Journalists Roundtable

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Local reporters review the week’s top stories

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Guardian", Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mark Brodie of KJZZ Radio.

Ted Simons: A projected landslide for Republicans becomes reality Tuesday night -- Let's try and encompass as much as we can in the half hour program. Let's start with the state legislature. From what happened Tuesday, how do things change?

Mary K. Reinhart: Veto-proof supermajority in both chambers. The Republicans gained three seats in the Senate. So they now have 21 Republicans to nine -- a third of the Democrats are in leadership in the Senate now. And in the house, there are 40 -- there are some races -- two races that are still not called yet but 40 Republicans to 20 Democrats and that allows the legislature, if they stay -- if the Republicans stay together, to get a lot of things done without needing any Democratic votes and even without the blessing of the governor. Staying together is the issue, though. As people noted this week, it's a little easier to be cohesive when you're a smaller group. As you get bigger, factions start to form and people are talking about what those might be.

Howard Fischer: What's happened historically, each lawmaker elected -- you don't need my vote. You've got 20 Republicans in the Senate. You don't need me, you don't need Charlie over here. The most cohesive Senate Republicans has been when they had 16 there. The veto proof it's not like Jan Brewer was using her veto pen a lot. Russell Pearce has said he wants the legislature to have authority over federal money that comes in the state. Every governor who got that, Jane Hull, Bruce Babbitt on the Democratic side, Janet Napolitano, has vetoed that. Are they ready to send this to Jan and ready to pick a fight with her?

Mark Brodie: I've been hearing a lot about potential Republican infighting and to the point that these other folks have been making when you have a caucus as large as the Republicans will have in both the House and Senate in the state legislature, there's more of a chance people can sort of break off and do their own thing and not stay as together as Howie said as would have if they had a smaller group.

Howard Fischer: The people elected as tea party candidates to take a -- see their role to take apart government. What happens, all of a sudden, you say, wait a second. We have to provide public services. Are we really ready to say we're going to cut state aid to education and privatize the state universities? That's where the rubber meets the road.

Mary K. Reinhart: It becomes more difficult when you're fully responsible for the things that are going to happen. $825 million current year deficit. $1.4 billion, the three things that this state does -- incarcerate, medicate and educate. We're not going to cut public safety. That's not politically popular. That's one the priorities, keeping everybody safe. Education, we have some Republicans say voters didn't want us to go too hard on K-12. Universities might be another story and that leaves Medicaid.

Howard Fischer: That's crucial. Because the legislature's already voted last year, last session, to cut the state's Medicaid program by 330,000 people. The only reason they backtracked, all of a sudden the Federal Healthcare Bill came and said if do you that you lose the federal aid. Russell Pearce has said, look, we can't afford their generosity.

Ted Simons: Russell Pearce has said that -- but is there a realistic chance the state says we can handle this ourselves but we can't afford Medicaid?

Mark Brodie: To Mary K's point about education, we're hearing Democrats in the legislature saying that's where the money is. You have to expect cuts in education because if you're looking to cut the budget, you can only cut where there's money. Education's got money now. So I think it's a fairly safe assessment that education and healthcare and some other things will see pretty substantial cuts.

Mary K. Reinhart: As far as completely doing away with Medicaid, you're talking about taking $10 billion out of the economy. I think anybody who is talking about is just talking and they can talk all they want but the governor isn't interested in doing that. The governor, as well as many governors in this country has called congress to -- enable them to roll back and that's what they'll do, move it through if they can and call the federal government's bluff and what are you going to do? We just don't have the money. This is proposition 204. Voters some years ago said they wanted these people to have health insurance, so it's a question whether they have to go to the ballot. They don't think they do.

Ted Simons: I keep hearing the voters told us to do this. The voters told us, no, don't raise taxes and cut spending. I saw a couple of propositions where the voters said get your hands off it. We want the dedicated revenue going into land conservation and services for kids.

Howard Fischer: Well, I think part of the message in terms of the defeats of land conservation and 302 which is First Things First, was that we don't necessarily trust the legislature because it wasn't simply a question of preserving First Things First, which quite frankly, some of the things they're funding aren't exactly necessities. It was a question of we want to give $450 million we had asked to be set aside for specific purposes for the lawmakers to use for their perspective.

