State Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin discuss the current legislative session.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.
Ted Simons: State legislative leaders will appear on "Arizona Horizon" each month during the session to talk about bills and other issues at the capitol. Here now is Senate President Steve Pierce and Speaker of the House Andy Tobin. Good to see both of you.
Both: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the budget and where you guys stand on the budget and we'll try to figure out if the governor's in the same ballpark.
Sen. Steve Pierce: We have the budget, we have numbers that we put together, presented to her, we have met with her, and we're just trying to get our staff to work with her staff and start moving along.
Ted Simons: As far as numbers are concerned, what does the budget have to come in, and where does that differ from the governor's?
Rep. Andy Tobin: I think you first have to understand there's a lot of pressures we're not in control of. We're still looking at Obamacare moving forward, hopefully the federal government will start tightening their belt. That will reduce some funds going to the states. Our members are fearful about what that means not just getting by the sales tax going away, but what that means in your 14 or 15, I applaud the president and the senate and our members of the house, they're trying to take a look at this as if they're running a business, and saying, OK, what does this look like? Not just for this year, what's it look like for next year? We haven't been down there to have a good time with the budget, we've always been cutting it. We don't want to come back to where we've been, and our members are being very cautious about the spending. We're still about 800 million, I think that's probably the difference before we negotiate.
Sen. Steve Pierce: And like Andy said, we did do projections out to 2015 and that shows 700 million dollar deficit without additional spending. So we're just trying to be cautious and that's a long ways out to plan, but we're just trying to make sure we have everything covered. We don't want to go back to where we've been.
Ted Simons: The idea, no cuts no, restoration, no sweeps. Is that viable?
Sen. Steve Pierce: It is for us, yes. We just do not believe you should take all the agencies' money, there's $200 million to be swept, and table them, you can't go back and raise rates on people. That isn't right. We just don't need to spend the money. There's other things we, do.
Ted Simons: Other things to do?
Rep. Andy Tobin: There are, but the president is saying, we're trying to make sure there's some stability in a government budget. And the revenues are there right now, but we want to make sure we're looking at -- that's a carry-forward. We're not looking at the surplus dollars. This is carry-forward money, and the whole idea is to make sure -- there might be some places we miss things, we're all fine with going ahead and starting -- maybe we made a mistake, and let's go back and look at those and see what we have to put back. To further reduce the -- a lot of these agencies isn't on the table, and sweeping them isn't on the table for us right now either.
Ted Simons: You were quoted a couple things, the governor's office was not being very cooperative. And in another point she may not understand, her folks may not understand your caucus. What your caucus is interested in may not have the same strength there on the ninth floor. Talk to us about that.
Sen. Steve Pierce: My caucus is very conservative. And we are more cautious. We just want to make sure we have money there when the time comes that we need it. The cliff we're talking about in 2014, the one cent sales tax goes away, and Obamacare could be kicking in, access is going to be costing us more money and we're going to have to be prepared. We're going to have to have a lot of money set aside for that. Our budget that we presented, we have money set aside, there's a rainy day fund and other funds that we'd like to wait and -- until May of next year to allocate them. So we can see what happens with the election, what happens with Obamacare, with lawsuits, and then maybe we can use it.
Ted Simons: Last question on this, the idea of the governor maybe wanting some sweeps, maybe wanting to buy back the capitol, expenditures along these lines. Is there a disconnect there? What's going on?
Rep. Andy Tobin: I think it goes back to the same point. We're trying to make sure we're paying down debt every month as it is. And that doesn't -- none of us want that debt. But if we hit those points down the road, where maybe interest rates have gone up and we've already paid down some debt that we wanted to but now the interest rates are higher, and now we're running into these pressures I spoke about with the feds, we may have to go back to the borrowing and members have done it before, they really are cautious, they don't want to find themselves in that position again. Neither do I. So -- but this is the best budget negotiation we've ever been in. I know it's February, but we made all the tough choice year ago. Give us a chance to get Arizona on the right footing, so I'm sure we'll find a way.
Sen. Steve Pierce: We'll get through it. We have a good relationship the governor.
Ted Simons: One of those choices made in the past involved enrollment free for AHCCCS. Arizona Supreme Court basically did not -- they're not going to look at it, so it stands as it is. I want to ask you the same question I asked when the debate is strong. I'm still hearing from critics, is this good for Arizona, is this good for Arizona's economy?
Sen. Steve Pierce: We have to do what we can afford. I think it is. If we had gone ahead and had not done this, no telling -- we would be in worse shape now than we are. Andy's mentioned with the surplus people talk about, it isn't a surplus. That money is already spent. We're in the hole already. There are people that probably need to be covered, there are things we need to look at. We probably need to restore some parts of AHCCCS. But, no, we did the right thing. It was a hard decision, but look where we are now. We're talking about a surplus that really isn't a surplus.
Ted Simons: But 100,000 childless adults losing coverage, if they wind up going to hospitals, hospitals are already feeling it and they're going to feel it even more now. Good for Arizona, and again, if those folks lose coverage is that good for the economy?
Rep. Andy Tobin: I think we have to look where you're going. You have one in five people on AHCCCS. It's not sustainable. Any business that's out there would be able to share -- how do you sustain that? Your option is assist to raise taxes. That's not going to create a job. We're trying to have a fair balance, make sure the dollars get to those folks who are the most at need. It wasn't easy making some of these reductions but calling for us to go back to a place where we've just come from, which bled the state dry for the overspending we have is not something that the legislature is going to tolerate moving forward. And neither is this governor. I'm not saying these aren't difficult choices. But the best thing we can do is get jobs moving. That takes people off AHCCCS, that takes people -- they get into paying mode, they're buying things and the economic packages we're looking at moves is going to help.
Ted Simons: The governor's personnel plan, very important to her, obviously mentioned it during her State of the State speech and it sounds like it's been introduced. What took so long?
Sen. Steve Pierce: We had things we had to do first. Our obligation down here, our constitutional duty is to pass balanced budget. That's what we've been working towards is the budget. She wants that done, we are moving it, she asked Andy and I two weeks ago to get it moving. And we did. We had it in our caucus last week, Andy had it in the House last week. And then it was introduced today. So we're moving ahead. And there isn't a lot of opposition. There's parts between -- it's not -- there isn't a lot of opposition.
Rep. Andy Tobin: Representative Olsen is in testimony as we speak, the legislature's in session, we're moving along, representative Robson has calendared the bill in the House, and so we're having that debate as we speak. We're happy to bring that to the governor's table.
Ted Simons: Last question, anti-union measures, it's getting a lot of attention, where do they stand?
Rep. Andy Tobin: I have to go to the senate president for that one.
Sen. Steve Pierce: OK. One bill is passed out today, the other three are sitting -- they're still being worked with members. There's discussions on them. I don't know if they're going to get out, all four of them, but they've moved some.
Ted Simons: But we're hearing reports maybe the ban on collective bargaining might be in for some tough sledding.
Sen. Steve Pierce: I think it probably will be. But my caucus is a real conservative caucus. I will have to wait and see where we go on it. It's not really appropriate at this time to say, hey, they're all going forward or they're not. But I know one was passed out, the one on paycheck protection, 1484 was passed out today. So -- out of Cal. I take it back. We voted on it too. We did it all today and it was voted on, passed out, I think we had 19 votes for it.
Ted Simons: Gentlemen, good to have you here.
Sen. Steve Pierce: Thank you.
Rep. Andy Tobin: Good to see you.
In this segment:
Steve Pierce:Arizona State Senate President; Andy Tobin:House Speaker;