House Speaker Steps Down

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Speaker of the House Kirk Adams discusses stepping down from his leadership role to focus on a run for Congress.

Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon," we'll talk to Kirk Adams, who had a busy day. He stepped down as house speaker and announced plans to run for Congress. Also on the show, we'll hear what advocates have to say about budget cuts to social services. That's next on "Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State attorney general Tom Horne decides to turn over the investigation into alleged misconduct by public officials in the Fiesta Bowl fiasco to Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery. Horne said in a press release this afternoon that he has a conflict because as attorney general, he represents some of those accused of wrong introducing. Also making news today, Kirk Adams who stepped down as speaker of the house and resigned from the legislature to announce his candidacy for Congress. At apples will seek the congressional seat vacated by Jeff flake, who is running for senate. Here to talk about his plans is Kirk Adams. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Kirk Adams: Thanks for inviting me.

Ted Simons: Busy day. Are you ready for all this?

Kirk Adams: I think so. Yes.

Ted Simons: Why are you running for this position? Why do you want to represent Arizona in Washington?

Kirk Adams: Our country is at a fundamental crossroads. I truly believe that if we don't tackle our biggest challenges we face as a country, now there may come a day when they are insurmountable. If you looks at what we've done within state government in the last three years, we have taken on those toughest challenges, tackled the biggest problems. You can agree or disagree with the choices that we've made, but we've been willing to make those choices. Right now what we need most of all in Washington are people who are willing to make those tough choices, and that's what excites me about running for Congress.

Ted Simons: And I ask why you're making this move, why you are thinking that you are the best qualified as opposed to someone else. Why should voters choose you?

Kirk Adams: Over the last three years, under my leadership in the Arizona house of representatives, we've confronted those big challenges, taken on tough issues, we haven't shirked from those issues. That's exactly what we need right now in Washington, DC. When you consider the federal spending, the federal debt, and Frankly you'd be generations of inability to tackle the tough problems. For too long we've had politicians kick the can down the road in Washington, DC. It's time we elect a crop of politicians that are ready to address those problems and bring forward real solutions, not unlike what we're beginning to see with representative Paul Ryan.

Ted Simons: Let's get to representative Paul Ryan. Your thoughts on that, and specifically the ideas of lowering tax rates for the wealthy, and replacing Medicare with private insurance subsidies. Why are those good for America?

Kirk Adams: I think there's a lot of parallels with what representative Ryan is proposing and what we've actually done here at the Arizona state legislature. There are three things we need to institute at the federal level. First, we need to dramatically reduce federal spending. We have to do that if we're ever going to get our debt under control. Second, we have to focus on economic growth. We're not going to simply be able to cut our way out of this. This is the same thing we were saying three years ago at the Arizona house. We also have to grow the economy. Thus the need to reduce the tax burden on the job creators and third, we need to tackle long-term spending reforms. I've done that here in Arizona with our pension reform and other items in the budget that we were success until implementing. Paul Ryan is doing that by addressing the need in entitlement reform. It's the same thing. And so I think you put those things together, I think that's the direction this country needs to head. I think he's on the right track and I also believe, Ted, whether you disagree or agree with what Paul Ryan is proposing, you've got admit someone is finally stepping forward with the plan, a plan to reform what needs to be reformed. And I think that's very admirable.

Ted Simons: But, if the reform includes cuts 25% to education, 30% to transportation, whatever the numbers are, you said a whole flock of them, a lot of stuff is getting cut. Again, how is that good for Arizona, how it is going for America?

Kirk Adams: The reason why it's not good for America, if we continue to mount the debt and the deficits that we are mounting right now, we will be in a world of hurt and the sooner time period in a lot of us would like to admit. The math at the federal level simply does not add up. And if the day comes where we issue more debt and the Chinese or the European union or whoever else it may be, no longer wants to buy that debt, then we've seen nothing like what we will see at that point in time. So it's absolutely critical within these next few years we begin to address these problems. Now, that being said, just like we did here in Arizona, you can't do this all in one fell swoop. It took us a three-year period of time for our much smaller Arizona budget to put us on the right path. It's going to take us a long period of time to put the federal budget on the right path, but we have to start down that path now. We can no longer kick the can down the road.

Ted Simons: The president says that in order to avoid these pitfalls you refer to, you need to raise the tax rate slightly. Not crazy, slightly on the top wage earners in America. He says otherwise, and with all these cuts, let's put both of his ideas here, that Republicans and the Paul Ryans of the world are look at shrunken America, a limited America. America that is slowing down, that looks to the past instead of has big ideas and bold ideas for the future. How do you respond?