Ted Simons: Again, that's the same formula lawmakers will be having once they get to session. Whether or not we cut X and Y, X and Y was resoundingly -- those were big wins. They weren't even close.

Mark Brodie: No, each won with around 70% of the vote. When you look at the results and try to interpret the results of things like that, it's in the eye or mouth of whom ever you're speaking with. Because there are people who will say, yes, the voters have said they want to protect these things, so cut other things. There are others who say, well, voters want -- said, yeah, we know you have to cut those things because we decided to protect these voter-protected -- to continue these voter-protected things. There are a lot of ways to look at the results of those and I think it depends on who you're talking to.

Mary K. Reinhart: There's a perception, I think, that people have. If you look at the polling done about what's important to you and where do you want, you know, the legislature to -- to cut, people think there's ways to mismanagement. There may be some but there's a perception they're cutting around the edges that can be done in state government without actually affecting anyone. And I'm not so sure that's true. I think that the actual understanding of what it means to cut AHCCCS, and First Things First is a example of program -- the state legislature wasn't providing the way they wanted them to.

Howard Fischer: The new reality -- that was 2006, this is 2010. Other issue is a belief that money can be saved by getting more in the classroom and less for administration. On average, 59 cents of every dollar is, quote, classroom. Oh, my god, that's 41 cents that's not. The rest of it is the pesky things like school buses and heating and cooling and the nurse and counselor at the school and it will be interesting to see whether these people say we'll get it up to 65 cents. Understand what's involved there.

Ted Simons: Is Russell Pearce just talking to talk when he says we have to do things like depend on community and family and church, to provide services that the state once provided, so be it? How far does that go in the legislature?

Mark Brodie: I think that's going to be one of the, if not the biggest question of the upcoming session. What I'm hearing is that Arizonans are going to see the effects of these. As Mary K. said, this was a lot of cutting around the edges, but now there's not a lot of fat left, and you're cutting down to bone. One of our guests on election night, what do you make of these results and he said, I'm just glad my kids are out of public schools.

Ted Simons: Oh.

Mark Brodie: And that's a good assessment of what's coming.

Howard Fischer: This goes back to the Tea Party. The idea of the minimalist role of government. There used to be Ron Goulds in the world where he said government doesn't have this role. What is the role of government? Should we have a department of commerce and tourism? I know these are nickels and dimes in an $8 billion budget but that's the grand discussion we'll have, because they believe the message was less government.

Mary K. Reinhart: Right, look, but the reality, they want to get reelected in 2012. In two years from now, guess what? It's not going to be, you know, a big Republican Party. We've seen this happen again and again. It's -- you know, they certainly got swept in and believe they have a mandate and they very well may, but when it comes to doing the cutting without pain, it's impossible. You're going to hit every single constituent in your district in one way or the other.

Howard Fischer: But to come back to Ted's question, there are people who believe that the state is providing things that the churches and charities and families haven't had to step up because they know that the state will take care of grandma, we've got programs and long-term care and all of these recesses and they believe -- services and they believe new cut back, the churches will come forward.

Ted Simons: Into this mix, we have the concern over jobs -- into this mix, we have the concern over jobs. And the concern is still there and then some and will lawmakers be able to push through tax cuts when the cutting for programs is to the bone and then some? How does that fly? People say they want jobs but goodness gracious, you're going to cut revenue even more so.

Mark Brodie: Complaining about Republicans cutting taxes and saying that doesn't count toward the deficit. We're starting to hear the talking points over the debate over cutting taxes. That goes back to the point that Howie and Mary Kay made, that we're looking at a potential veto-proof legislature. Regardless of whether the governor thinks -- she said I'm not sure about the jobs bill. In theory, yes, but not right now. If the legislature says, we don't care, they can pass it, let her veto it and override it.

