The Arizona Capitol Times provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The author of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 is endorsing Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. In a press release Romney said he is proud to have the support of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Romney also is looking forward to helping states like Arizona in the fight against illegal immigration. State Senator Ron Gould announced he is running for Congress in Arizona's fourth congressional district. Gould will face Penal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Congressman Paul Gosar in a district that covers mostly rural areas in central and western Arizona. The Arizona legislature session started this week. Every Wednesday during the 2 session, we will partner with the Arizona Capitol times to bring you the latest on the legislative front, and joining us now from the Arizona Capitol times is Luige del Puerto. Thanks for joining us.
Luige del Puerto: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Alright, we're off and we're running. The Governor's speech got things started. What did she say and what did she not say?
Luige del Puerto: The governor really set a tone, a sort of a triumphant tone and didn't really talk much about policy. We'll find out most of that this Friday when she lays out her budget plan. She did talk about, about Arizona celebrating its 100 years. It was a huge theme in her speech. And she did mention one thing that she wants to do. She wants to buy back the state's Senate and house buildings, including the executive power, which we have to help us raise the funds during the worst fiscal crisis.
Ted Simons: And obviously, whether she talks about that, you are talking about extra money. The budget surplus, that's the bigy at the capitol, correct?
Luige del Puerto: The big issue still is going to be what to do with the budget, and more specifically, what to do with this extra money, of course, that people don't call it extra money. We have Senate President Steve Pierce saying that's money already spent. The fact is, we will get money above what we budgeted for this year.
Ted Simons: What are the ideas out there?
Luige del Puerto: Well, the big ones would be pay off the debt, which would include buying back the state buildings, and another would be setting it aside for, for fiscal year 2014, which by that time, we will not be getting revenues from a temporary sales tax. That sales tax expires in about two years.
Ted Simons: We got new leadership down there. Talk to us about who is now leading the house and Senate, and how they differ from previous leaders.
Luige del Puerto: Well, let's start with the senate. We know have a rancher, a bona fide cowboy, if you will, in Steve Pierce, and he's a very conservative lawmaker but also pragmatic. The senate majority leader, Andy Biggs, a lawmaker from the east valley. And on the house side we have speaker Andy Tobin, from the northern part of Arizona. And incidentally, he's from the same district as Steve Pierce, and then the majority leader is, of course, Steve Port.
Ted Simons: So rural interests will get more attention, I would think, down there with these two guys in leadership?
Luige del Puerto: I guess the way it works is that they will not be left out as much as they have been in the past.
Ted Simons: Ok. And as far as leadership working with this Governor. 29 vetoes last session? A record? Are we expecting to see that much today in terms of veto action this time?
Luige del Puerto: And it's not just a veto, after the vetoes, they wrangled over the unemployment spending and benefits. They did not agree on, on what to do with the IRC. And so, you know, the last year was quite a, quite rocky for the Governor and the legislature. And interestingly, and the Governor's speech, there was a lot of positive feedback from, from the, from the Republican lawmakers. Including one who praised the speech and said it was the best one he's ever heard, and the vetoes, I guess we'll fine it out.
Ted Simons: What is the impact? It's obvious we've been running into an election year, what is that impact on, on legislation that might be introduced after all, some folks want to introduce things to make sure that their name is associated with it whether it comes to election time, and impact of elections on the length of the session, and impact of folks looking to be elected to another position. How does that play in down there?
Luige del Puerto: Typically, if it's an election year, like this year, it will be a much harder session. There will be pressure. Sometime later in March, and maybe even April, but that's, you know, folks are pushing it. And there are -- lawmakers right now who are running for Congress, and they will want to get home, go back to the district and start campaigning, so I think that we will see the typical bills that, that get introduced every year, but there will be more emphasis in them, and we'll probably see some controversial bills. I am not sure if they are going to go anywhere, but it's always good for someone to, to go back to their district and say, I introduced this measure, and I fought, I fought the big fight.
Ted Simons: You fought the good fight there. And we're seeing that another birther bill is going to be introduced? Karlfield?
Luige del Puerto: Birther bill, we expect some immigration measures, as well. Ron Gould is thinking of introducing another gun bill. We'll see those typical controversial bills, if you will, but whether they will get out, I think, is a big question, of course. The Governor also vetoed the birther bill, so, it's easy.
Ted Simons: And as far as democrats, obviously, they are very much in the minority down there. And what can they do? I know that they want excess money spent on education. I know that they are looking-at-an idea for the budget surplus, maybe to help small businesses and, and to rework the tax code in these, and these things, close loopholes. We have heard that before. Is any of that going to get traction down there?
Luige del Puerto: Well, it really depends on the Republicans. It depends on, on specifically the Senate and house leadership, and how they want to deal with it. If they open the door and say, we'll talk tour guys. We might -- well, I'm assuming we will not see the two sitting down, as caucuses, and looking at the budge, but we might, at least in the Senate side, he has an open door policy, and the democrat can come in, and I guess the best way for democrats is we'll still be able to work with Republicans and get their, their ideas pushed that way.
Ted Simons: Ok. Overall mood at the Capitol. From, from the opening day, the Governor's speech, to what you are seeing today, it has to be a little lighter because, because there can't be much more in the way of cutting.
Luige del Puerto: Well, I should say, this year, well, most likely will be less painful than the previous three or four years. And this is a year where, where we're going to have a bit of extra money. The fight will be not on her whether she fund transplant services, for example, or pull out funding for the mentally ill. It will be over, on her where to put the money, and, and whether to set it aside for the fiscal clip, we just talked about, so it will be, will be less painful.
Ted Simons: Less painful, but again, the Governor is saying, she doesn't want to see restoration of funds. Two things that have been cut.
Luige del Puerto: And, and she's not only the person who said that. We have Republican lawmakers who have said that we don't want to increase spending. We did see the Senate leaders, recently, basically, say that, that we are open to, to restoring the split in the retirement contribution, and it used to be that they increased the contribution rates, and they said well, it's restored through the 50-50 split. So, already, we are seeing them, at least open to some sort of restoration.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Good stuff Luige, and thanks for joining us.