Kirk Adams: I completely disagree. What the president means when he says you have to raise taxes, the actual effect of that is raising taxes on small business owners. Those are the job creators. They need to have more of what they earn to save and invest in capital equipment, and in hiring new people for -- to run that equipment in their factories and so forth. It's not unlike what we did in Arizona. Even during a recession, we recognize it was important to reduce the tax burden to free up capital to make those investments, even at the time where we are cutting government spending. You have to do both at the same time because you need the economic growth as much as you need the balanced budget.

Ted Simons: We're going to have folks later on in the program talking about social service, how they were affected by legislative cuts this session. Critics say the lawmakers and you're leader in the house, balanced the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in Arizona. Lots of things were cut to folks who are not doing too well right now. How do you feel about that? Was that -- is that the best thing for Arizona?

Kirk Adams: You know, I recognize that there are reasonable people who disagree on these issues, and I respect their opinions. But the fact of the matter is from my perspective, it's a mathematics problem. If you don't have the revenues to match the expenditures, you have to make those tough choices. And this is why I'm prepared to run for Congress, because when you're in the arena, and you are facing the protests and the criticism and the name calling, and you still have the ability to make those tough choices, I think we need that now more than ever in the United States Congress.

Ted Simons: You have already said that you would be against ear marks as the predecessor in the -- in this particular vacancy in this particular congressional seat, was adamantly against ear marks. Why is that? It looks like your opponent Matt Salmon is saying he's going to fight for money that he can get to Arizona because Arizona needs the help, and Arizona could use the improvement. Why is that a bad idea?

Kirk Adams: I don't want to characterize Matt's position. I'll let him take care of that. But I will say that the earmarking process has been corruption in Washington, DC, and has bred a host of Washington, DC lobbyists. And we can't go down that path anymore. But I think it's also important to note that reforming ear marks is not the total solution. You have to begin to address entitlements, address entitlement spending. If you don't, in the same way within state government whey to address Medicaid, if you don't begin to address it, you cannot solve the problem. This is why when you see people like representative Ryan step forward with the courage to say, OK, here's the truth, we can't afford this, we have to fix it, here's a reasonable way to fix it now, so that it's not more harsh in the future.

Ted Simons: I don't want to veer too much off on this idea, but there are folks who would say that you give people option, the free market, and give them the choice, and give them vouchers, however it occurs, people are people. And they're going to choose the least expensive, they will probably underestimate the concerns they may be facing in the future. Some of them are approaching an age where they think they're going to be just fine, and in a couple years, they're not just fine, because they're aging. With all that in mind, is it wise in this particular instance to have so much of a free market influence?

Kirk Adams: I think that sells people short. People are consumers of all kinds of products. They may rational and good decisions as a group. We should trust their ability to know what best fits their needs. So, for example, in the Ryan budget when he proposes premium subsidies, if you will, for Medicare, that's the right kind of approach. It maximizes individuals' freedoms to choose for themselves what plan fits best for them. At the end of the day when that consumerism and that market heats up, we will drive costs down, and that I believe is the number 1 failing of Obamacare, it does nothing to drive health care costs down unless you count rationings, which eventually results from Obamacare.

Ted Simons: There's so much more we could talk about, but I want to get to a couple other things, we've got a couple minutes. SB 1070, has that been good for Arizona?

Kirk Adams: The answer I believe is yes. And ultimately I believe that SB 1070 will be upheld substantially in the United States Supreme Court. We have the concurrent responsibility with the federal government, we jointly enforce other laws and other areas of statute and federal statute, there's no reason why states should not be allowed to jointly enforce existing federal law. And so I do believe at the end of the day, SB 1070 is productive. But it's not the solution either. It's not the complete solution. I firmly believe the illegal immigration problem is primarily a resource problem or a lack of resources, meaning the federal government not putting enough resources on Arizona's southern border. If we were to do that, we would dramatically alter this entire conversation.

Ted Simons: Last question, if SB 1070 is such a good thing for Arizona, why were the plethora of immigration bills floating around the senate in particular, why didn't you push harder for those? Why didn't those things make it in the legislature?

Kirk Adams: Those bills were nothing like SB 1070 They were covering entirely different subject areas. SB 1070 was not enforcing existing law, not changing the constitution or not creating a new law. It was about enforcing existing law.

Ted Simons:Here's my last question. Is Arizona a better place now than it was when you assumed leadership?

Kirk Adams: I think the answer is a resounding yes. But more important than the present, Arizona's future is brighter today than it was in 29 when you assumed the speaker -- 2009 when I assumed the speakership. We passed the largest permanent tax reductions in the history of the state, we brought long-term spending reforms to pension and to the budget and we've dramatically reduced state spending to finally bring a sense of stability to state finances, and that is a great foundation to build on for the future.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us tonight.

Kirk Adams: Thank you.

Kirk Adams

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