Mary K. Reinhart: It came down to the end of the legislature, if you recall, the governor had her plan that went up against the Adams' plan and there were key differences to be sure. But I think that jobs bill is priority one for both the House, the Senate and the governor. So I think you'll see something emerge that maybe won't be too costly. If you look at the plan the governor put on the table before the session ended, it costs money but it was phased in and cost less money --

Howard Fischer: That's the key. Kirk believes and there's something to be said for this. If you tell businesses we're not going to cut the corporate income tax rate down to 5.5% now, but in 2014, it will be this. By 2016, the business and personal property tax will be half of what it is and that really affects manufacturing and that provide the stimulus that's needed.

Mary K. Reinhart: They keep saying that businesses want certainty and to be able to plan. If you have a state law, by 2014, this is what it's going to look like and that will placate folks who say we can't afford it now. We don't have to now. But as the economy rebounds we can afford it in a few years.

Ted Simons: Let's get back to what the governor can and may not be able to do with a strong legislature and a senate president who will be no shrinking violent.

Howard Fischer: I'm shocked to hear you --

Ted Simons: I think she has a mandate now, she's elected and she's got that going for her and veto proof is difficult to maintain but it still exists. How much power does she have?

Howard Fischer: She has the power of the bully pulpit, which she's been able to use occasionally. When she came out of prop 100, when the people from her own party said, no, we don't want it, she went over them and went to the voters. That's her power. Look, she's not a strong public speaker. You know, you've figured that out on debate night. But she has a way of being. People relate to her. This is the kind of person where someone comes up to her in a grocery store and talk to her like a human being. They don't do that, I'm sure, with Terry. If she can bring that across and take the issue to the voters and say, look, folks, I know this sounds great but let me tell you the rest of the story, she can sell that.

Mary K. Reinhart: As a practical matter, I don't think they'll need to why a veto-proof majority. I don't think they'll be able to summon every Republican in the House and Senate to push something through that the governor isn't going to sign.

Mark Brodie: The other power she has that members of the legislature don't, she doesn't have to run for re-election. She has the ability to go out on a prop 100 thing that might be unpopular in her party knowing she doesn't have to face the voters again. She's term limited.

Ted Simons: And we know there are very few. Obviously Democrats are in a minority with a capital "M" here but, do they have the ability to move in certain circles, to get a couple of stray moderates here and there to do something, or is it just basically an exercise in futility?

Howard Fischer: There's two paths for a Democrat. You have -- the Democrats have been in the minority since 1964. You find a Republican who agrees with you and put a Republican name on the bill and you can get your ideas out. There aren't enough to form that kind of coalition when it was 16-14 or something like that. The other thing you do is you become the loyal minority and say, look, we have a better idea, folks. They're tearing apart the schools, you take the message that Chad Campbell has been trying to take now for years and point out the what he calls the loopholes in the tax system. Doggy daycare and spa system and does it make sense to have 40 kids in the classroom because heaven forbid we tax a spa treatment.

Mary K. Reinhart: Their role is to point out when things are just whacked. You know, every day. Every single day on the floor of this is wrong, this is wrong and here's why. And hammer way. In the senate, they've got five senators who can peel off and they still have a majority. I think we're going to see Democrats just hammer as hard and often as loudly as they can.

Mark Brodie: What we're hearing from Democrats is, ok. Republicans, you own this. This is all on you. You might neglect and ignore us but this is all oh on you. Whatever the voters don't like, blame the Republicans.

Ted Simons: Did we see any surprises regarding the propositions?

Howard Fischer: I don't know. Originally, 109 would have passed. That's the one to declare hunting, but there were enough different folks who pointed out problems there. And prop 111, the lieutenant governor, folks recognized the flaws. The one that was surprising was 203. The early polling showed that Arizona, being a libertarian state and even old people saying why shouldn't my doctor be able to prescribe marijuana, for whatever reason, the pro side sat on its money and let the other side take control. Bring out the prosecutor and sheriff and governor. And obviously, we have a couple more days to count, about 3,000 to 5,000 down.

Ted Simons: The absolutely landslide what we saw regarding Republicans and conservatives carrying this election, would it have mattered with 203? What do you think?

Mary K. Reinhart: I think it hurt 203. You brought out the people voting against it and the people who would vote for it stayed home.

