Senate Appropriations Chairman

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Senator Don Shooter (R-Yuma) will speak about his role as Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and the process of drafting a new State budget.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The senate appropriations committee is one of the most powerful committees in the state legislature. It's the money committee, and it plays a key role in drafting the state budget. Here to talk about the budget process and his new position as chairman of the senate appropriations committee is Senator Don Shooter, a Republican from Yuma. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Sen. Don Shooter: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: You betcha. What are we looking at the budget coming in? The governor has a number, what's happening?

Sen. Don Shooter: It's very, very early in the process. Only been at it two or three weeks all told and working closely with the house and the governor's staff and, you know, I think we're moving in the right direction. I mean, we're not as -- as I think Chairman Kavanagh said, we're in the same church, if not the same pew. So my hope is we can continue to work together to get the issues we have resolved.

Ted Simons: How is the budget being negotiated and who is doing the negotiating?

Sen. Don Shooter: Well, um, I'm a newcomer to this process. It's my first year as chairman and when I was appointed, one of things I wanted to do was get the preliminary work out of way, we've been working with staff of both houses and the governor's staff to some extent to try to, you know, make this -- the same story. I mean, make it as painless as possible within the -- within the bounds of fiscal reality.

Ted Simons: I read a quote or a paraphrase, you want no cut, no restorations and no sweeps. Is that viable?

Sen. Don Shooter: That's an ideal world, yes. And well, we believe it is. I mean, there are -- there are always differences of opinion but a difference of opinion doesn't necessarily translate into a difference in policy. So, you know, again, I'd like it think we're working closely with the governor's office to accomplish those goals. One of the things that people may or may not realize is the state of Arizona is the third from the bottom on the credit raiding. The only two states that have worse credit than we do is California and Illinois and that's not where we want to be. Good things are happening. In the process, the governor was supportive of last year of the budget as you're aware and for the first time in many years, we have a real surplus, not a gimmicky one, or anything else. My hope, if you think of it in terms of a business, our P & L is not bleeding red. We've gone from a red to a black one. But on the other side of that ledger is your balance sheet, we're a 3-7 in the hole. We have to go another 12 years like we did last time and work ourselves into almost being broke.

Ted Simons: You mentioned 12 years, a couple of years, certainly the end -- 2013, June, a cliff, a train. Something is coming with the loss of the temporary sales tax search that the big gorilla in the room during discussions?

Sen. Don Shooter: There's a number of things we're hopefully prepared for and as I say, we're working together and hopefully come to the right balance. It's always a balance. If you're going to take something out here, can you put it back here and prioritizing everything else but there's three big cliffs we have. The first is as you rightly point out, the one-cent sales tax. $860 million gone. The second is Obama care and no one, including -- they can give you best guesses but no one in the state or feds can tell you what that will cost. That's an unknown and the third one, I hope we're wrong, but I have a feeling we may be looking at a double-dip recession. If you believe that as your world view, you have a moral and ethical responsibility to make provisions for that.

Ted Simons: I know earlier, you were considering banning public testimony from the budget debate. First of all, is that true --

Sen. Don Shooter: No.

Ted Simons: -- and secondly, what is that all about.
Sen. Don Shooter: It's -- look, we have presentations by -- by departments. And historically, it's up to the chairman whether they want to take additional testimony or not. About half do, half don't. I chose not to. But we're always going to take -- and it was always -- I was always going to take public testimony on budget items and other -- and bills and things like that, which would be appropriate. But --

Ted Simons: Ok --

Sen. Don Shooter: It's a tempest in the teapot.

Ted Simons: We heard you weren't taking testimony on the government agencies but on the budget, it's unprecedented.

Sen. Don Shooter: I don't know where that came from.

Ted Simons: Ok.

Sen. Don Shooter: It's a tempest in a teapot. I think it was a slow news day.

Ted Simons: 14-hour meetings -- you're set for that?

Sen. Don Shooter: I would prefer not to.

Ted Simons: Last question: What target are we looking at for a budget to get done? I'm hearing March.

Sen. Don Shooter: Well, I have --

Ted Simons: Mid March?

Sen. Don Shooter: That depends greatly on all of us working hard to resolve issues we may have. But I was told that the record for a budget was 65 days by the gentleman who's been there for 25 years, the -- the director of the JLBC, my goal is to beat that, it's important we get out and do other -- it's important we do other bills and stuff that need to be done as well as the budget. I hope we can work together and so far we are, to make this as painless as possible within the bounds of financial realities.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Sen. Don Shooter: Thanks for having me.

Senator Don Shooter:(R-Yuma);

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