Legislative Session

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Two Arizona political leaders look back on the recently-adjourned legislative session.

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers recently wrapped up a legislative session that saw lots of controversy over a number of issues. Some of those issues found resolution in being passed, others did not. Here to talk about the just ended session is house speaker Kirk Adams and minority leader Chad Campbell. Thank you both for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Chad Campbell: Thank you.

Kirk Adams: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Let's start with general thoughts on the session. For you, high point of the session.

Kirk Adams: Well, there are really three home runs from our perspective. We passed the historic jobs package, we passed a bam answered budget and we pass add very important pension reform package. And the fourth thing would be we completed our work in 100 days, which is the first time that's happened in a very long time, only the fifth time in about 30 years. So all in all, we think had a very successful session.

Ted Simons: Low point for you in this session.

Kirk Adams: I think the low point was perhaps a lot of controversy, particularly surrounding the senate and senate protests and so forth. We are fortunate in the house that we didn't have a lot of that type of RANCOR, I think a lot of the credit goes to the minority in helping keep a collegial atmosphere within the house.

Ted Simons: High point and low point from how you saw it.

Chad Campbell: The high point was actually the end of session or us. And you know, I appreciate the speaker's willingness to work with news terms of keeping the civility. So I do appreciate that from the speaker. But the big rush in the hundred days, while that's nice we got in a hundred days, I think we should be looking at the quantity or the quality, not the quantity. I can be the first one to finish a test, but if I got every answer incorrect, I'm still going to fail that test. And we finished in a hundred days but what we did was unproductive and I think destructive in the long run for the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: There were a couple of concerns throughout that things were not properly vetted or could have been vetted better or rushed through. Pick your term. How do you respond?

Kirk Adams: You know, state statutes from the constitution contemplates we finish session around 100 days. When we go longer than that, the legislature is criticized for not getting its work done, being there too long. I think it's appropriate when you consider we have a part-time legislature, a citizen legislature, that we get done as quickly as we can get done, with the high quality of work. I think we've done that. There was a lot of heavy lifting in this session. A lot of heavy lifting. We tackled some very big problems. A huge economic problem we have in our state, the long-standing budget problems we have in our state, and some long-term spending issues like our pension system. So to be able to tackle all of that in a timely manner, we think is very successful, and we count it as high accomplishment.

Ted Simons: What do you say about that? We heard complaints something was rushed through, properly vetted, wasn't properly investigate. Talk about that. It sounds like a lot was done in that period of time.

Chad Campbell: But I think many things were rushed, and the thing that stands out is the jobs bill, I call it the corporate tax cut bill. That was rushed through, basically in about 24 hours. That has a $540 million hit to our revenue here in the state when we can't pay the bills. And I that I was very problematic that we didn't discuss that bill for a longer period of time in a more public way. I think this problem with the session was that a lot was done but it wasn't done in the long-term interest of the state. We got an -- gutted education again, we gutted health care, I think we jeopardized public safety with shifting burdens on to the local governments, counties and cities. And really we didn't tackle the long-term problems, which is economic reform, creating a long-term vision for our educational system in Arizona and creating the climate we want to attract families and businesses. And it's not happening right now.

Ted Simons: Address those concerns.

Kirk Adams: This is the debate we've been having throughout the session. Will Chad and I simply disagree. We think state government needs to live within its means, and you need to bring fiscal stability to state government, we have accomplished that. We also believe the best way to turn around the economy is to have -- allow small business owners and big business owns to keep more of what they earn to save and invest, to higher people, which creates jobs and tax revenue. And then we had our long-term spending issues we took care of as well. If you talk about specifics of this, for example, the jobs bill. You and I have talked about the jobs bill on this program on several different occasions for almost the last two years. The bill that was passed in the house and senate and signed by the governor at day 40 of session was not something that just appeared overnight. It had been debated extensively over a long period of time with input from economists, from policymakers, and from the business community.

Ted Simons: What's something like the jobs bill, what else was there to learn? What else was there to know when you say it was rushed through, what else did you need to know?

Chad Campbell: There were better twice lower the corporate tax rates. I've said it time and time again. I am a democrat who is -- I consider myself very pro business. I've said for many years the tax rate on businesses is too high. And I had a bill this session that would have lowered the corporate tax rate, would have eliminated - all together eliminated the business personal property tax, and it wouldn't have cost the state a dime because would it have ended all the tax credits and loopholes we have in our tax code. And I said this time and time again, I said this the last time I think I was on the show here, Bob Robb, who is a very conservative columnist for the Republic, compared my plan side by side with the speaker and the governor's plan and he said my plan was better. It was better for the long-term stability for the state and better tax policy. We should have had a debate about overall economic reform, not just more handouts to corporations and special interests.

Ted Simons: Did we have that debate, have we had that debate?

