Senate President-elect Russell Pearce

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One day after winning re-election, Senator Pearce was selected by his colleagues to serve as Senate President when the 50th Legislature convenes in January. He’ll discuss his plans and priorities for the coming year.

Ted Simons: He's probably best known as the sponsor of Senate Bill 1070, the state's new immigration law. But Senator Russell Pearce is also a budget hawk who has chaired appropriations committees in both the state house and senate. He's a former chief deputy for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, he once directed the State's Motor Vehicle Department and next year he'll be the President of the Arizona State Senate. Here to talk about his priorities as senate president is Senator Russell Pearce. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Russell Pearce: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Let's get right to it. We've got a deficit of $800 million, 1.5 billion coming up next year. What are you going to do?

Russell Pearce: That deficit is about 900 million, for this year. The year we're in. What we're going to is -- the people that pushed for 302 to fail really shame on them. It's a program that has no -- it has no priorities, it has -- I shouldn't say priorities, it has no responsibilities. And now because of that, they'll have you believe that was going to save children's programs, it's the opposite. They put education at risk because there's been -- spending millions of dollars for just stuff they want to do rather than the core programs that are already in place. I worry. We're going to have to balance the budget. I'm going to use gimmicks and bonding and we've done everything we can as this deficit has been ugly. Not just Arizona nationally. It's not going to be a fun time, but we'll do our job. We know what we have to do. We're going to grow the economy. Jobs is our number one issue. And how you create an environment to grow jobs is the private sector. That's what produces wealth in jobs. We're going to focus on incentives, creating an environment conducive to productivity. Lower the regulatory burden on businesses and families, and it will get to be a better place.

Ted Simons: You mentioned 302. I want to ask you what you thought the voters were saying. What message they were sending when dedicated funding for open space, dedicated funding for early childhood development, and earlier this year a sales tax increase. Voters said yes to the increase and they want to keep those things protected. What kind of message are they sending?

Russell Pearce: Well, one is the tax increase was done in the special session, election, very few folks turned out. I'm not sure of the message. Everybody I talked to said it was -- was pretty rabid about no tax increase. We're overtaxed now. Especially tax increases are tough any time. During a recession? Dr. Prescott, a Nobel Laureate prize Winner from ASU came down -- he said the worst thing you can do during a recession is raise taxes. It does more damage than good. It drives the economy down, you lose jobs, and so I'm disappointed. I've got to be honest. The 302 message, you know, they spent a lot of money. We didn't have money to put out the truth. I think folks thought they were doing something good. What they've done, they've put education and these programs at risk because that -- the failure of 301 and 302 has added another $450 million to our deficit. It's going to be a tough time.

Ted Simons: But they will say that what they're doing is trying their best to protect these things knowing that if they don't protect them, or at least fearing if they don't protect them, you're going to cut them.

Russell Pearce: Well, that's not true. The money was going to go, and it was in the language that was put on the ballots. That money would have gone to the very programs they think they're protecting. So we would have been very cautious. We understand our responsibility to the taxpayers and the voters. We understand they voted for it once, and we would have made sure those dedicated dollars went to those issues, but in an appropriate way with oversight and transparency and accountability.

Ted Simons: The idea of AHCCCS, of actually just sacrificing all of federal funding for AHCCCS, it's been reported that you are willing to say goodbye to the $7 billion if it means not having to do the maintenance requirements for AHCCCS to keep that money alive. First of all, are you willing to sacrifice that kind of money?

Russell Pearce: The media has never let the truth in for the story. That's not the way it was said. It's just like going to Dillard's. If you don't have money, you can't buy stuff just because it's 75% off. What I said was, if they're requiring you to spend money you don't have, maybe you have to not take that money. You can't keep taking money that is incentivizing you to spend money you don't have. We already have a deficit. The last thing want to do - we're not the federal government. We can't just print money. Shame on them for what they do. We have a constitutional obligation to balance the budget. You can't keep spending when you don't have it. You can't spend money you don't have. The state ought to have the same accountability. That was my message. Sometimes you have to say no to the federal government if the incentive is to spend money you don't have.

