A mid-week report from the Arizona Capitol Times’ Luige del Puerto.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers are working on a variety of bills, including one that would allow guns on university campuses. Speaking of universities, lawmakers this week heard from ASU President Michael Crow about proposed budget cuts to higher education. Joining us with the latest from the capitol is Luige del Puerto from the "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you. Before we get to the guns and university business, let's start with the budget. What's the latest?
Luige del Puerto: The budget is like a cloud hanging over everyone's head. It's an issue that much of the discussion and the energy in the capitol is focused pretty much on the budget. I know the House has started their small group meetings. Kirk Adams is starting to get feedback from members on how do you feel about the Governor's proposal. I know they are trying to do the same thing in the Senate, as well. It still looks like the Governor's budget proposal will be the template for whatever the legislature will pass. I've spoken to individual members here, there, and they basically said yeah, there will probably be tweaks, but not substantial changes to the Governor's proposals.
Ted Simons: And a lot of concern regarding ACCCHS and transplant patients on ACCCHS. What's the latest there?
Luige del Puerto: The Democrats invited today a lady who is one of those who lost her transplant coverage as a result of what they did last year. They are still trying to put this issue, the Dems, are still trying to put this ACCCHS issue on the forefront. I get the sense from Republican lawmakers that at this point what they want to do is deal with transplant coverage and deal with Medicaid as one piece. You know, we spoke with Andy Biggs this morning and he said, We don't want to deal with this piecemeal. You will see the legislature take up this transplant issue as a single subject. If they are going to do anything about it, it will be included when they deal with Medicaid and the budget.
Ted Simons: All right. Gun bills, we have one that says increase background check on private gun shows. Another says increase access for guns on public campuses.
Luige del Puerto: Whenever you purchase a firearm at a gun show he's saying let's do a background check on them. What he thinks is the problem is that people, not just from Arizona but from out of state, are showing up at gun shows and throwing down some cash and walking away with firearms. For him, that's a problem. The bill has to be heard first. It's unlikely that will be tackled. The legislature remains a very pro-gun legislature. So any bill that would put more restrictions on people's ability to carry or purchase firearms, it's difficult for me to see any of those bills actually getting anywhere.
Ted Simons: And conversely, the idea of getting guns on university campuses allowing for, in certain situations, allowing for that to happen: Positive?
Luige del Puerto: You know, that's a good question. With what happened in Tucson, you know, like I said earlier, people are having some pause about going ahead with much of this gun legislation. They will push for that bill again during the session, I think. Whether it'll pass or not, it failed a couple of times before, so we don't know. What we know is that this is a legislature that has an increased Republican majority. We would presume there would be more people agreeable to these kinds of legislation. We don't know that for sure.
Ted Simons: Speaking of universities, Michael Crow and other leaders of higher education making their case, and President Crow is basically saying if the cuts go through, per-student spending at ASU goes back to 1960s levels?
Luige del Puerto: That's basically what he's saying. Really his pitch at the Capitol was, Look guys, what we need from you is certainty and stability. We know what our budget's going to look like. The reason is our programs, you know, we have long-term goals. Any time you sort of fluctuate the state investment, state support to the university system, it disrupts their programs. That was the main pitch there. As far as tuition, the Governor's office was hedging whether this would increase the situation. President Crow said he is averse to seeking a tuition fee increase. The reason for it is that the higher education community has three major sources of revenue. State aid, property taxes, and then tuition. So if you cut one leg, if you're going to keep or maintain the same level of budget or programs you have, you have to increase it from the two other sources.
Ted Simons: The Board of Regents chair says she saw ruthless cost-cutting not to the bone but beyond the bone.
Luige del Puerto: We did hear for example the Chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges basically say, you know, with this kind of a cut we're not looking at just downsizing things. We're looking at our core mission. Anything that's outside of it will probably have to be let go. He didn't say it quite in those terms but that's what he meant.
Ted Simons: Quickly, the Governor signed a bill aimed at the casino in Glendale. We were talking before the show and you were saying there were some conflicting emotions there regarding this piece of legislation.
Luige del Puerto: One of the reasons why this bill was brought up in the first place is because people have moral objections about gambling. Any kind of an expansion in gambling we disagree with, it's not good for families or for the State. You have the same people who are advocates for property rights. It puts them in this really tough spot of having to decide whether to go with the socially conservative side or with their private property rights side. Some people are very conflicted about it. I saw it took Sylvia Allen some time to vote on this, and she had some pretty intense discussion with Andy Biggs, who is against this legislation. What happens is they decided at the end of the day this is a property rights issue. They were able to separate it to a certain extent from gambling.