Democratic Legislative Leaders

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Arizona State Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell talk about their priorities for the 2013 legislative session.

Ted Simons: We're a week away from the start of the next Arizona legislative session, last week, we heard from the Senate President and speaker of the house, both Republicans, tonight, we hear from democratic leaders at the capitol, joining us is Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor and house Minority Leader Chad Campbell. Good to have you here and thanks for joining us.
Leah Landrum Taylor: Glad to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's start with impact. And numbers have changed a bit. How much impact can Democrats have at the capitol this go around?
Leah Landrum Taylor: I think it's going to have a tremendous impact, or it should, frankly. And when you look at the numbers, versus last year, we were a super minority, and now, even if it's a forcible situation, of having conversations and bipartisanship, that's fine. There can be situations where, you know, we can definitely make some differences and changes. But again, I would hope that we could work together.
Ted Simons: How much difference do you think?
Chad Campbell: I hope it's going to be significant changes down there. I think that a lot of it comes with the Governor. The Governor has to show that she wants to work in a bipartisanship way, with both sides, and Democrats and the Senate and the house, and we can work together in some of the big issues, the Medicaid expansion possibility, and education funding, school safety, things like that, that should be non partisan issues but we need to work with the Governor, and quite frankly, we have not seen that the past couple of years so I'm hoping it changes.
Ted Simons: I asked the leadership when they were here last week for successes and failures, first success they mentioned, balanced budget. Success?
Leah Landrum Taylor: You know, when I have an opportunity to speak with our schools and our school districts, across the state, the individual families, parents, and I'm parent myself. I have children in school. Frankly, individuals really, in districts are concerned about the, the amount of cuts that did take place to, to education, and yes, we have statute, you know, we have to, to constitutionally finish out with balanced budget. But, it depends on how you, you perceive that. Is it balanced on the backs of children or on the backs of family or vulnerable, you know, adults, and those who, who have mental illnesses? We can go on down the line, and when we're talking to these various, various constituencies, there is grave concerns that are going on from des, and, you know, those who receive des, and this is, a major problem. Over the last, what, five years, we have had cuts around 1.5 billion in education alone. Soft capital funding, wiped out completely, and these are the things that we have to make sure that we put back. In. Overcrowded classrooms, it's not making it conducive, conducive learning environment for our children.
Ted Simons: And yet the other side will say that we have put some money back in. Not as much as was taken out, it will take a long trek to get back to those levels, but, education has been targeted, and has been refilled to certain degree.
Chad Campbell:To a certain degree. And that degree is very, very small. It would be like if your employer cuts your salary by 75% over the past three years, and they gave you a 5% back and said, we gave you a pay raise. We need a plan for the state, be it school funding, be it infrastructure or health care, whatever it may be, we have seen bunch of short-sighted decisions over the past couple years, and cutting school funding, cutting health care, whatever if may be, cutting law enforcement, and we need long-term plan, and as Leah pointed out, balancing the budget on the backs of children or seniors, that's not balanced budget, and that's just, just bad plan, we need a long-term plan that, that invests in the future of the state and we don't have it right now.
Ted Simons: If the budget has to be balanced, on a back, whose back is it balanced on? I don't think on anyone's back. What it should be based on is long-term planning. Our tax code is broken, and needs to be overhauled, and need a fair tax code that does not just benefit special interests or large corporations but helps out small businesses and families, we need a long-term investment strategy for education, job creation, whatever it may be, and shouldn't be balanced with anybody. What should be done or how it should be built is based on a future plan for the state, and we don't have that.
Ted Simons: But another idea is that, is that the tax cuts incentives credits these sorts things, which of course, keep less money from coming in. Signals to other businesses around the country, that Arizona is open for business. Valid?
Leah Landrum Taylor: At the same time, when you talk to many industries, business industries, they discuss the concern about, about the amount of money that they have to put into training, retraining, workforce, workforces, and that's problem. And so, when you look at really, attract businesses being attracted to state, also the quality of life is critical. And how the educational system, is so that they can have future workforce pools from there. That's problem. The cuts that we have had in our universities, having a big impact on things like research and this, this makes an incredible difference if a business is really eyeing what's going on here within our state. It's about basic priorities in many instances, we have really, really -- it's been failed.
