government but attorneys are telling them they're not going to be successful. I talked to Terry Goddard, he said, look, I talked to Reagan's former counsel, he said it's nonsense.

Mike Sunnucks: You don't have to buy car insurance, you don't have to drive. But being alive, you have to buy it and so that's going to be an interesting argument to see what powers the feds have.

Casey Newton: The flip side, Medicaid is still an optional program. If states are so upset, they can simply opt out of Medicaid.

Ted Simons: But that becomes a defacto argument. You're coercing the states to doing this. It's coercion.

Casey Newton: Sure, but the federal government coerces states to do all kinds of things.

Mike Sunnucks: The conservatives are going to say there are limits.

Ted Simons: Goddard says a waste of time and money. Is it going to hurt him politically; what are you saying?

Dennis Welch: There's so much political theater going on here, as we've been talking about. In some sense, doesn't matter who wins and loses, it's an election year. We have to fight this thing that Republicans think is unpopular with voters and they can score points. Goddard is not going to go against anything -

Mike Sunnucks: The polls showing that most people in Arizona don't like the federal program. I can see Republicans them making some hay with that.

Casey Newton: In the end, everybody wins. If you're a Democrat--you're talking about the benefits. If you're a Republican, you can talk about the destruction of our freedom. Everybody's winning right now.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the Republicans can make more points by saying we need jobs. The housing is bad and the consumers are having a bad time and it appeals to someone who has bills and preexisting conditions and somebody who that insurance and worried about their job and out of work, that's the big issue that they say we should be focusing on.

Ted Simons: Arizona hospital group and healthcare association had the idea to tax the wealthier residents in Arizona. That idea is no more. What happened?

Mike Sunnucks: They looked at a couple of different options, liquor taxes and decided to put a surcharge on people and then yanked it. I think prop 100 hangs over the May vote on the sales tax. I don't think Arizona voters have a lot of appetite. You have Phoenix and other cities extending their sales tax so there's trepidation on getting that on the ballot.

Casey Newton: There's some thought this may have been saber rattling. That there was going to be a bed tax and wanted to head that off by proposing a tax increase of their own. Carolyn Allen actually held a hearing on the bed tax and now both camps have retreated.

Ted Simons: The idea of a bed tax certainly does exist. Is the legislature saying watch it here, we can come back on the other side?

Dennis Welch: There's a lot of stuff like that going on. Carolyn Allen played a big role in stopping this stuff. She likes to rattle her saber and go after people.

Ted Simons: The idea of a bed tax, still an option. Could there be a special -- could there be a special session?

Casey Newton-I think a bed tax could be something on the table.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the income tax, put that toward AHCCCS, kids care, whatever you want. I think it would have a chance to pass. Those are programs that people like, it's earmarked toward that and pushed toward that and the folks they're taxing are not that popular.

Ted Simons: Could we see a special session on kids care where the maintenance of efforts requirements are not currently being met?

Dennis Welch: We could see a string of special sessions on a whole host of issues. The way things have been working out down there.

Casey Newton: The answer is we have to have a special session on kids care if we want to receive that $7 billion in Medicaid. So there will be another special session. It will be the ninth and break the record.

Mike Sunnucks: And kids care is the political minefield. Goddard is talking about restoring kids care by getting rid of the tax breaks for the rich and the corporations and if you make it kids care versus a tax break for them, I think the Republicans need to take care of that issue.

Ted Simons: Speaker Adams jobs bill, rewritten to get rid of individual income tax; why?

Dennis Welch: Going to make that more palatable in the senate. Senate president Bob Burns along with the governor says we want to go and cut programs, at the same time, handing out hundreds of millions in tax breaks. There's going to be in the package about $650 million in tax cuts mostly to businesses and property taxes and business income taxes out there. But it was done to help it move through the senate.

Ted Simons: And move through the senate because the impact, quickly, in terms of prolonging the deficit, I know that President Burns had problems with this on the program. Talked about maybe a trigger item would be a better idea.

Mike Sunnucks: Adams is arguing that the economy, recession, jobs is just as important as the deficit. And to get the economy going, we need to do something. To attract higher wage industries and solar wage jobs to the state. But look at the deficit and you look at prop 100 passing, it's a hard argument to make.

Dennis Welch: That's why I think the governor doesn't want to see the bill coming anywhere near her office. She signs it and undermines her prop 100 tax increase and if she vetoes it, she'll upset the business community.

Mike Summons: Then she's going to be for the tax increase. She can say I want to cut taxes too and that's what I really want to do and if she doesn't, Dean Martin is going to make hay with that.
Let's say it doesn't make it, let's say it does. What are her options here?

Casey Newton: These guys have described the dilemma, but she's going to be in a tough spot. How can she sell proposition 100, raise your sales tax at the grocery stores or when you buy a car, but on the back end, we'll be giving the money to -- away to corporations. That's why Terry Goddard says he's not going to take a position until the governor says.