Ted Simons: That seems to be the incentive here. Are you saying this is a time to say no to the federal government?

Russell Pearce: I'm saying if -- we're already doing so much. You have to decide, we talk about AHCCCS, one out of five Arizonans are on AHCCCS. It's the fifth most richest welfare health care program in the nation. People have to recognize that. There are things you can do, there's reforms, we spend $8 million a year on nonemergency transportation. Wait, I understand emergencies. But when you don't have any money, we're going to continue the fund nonemergency transportation? In other words, a cab to the movies? A cab to the doctor? We've got to wake up.

Ted Simons: You were also quoted in a direct quote, family, churches, and communities, they've got to provide. What happens if there is no family, there is no family that wants to, can, or is willing to help? How far do you go on something like this?

Russell Pearce: We're talking about a collaborative effort. They've got to join in this. We've ignored the principles of personal responsibility today. We think government should have to do everything for you. There's a little personal responsibility, you have to step up and in the past that's the way it was always done. Do you realize we didn't have AHCCCS several years ago at all? The counties took care of it. The counties did it.

Ted Simons: Should we go back to that, the idea of indigent care by way of state and county?

Russell Pearce: Well, there's a lot of debate going on there. But can we do things differently? Yeah. Can you have more accountability? I love to quote John Stossel. You think health care is expensive today, wait until it's free. There has to be accountability. There's got to be reforms. A co-pay a premium, if you're going to get free stuff, maybe you at least ought to contribute something toward the cost of that free stuff.

Ted Simons: What about those who can't? And there are a lot of folks who simply can't.

Russell Pearce: You know, I can tell you everybody will tell you they can't. Most people can. Give up the cigarettes, Dr. Pepper, you have to contribute. There are certainly cases where they can't. But most of those are few and far between. We have a system today where people take advantage -- I can tell you, and I won't get into names, personal stories that come to me every day from folks, who are just livid because they know the neighbor who drives a nicer car than them, who's on AHCCCS, and food stamps. They know folks who are paid under the table and so they don't have to show an income. And they get AHCCCS, food stamps. Because eligibility is high. Very high.

Ted Simons: But --

Russell Pearce: Three times as high as some states.

Ted Simons: Are we willing to sacrifice those who legitimately can't make it just to get those who might be able to put in --

Russell Pearce: You know, we hire people with people -- you put into place policies that allows them to make good decisions, but little research, maybe a little investigation, a little homework, we have an obligation, a fiduciary responsibility to protect the takes payers from fraud and abuse. That's what I'm after.

Ted Simons: You mentioned tax cuts and Dr. Prescott and the idea of never raising tax cuts in a recession. Areas on a state universities also have other economist who look at things different. What they're saying S. when you cut government jobs, when you cut public sector jobs, as opposed to cutting spending and cutting programs, cutting those jobs hurts the economy more than cutting programs. I can tell you I'm not quite buying into that.

Russell Pearce: No. There's a study, people always use a study they like best. I understand that. But there's a study out that shows it takes about four private sector jobs to pay for every public sector job. Private sector is what produces wealth. It's the private sector that grows jobs. Not government. Government consumes wealth. It doesn't produce wealth.

Ted Simons: So when the hospital association says rolling back AHCCCS requirements could cut tens of thousands of health care jobs in the state, what do you say?

Russell Pearce: You know, it's interesting, the same as the cheap labor crowd at immigration. When you and I subsidize, 2.7 billion a year to -- you still have this segment that's -- profits over patriotism. They benefit from the cheap labor so they would have you believe it would destroy everything. In a free market system, simply not true. It's because people benefit because they participate. They sign them up for AHCCCS, they get paid. Last thing they want, it slows the taxpayer, is subsidizing those events.