Ted Simons: Are you hearing from the business community, business interests that, that these are concerns that the legislature, both sides of the aisle, need to address?
Leah Landrum Taylor: One of the things -- We are certainly open to having discussions, talking with the business community but we have heard, this if you think about, High-tech industry, for instance, and the amount of, of revenue that they have to pour into training and retraining their workforce. At a certain amount of time, as a business owner, myself, it comes to certain point to where is this something that's helping or hurting your business? If you can go to another state that has, has everything, then why would you not go there? Great education system. A nice, safe environment, and these are the, this is the quality of life for your employees, the things that you look at, and not having to pour all of this money into, into training and retraining your workforce.
Chad Campbell: And I'm going to add, there is good tax cuts, and good tax credits and bad ones. And you got to balance them out. I had a package two years ago that would have lowered the corporate income tax rate, and we paid for it by closing the loopholes in other parts of the code. We can attract business with good tax packages, but just throwing money away out the door, no accountability, is not the way to go, and that's what we have seen the last three years in this legislature and from this Governor.
Ted Simons: Are you expecting to see more of that?
Chad Campbell: Unfortunately, I think that, that we may, and it's very, very bad if we do because right now, we have surplus for the next couple of years, but three years down the road we're going to be in another hole, and if we keep throwing money away without a long-term strategy for investing and making sure that we're meeting the needs of the people we'll be right back to where we were at two years ago.
Ted Simons: You mentioned the future and possible problems down the line here as far as the budget is concerned. Medicaid expansion, major issue, and those who are against it are saying, that, that any expansion will lead to future deficits. First of all, is that true?
Leah Landrum Taylor: You know, if we were to take a look at the Medicaid expansion, and to get it up to the level that the conversation has been going on about, about which level do you take it to for the Federal, 133%, that's been figure that's been thrown out there. And if we don't move in a direction of at least coming together, with some type of a consensus or agreement, in the long run we can lose Federal funds, that can be a major problem to have. And, and what's, and you still have the populations that, that have that need for the Medicaid expansion, for those that are, you know, the, you know, the adults that, that have need for that, and as well as the disabled population that need this Medicaid. So, the bottom line is the need is not going to go away. It's just how we go about approaching it, and I think this is good opportunity, if ever, to have bipartisanship coming to the table and having a five-caucus talk about it.
Ted Simons: How can you have bi-partisanship when a lot of folks you talk about matching funds their concern is that the Federal Government won't have those funds available. You can't count on those funds.
Chad Campbell:That's a red herring, if Government doesn't have funds to match Medicaid, we have got bigger problems in this country than, than Arizona's particular situation. But, I just want to add this, if we fund Medicaid, the full expansion, we're going to get about over 2 billion give or take in Federal money coming down to Arizona within a few years, and that means tens of thousands of jobs in the health care sector, and ancillary jobs outside of the sector, economic development across the state, most notably in the rural areas that are struggling, and Yuma is a great example. We need to invest in health care, not just because of the health care situation itself, but because of it puts people back to work.
Ted Simons: Where does it put the state in terms of responsibility more than a couple years down the line? A few hundred million dollars, probably but we gave away billion dollars corporate welfare package two years ago. 50 million to private prisons. We have the money, it's where we decide to spend it.
Ted Simons: Uncompensated care. An aspect of all of this. It's a hidden tax, and everyone seems to agree it's a hidden tax out there what do you do?
Leah Landrum Taylor: And having the conversation even with hospitals and the amount of uncompensated care that goes on, it's big concern, and I think a lot of times people have a misperception they may feel if you see a hospital and they are building new buildings, things are going great. We have to realize a lot of that is many times in doubt or other funding sources that are coming towards that. The big concern is I have seen it happen in my very own district where at certain point of uncompensated care, what happened, was the hospital closed, our only hospital that we had within the district. Rural areas that can be a huge effect if hospitals close, so, at the same time, why would we not try to find measures so that individuals can be able to receive the necessary health care and not put our health care system in a crisis mode. With hospital doors closing.