Ted Simons: A lot of Democrats have said that. We've had minority leadership saying we can't support a sales tax increase if it's backfilled with tax breaks to corporations.

Dennis Welch: Republicans too…even President Burns, he said it's hard to justify this at this point because there's so much cutting at legislature, and now you're asking people to Jack up the sales tax by a penny. It's tough.

Mike Sunnucks: It's good political gamesmanship. It's Brewer's tax increase and it's not his and not coming out in favor of a tax increase is always good politics.

Dennis Welch: With Goddard, I think it ends up hurting him. It's not leadership. We have two weeks before early ballots go out for prop 100.

Mike Sunnucks: It doesn't -- Goddard doesn't take strong stances on stuff. Immigration. Even the lawsuits. California, the bigger states always take the lead.

Ted Simon: The legislature took a strong stance on payday loans. Dennis, is this the last we'll hear of payday loans this session?

Dennis Welch: I would say yes with a caveat. This industry has a ton of money and willing to spend it. Two years ago, they spend $14 million on a statewide initiative to extend the -- them operating in the state and hired almost every lobbyist down at the legislature willing to take their money. Yeah, I think it's dead. But money can buy a lot of things down there.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised? Every time it comes up, lawmakers say it's not the will of the people?

Mike Sunnucks: I think there's a disconnect. I think they're a good whipping boy. The fees they charge and the consumer stories you hear and then it gets down to the legislature, they never get things through because of the lobbying money they spend.

Casey Newton: There's a disconnect, worrying about the jobs we lost. 275,000 since the start of the recession, getting rid of an industry, it's very unusual.

Dennis Welch: It speaks to the point where we talk a lot about special interest lobbyists and their influence, but at the end of the day they're still accountable to the voters and two years ago, they did reject them staying in the state and I don't think a lot of lawmakers want go against the will of the people.

Ted Simons: Closer to home as far as the county is concerned. A search for a successor to Andrew Thomas. What kind of timetable?

Casey Newton: One week from right now, we should know who the successor is going to be. They'll make their decision by April 16th and there's apparently a short list of four people.

Ted Simons: Including Rick Romley.

Casey Newton: That's right, the former county attorney who was around for a while and had a lot of fights with our current sheriff, Joe Arpaio and some think because he's such a battle-tested warrior against Arpaio, I would say he's the frontrunner at this point.

Ted Simons:--Andrew-- and Bill Montgomery, who I believe is in the office currently.

Dennis Welch: Mayor Dunn from Chandler is a dark horse. The board put together a committee to make recommendations and the chairman is Mesa mayor Scott Smith who is close with Boyd Dunn and with Don Stapley and I think if you're looking for a dark horse, I would look at him. Rick Romley, I don't know what everybody else is feeling, but he can be a controversial figure.

Mike Sunnucks: Depends on how much the board is spoiling for more fights with Joe. They may be fatigued. It's going to continue it and get even more intense with Romley, if they pick someone like Don, he may be able to transition and at least have a detente.

Ted Simons: Provided that Joe Arpaio remains sheriff. We're talking about him considering a run for governor. Why is this different?

Dennis Welch: Because he's out there to talk to people to get signatures so we can qualify. To my knowledge, he hasn't looked this far with it. He's talked about it, held press conferences for those who are around to remember. 10 years ago when we all thought he was going to run. And the joke was on us when he said he wasn't doing it. I'm still skeptical. If I was betting money, I would definitely say he's not going to run, but the signs are there if he does want to run, this would be the year to do it. When we talked about Andy Thomas out there running and J.D. Hayworth out there running, you got a weak republican field out there with an incumbent that is very vulnerable and some people who are unknown and new. He's got $2 million he's raised in the bank that could get him a lot of mileage in a governor's race, and more name I.D. than anyone in the state right now.

Mike Sunnucks: He's used to talking about immigration and enforcing the law and the story is about him and his personality. He's going to be asked -- his personality and he's going to be asked about the budget and prop 100 -- what is he? 77 years old? He's been in it a long time. When it starts to come to different policy issues, healthcare reform. He's still popular with older voters and in the Republican primary but there's a lot of folks who would think it would hurt the image of the state. Just the circus, the race will be just about Joe.

Dennis Welch: And maybe in the -- I think one person who is really nervous about all of this might be someone like senator John McCain, because this would have an effect on every race and an August primary there's going to be a low turnout and Joe has a fanatical following. And most people would crawl over broken glass for him.

Casey Newton: By May 1st he has to make up his mind. So if you're tired of the constant speculation, you only have a couple weeks to go. We will know soon.

Ted Simons: This particular aspect -- I don't know if it is window shopping or not. But are we hearing it because we're hearing that Rick Romley could return to the county attorney's office? Is that a coincidence?

Casey newton: At this point, I think it's a coincidence. This game of whether Joe will run or not is a perennial event. And the sideshow with the county is interesting.