Mark Brodie: Arizona voters have approved in one form or another, medical marijuana so it's not like this is a total foreign concept and something they tried before and hasn't worked.

Ted Simons: It got lost with everything else in a tidal wave.

Howard Fischer: And it also got -- this goes to the fact that Democrats stayed home. People disenchanted with Obama and people disenchanted with Terry Goddard. Where's the campaign, where's the fire -- look at the voter turnout, it was lower than anyone thought. And Democrats just stayed home and these might have been the people who could have put Felecia over the top with Tom Horne and perhaps the ballot measure to make it on the deadline for filing initiatives.

Ted Simons: And Harry Mitchell and Kirkpatrick and Hulburd over the top. They weren't close to the top. Was it surprising the margin of victory in those races?

Mark Brodie: Based on the conversations I had before the election and since, I was surprised the Quayle-Hulburd race was not closer than it was. It leads one to believe there was -- you don't put money into -- you don't put half a million into your campaign if you think you're going to get clobbered. There's reason to believe he or his campaign thought it would be close. And the other one, Schweickert and Mitchell -- but CD3, the Ben Quayle race, people seemed to think that was a surprise.

Howard Fischer: I heard that a lot of Republicans in the district, here's the Ben Quayle thing. I got elected on my charm. No, you got elected because Barack Obama is in the White House and a lot of Republicans told me, I'm not a Quayle fan but would vote for the Republican to get Barack Obama. So it wasn't a vote for Ben Quayle. It was a vote against Barack Obama.

Ted Simons: Is that the way you see it?

Mary K. Reinhart: I was surprised by the margin. Not so much in the Quayle race because of the registration in the district. Overwhelmingly Republican. More so with Harry Mitchell, public servant since he was a social studies teacher in Tempe and that race had been called for Schweickert but it was still considered to be close.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, is Arizona still a purple state or is Arizona a bright red state and will be for a while? There is a lot of talk about Democrats getting more and more power. This wasn't close.

Mary K. Reinhart: I think there's a pendulum we see swing and we'll see it swing back again and after the next two years, there are a lot of unpopular choices that have to be made by Republicans.

Howard Fischer: We've had Democratic governors and attorneys general and states that come close to voting for a Democrat for president and the Republicans were fired up. I think it is a little closer to purple, to honor your wear tonight, that that's closer than the sharp red.

Ted Simons: What do you think, Mark?

Mark Brodie: I can't match my own clothes. But, you know, Democrats have been talking for years now about taking back the legislature, about a couple years ago, four years ago, they talked strongly about taking back the statehouse and it hasn't happened. And it's true and correct that Arizona has had Democratic governors and attorneys general and a couple years ago close to getting one on the corporation commission and made gains in the legislature, but when you look at the way that the state plays out in terms of districts, I think it's hard to say -- and I know it doesn't necessarily reflect statewide. But I think it's hard to say that Arizona is anything other than a red state.

Howard Fischer: In the statewide race where the Democrats can win and the redistricting process which is going to play out again after we get the census numbers in December and the majority are in Republican areas and out of the 30 districts, there were only four swing districts. Everyone else, you knew they were Republican or Democrat districts. Very little movement there.

Ted Simons: We're talking attorney general, treasurer, every single statewide race was won by a Republican and some were not even close.

Howard Fischer: Because the Democrats stayed home.

Ted Simons: I got that, but -- what's going to get Democrats out there?

Howard Fischer: What's going to get them out there? What happened two years ago, someone at the top of the ticket that inspires them. Two years ago, it was Barack Obama. When Janet was at the top of the ticket -- they had a reason to vote for something. This year, it wasn't there. Now, Republicans have a voter edge although the independents are -- what? -- 31%, 32% of the state. It's anybody's.

Ted Simons: It's anybody's. Well, we'll leave that dangling right there.

Howard Fischer: Putting you up for governor.

Ted Simons: I will not run. If nominated I will not serve. Thank you.

Mary K. Reinhart:The Arizona Guardian;Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services;Mark Brodie:KJZZ Radio;

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