Kirk Adams: We had a very robust debate about that. We continue to have that debate. But what you see is, we disagree on the best direction for the state. The voters installed two-third majority Republicans in the house and the senate, we believe for a reason. We have acted upon those priorities and we've done it in a successful manner, and we believe along with by the way the entire business community came out in support of that jobs bill. The entire business community. They recognize how important that was for the success of this state. Everything starts first with someone holding a job. When we have that state revenues will improve and that bill was a huge step forward in that direction.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks are saying that the budget equates to a lot of jobs lost. Harmful to education, harmful to health care, impacting those industries in ways that the complaint is a lot of state leaders simply don't understand and it's going to be a lot of price to pay down the road. How do you respond to the idea that education, health care, the harm has been immeasurable?

Kirk Adams: I think it's completely inaccurate. For example, the cuts to education represented less than 4% of all education spending in the state. You cannot tell me that is gutting education, particularly when the cuts to education as a percentage were significantly less than most other areas all other areas of the state budget over the last several years. So what we've done as a majority is we've been very careful to minimize the damage to education, for example, but also recognize that you cannot achieve stability in state finances unless you balance your revenues with your expenditures. We've been willing to make those tough choices. We made them over and over and over again while some still have not made those choices.

Chad Campbell: This is just one year you're talking about over the last three years, this governor and the majority in the legislature, the Republican majority, have made the deepest cuts to education in the history of this state. We already came in to this administration spending less money than any state in the country did on education. And now we're so pass past the bottom of the barrel, I don't know how we recover. And on top of that we did gut health care, the one sector that's been growing, we pulled the rug out from underneath them. I talked to hospital administrator in Yuma the other day who is probably going to have to lay off 150-250 people from that hospital. Yuma has about a 20-25% unemployment rate. One of the highest of any locality in the state and the nation. And we are decimating our economic recovery, we're not allowing our economy to continue growing, the education system especially the University system, they are economic engines. We have hurt them with this budget and over the past several years and you see it downtown, you see it at the ASU campus. When I was walking in this building I heard students complaining about the fact their tuition is going up again, their housing is going up and even the bus and transit rides are going up because everybody is having to take or -- everybody is having to raise their rates and taxes because of the decisions being made bite Republicans.

Ted Simons: Quickly please.

Kirk Adams: I want to say, with all of that, Chad might have a point if it were not within the context of the worst recession in state history, and the worst budget deficit in state history. There seems to be a disconnect in my opinion with the reality of the situation we have faced. The fact of the matter is, under Governor Brewer and Republican leadership, we have veered the state off of the cliff of bankruptcy and put it back on to stable footing once again.

Chad Campbell: But it's easy when you're not paying for anything. We're not investing in anything any longer. This state is not going to be competitive, moving in the future if we don't have a strong education system, if you don't have quality infrastructure, if you don't have a strong health care system, and we do not. It compares to other western states, yes falling behind. The rest of the nation is turning around, jobs are growing, we're still losing jobs.

Ted Simons: I got a question for you, but I have a question on that. A lot of folks are saying you can't get any kind of advancement in Arizona without some sort of stability, without some sort of guarantee the future will be stable financially.

Chad Campbell: And again, you're stable when you're not spending money. And we're not spending money. We're not investing in anything anymore. And that is a problem for businesses who looking to move here and families looking to move here. You need to see stability, but you also need long-term investment and long-term vision for a strong competitive state and we're not seeing that from this current leadership.

Kirk Adams: I recognize that's a rhetorical point he's making, but it's also a gross exaggeration. To say we're not investing or spending money on anything. As a matter of fact, over half of our budget still goes to education and higher education. So those are the top -- that is the top priority of state government, is education. As reflect by where we spend our dollars.

Ted Simons: I got to get -- you mentioned something regarding higher tuition, some folks are saying costs are being shifted on to the counties, and such, you're saying this is an honest budget. It's balanced, it's structurally sound. Others are saying it's just shoving the costs off to other areas. How do you respond?

Kirk Adams: It's a gross distortion of the budget. When you look at the budget numbers, less than 1% of this $8.5 billion spending plan has any impact whatsoever on local governments. Less than 1%. Where most of these cuts have come from frankly is from all across state government. All across state government. And so the plan is a balanced budget. As a matter of fact, it's the first structurally balanced budget in at least five years if not 10.

Chad Campbell: And the speaker can deny this, but it's simply the truth of the matter. They have shifted the cost of all kinds of services, including housing dangerous prisoners into the counties, into the cities, the schools themselves, the property owners --

Kirk Adams: I have to correct your record on that.

Chad Campbell: It is true. I want to say this is the third year in a row the Republicans have raised property taxes on individual homeowners in the state, as I've said time and time again, I've never voted for and tax increase anytime in my legislative career.

Kirk Adams: Those are inaccurate statements.

Chad Campbell: no, they're not.

Kirk Adams: We're talking about prisoners sentenced to less an year which is I think what he's referring to, those are not your hardened criminals or hardened murderers, those are typically first-time DUI offenders which have traditionally been under the care of the counties, not state government.

Ted Simons: Alright gentlemen, there's just so much more to talk about. Thank you both though for joining us.

Chad Campbell: thank you.

Kirk Adams: Thank you.

Rep. Kirk Adams:House Speaker (R);Rep. Chad Campbell:House Minority Leader (D);

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