Mike Sunnucks: And you have them looking at office and what happens with the juries run by democratic administration, you know, prosecutors and it's easy to get an indictment on somebody. So you have Joe running and he gets indicted and see how that happens.

Ted Simons: Speaking of running for governor and having a lot of money, Buzz Mills is spending it, over a million dollars so far.

Dennis Welch: Yeah, he spent most of that on TV ads, radio spots and a few mailers. The guy is a total newcomer to politics and needs to spend the money so people know who he is. These ads have been appearing for the past month and shows that he's got such deep pockets it's going to be hard for a lot of the other people in the race to compete with him.

Mike Sunnucks: He's sending the traditional conservative Republican message. I'll make us business friendly. He's a business guy from Yavapai county and I think he'll try to hit home with the core.

Dennis Welch: Just like everybody else in the field. Smaller government, less taxes. The standard GOP platform. What's going to separate them? A boatload of money.

Mike Sunnucks:I'm an outsider, tap into the tea party movement going on and an incumbent governor for tax increase which is a tough thing to overcome in the GOP primary.

Casey Newton: Unless the appeals court does something, his boatload of money is going to trigger millions. And if you're a Dean Martin or Jan Brewer, you should be feeling good that Buzz Mills is spending the money.

Dennis Welch: …the $770,000 that the candidate will get. Buzz Mills has shown he's willing to spend well beyond that. When I asked his campaign how much they'll spend they always say whatever it takes.

Mike Sunnucks: Without Joe, Joe has the big name. Joe would be a game-changer. Martin and Brewer don't have big name I.D. outside of the political folks. Buzz is out with a lot of ads on ESPN, the Cox systems and could get his name out there, get a head start on folks.

Ted Simons: He's getting his name out there. Aren't they introductory ads as opposed to specifics -- here's what I'm going to do, here's how. Well-produced ads and he's saying general ideas but do we know specifics?

Mike Sunnucks: He hasn't whipped it out a lot. I think income tax cuts, he's for that.

Dennis Welch: We know he supports certain portions of the jobs recovery bill and other than that, to be fair, not many people in this race have really offered specifics. Terry Goddard hasn't. The only people offering specifics are Jan Brewer as governor and John Munger.

Ted Simons: Does that help them right now?

Dennis Welch: I think people are going to sit down and look and see who is being a leader. Who is providing leadership? You hear a lot of bumper sticker slogans and stuff like that but who is offering a plan to get out of the financial mess? I know John Munger offered one and got beat up for it.

Casey Newton: The specifics are often used to beat them over the head with, in the case of John Munger, proposed withholding federal gas taxes and it turns out we don't get that money. It goes to the IRS.

Mike Sunnucks: Chris backed the stimulus, bucked the Republican trend. Getting beat up on that. Brewer did show leadership. It's an original idea not usually embraced by Republicans. She could lose the primary for it. Leadership is great but doesn't always work in a campaign.

Ted Simons: A high-powered P.R. firm and Ben parker and Paulina Morris both raising a pretty substantial amount of money. It's a go over there.

Dennis Welch: The name of the game is raising money. You've got around 10, 12 people running for the GOP nomination in that race. How do you cut through the white noise? How do you distinguish yourself? It's a bunch of Republicans running for the same thing. Less government, less taxes. What's it going to take? A last name like Quayle. Ben Quayle hasn't released how much, but it could be more than anyone else has raised.

Mike Sunnucks: Good mailers and good get-out-the-vote-type stuff will do this. You'll see a lot of direct mail and a lot of people trying to get the vote out.

Ted Simons: Quickly, Paulina Morris, not a lot of people know who that is.

Dennis Welch: She's been on the health county board in the area and she -- you know, has raised about $100,000 for this bid. She is the -- she is the only pro-choice candidate in the race. Which would, you know -- could help her out a lot in this area, because if she can get all the pro-choice people to vote for her. Like Mike said, it doesn't take a whole lot to win.

Mike Sunnucks: Anthem goes to west Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Cave Creek and usually the north central Phoenix folks that turn out and vote in that. But if someone like Gorman can turn out pro-life conservative folks that could tip it her way.

Ted Simons: Before we go, Coyotes and cubs. First, cubs. That seems like it's back at the starting line and something has got to get done because the legislature won't be anywhere around. He wants to extend it a year. Possible?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, it's possible. Major league baseball -- other teams squash doing anything special for Mesa and the cubs. They're back to the drawing board. The cubs could go back and look at Naples, Florida again. It's going to be a tough go.

Ted Simons: What about the Coyotes?

Mike Sunnucks: In preliminary deal, going to vote Tuesday at the city council. If both goes forward, they'll try to do a sale.

Ted Simons:Can you believe the Coyotes made the playoffs?

Casey Newton: I'm so proud of them.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much, guys. Appreciate it.

Casey Newton:The Arizona Republic;Dennis Welch:The Arizona Guardian;Mike Sunnucks:The Business Journal;

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