Ted Simons: You mentioned immigration. Will you push a bill, push a bill, not necessarily introduce, but push a bill that challenges or clarifies the 14th Amendment?

Russell Pearce: Absolutely. Let me tell you, you cannot ignore the fact that it's unconstitutional. If one reads the history, and understands the 14th Amendment came as a result of the Scott decision, which was a terrible decision that was just a slap to African-Americans as if they weren't real humans. The Republican Congress at that time wrote what's called the Civil Rights Act of 1866. And then they said, let's give that constitutional strength. They put it in the constitution. And it was to protect those folks who we had a jurisdictional responsibility to. You know what the American Indians were not recognized as citizens after the 14th Amendment. Congress had to pass three acts to recognize that. Simply your GPS location is not the criteria.

Ted Simons: We've also done programs on this, and we understand that 100 some-odd years ago this case was, according to a lot of legal experts, not all, but this is cut and dry, that they ruled in the case of Chinese immigrants that that is the way the 14th amendment --

Russell Pearce: That was after the slaughterhouse decision, that disagreed with that, and a later decision after it had been use properly for 40 years, then they decided that it -- your GPS location mattered. And they choose to use that decision. It's a policy, it is not a constitutional provision. Jacob Howards on the floor of the senate who wrote the 14th Amendment said this is not a plan for foreigners or aliens. At all. Clear language in my book.

Ted Simons: You promised not to push immigration bills when were you pushing for the senate president. Is that senator wrong that said that?

Russell Pearce: What I told him was simple. I don't make deals with folks, you can't ignore the fact. If you want jobs for Americans, maybe you ought to worry about the 500,000 illegal aliens that are taking jobs from Americans. Maybe you ought to worry about Bob Krentz who was murdered on the border. 12 Phoenix police officers killed and maimed by illegal aliens. Phoenix is number two in the world for kidnapping. Maybe people ought to start paying attention to that. He was never promised it wouldn't be done. What I told him was, as the president, I'm going to try to get other people in the front of this parade to carry this legislation. I need to work clearly on a lot of issues. These are important, but jobs, the economy, regulatory reform, educational reform, tort reform, things that I think are going to make Arizona a place where families come, where jobs come, where people come, and part of that is safe neighborhoods.

Ted Simons: If that parade, though, winds up taking up, sucking all the energy out of the room and all these things you listed off wind up so far back in the parade no one can see them, is it worth bringing this up now?

Russell Pearce: Of course it is. Again, 500,000 illegal aliens in Arizona. You want a job for an American? Deport an illegal alien. Enough is enough. People have to wake up to the reality. They commit crime according to the data out of the Maricopa County jail system, 2.3 times violent crimes over any other demographic. How can you continue to ignore that?

Ted Simons: A couple quick questions. We've had some folks suggesting that the legislature's make-up right now is very focused on jobs, on business types, on a whole cluster of people not necessarily poor people, not necessarily people of color. Who represents those people at the legislature?

Russell Pearce: I think we all do. And that's -- people would love to create this conflict that's not there. And shame on them. Shame on them. Just like 1076, 56% of Democrats support it, yet not one Democrat voted for it. Maybe it's about time we start legislating and operating from the ground up and not from the top down. RNC is not going to dictate our policy. We represent all those people and we do it in a fair, responsible, and equitable manner. Everyone of those people I think get honest consideration from all of us to treat everybody equal fair and the same.

Ted Simons: Last question, does the governor owe her success to you?

Russell Pearce: You know, that's a tough way to put it. Do I think -- do I think 1070 had a major role in her election? Absolutely. All the polls indicate it. But she signed the bill, she's been vigilant in its defense and I'm grateful for the governor. I introduced this bill in '05, '06, '07, '08,'09, 2010 before I finally had a governor that would sign it. And she's been village fluorescent its defense. I'm grateful for that, and I can tell you, I, the House, and the governor get along very well, and it's going to be good year and we'll play nice together.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Russell Pearce: Thanks for having me.

Russel Pearce:Senator;

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