Ted Simons: And yet, again, I hear that hospitals, service providers sending a mixed message with all of this capital improvement going on, and yet, we cannot afford to stay open. Is that a mixed message.
Chad Campbell: I don't think it is. It's a matter of investing in long-term infrastructure for the system that needs to be in place. This is, again, a good business model, but, for the long-term future of health care and hospitals in this state, and in this country, we need to invest in Medicaid and the supporting systems that support health care overall. If we don't we'll see a massive collapse.
Leah Landrum Taylor: And bit on the capital improvement. Sometimes it's for safety reasons that, you know, to upgrade for hospitals, it necessitates having that, and better equipment in order to make sure that, that people get better medical services. And again, as I said before, in many instances, sometimes, that is endowed. It's other sources where that comes from.
Ted Simons: The idea of, of armed guards in schools, the idea of armed teachers. Armed administrators, armed anyone on school campuses, K-12, university, you name it, your thoughts?
Leah Landrum Taylor: I have really big concern about having that be the case. With armed individuals on our campuses, and not having to, the proper training, for that to occur, perhaps, or maybe someone who has a philosophical indifference of not wanting to, to have a weapon or not, and yet, at the same time, would it be mandated for principals to have it? Would the bullet have to be in one area? How does this all work and mesh? I would see more of looking towards school resource officers. We have had, you know, huge cuts that have happened with our districts and for a long time, we have school resource officers. Perhaps, more security that could be where you have the, you know, the cameras, and in our schools so that we can have them at different points of entrance to make things safer, but to just have that as a final end all solution, again, this is why it's important for, when we talk about five caucus talks, it's important to sit down with both the house and the Senate side and the Governor and to be able to discuss things like that, so we can put things forward. That's how you come up with compromise, that's how you come up with agreement going into my 15th year in the legislature. I have seen it done before.
Ted Simons: The education people, it sounds like they are number one interests right now is making sure that whatever gun bills come out of the legislature and signed by the Governor, don't necessarily compromise what they are doing. There is a lot of other stuff going on as far as education is concerned. Talk about that dynamic.
Chad Campbell: So, two things, let me backtrack to the armed presence on campuses. And Leah mentioned it, we have a program called the school resource officer program in place for decades nationally, a great program, and it's a program that's worked and a program that's been gutted in terms funding over the past three or four years. We need to restore and increase funding for that, along with mental health planning or mental health care, and some gun law reform. I'm going to be releasing a full proposal this Wednesday that covers all these areas, and I'm going to be taking this on because it's something that we have to do in the state. In terms of education, funding as a whole, they have been gutted the past several years, there is no doubt about it. We need to find funding for education, we need to find funding dedicated for it and give schools the ability to use that funding for whatever they think is best for their local situations. But, anybody that claims we're funding education to the degree that they need to be, or they restored funding, that is just not correct. We have to put more money back in our schools.
Ted Simons: I'm not only hearing that, I'm hearing that we are, out of the general funds, spending more than the national average on education. Right now.
Leah Landrum Taylor: You know what, when you look, we're talking about on average. And we're looking at the fact that we're 48th in the state, that's a big concern, and you are looking on an average of the amount of per pupil spending, that's all very low, and all these different things coming forward, and plus we have so many mandates, unfunded mandates that have went forward for our schools, that's huge concern. We have the, the move, you know, making sure that children are ready to read by of time they get to third grade, that's 45 million price tag of where we're going, where, where the funds are going to come from, so we can have the children ready. But, yet, districts on the same side, have had to cut back on full-day kindergarten, and but, in order to be ready to read, by the time that you are in third grade, it seems like we would be getting ramped up to make sure that we have full-day kindergarten, and in districts not having to make those particular choices, so, I don't agree.
Ted Simons: Well, again, we're hearing that not only spending more than the national average, but that it's bad press to continually say, that we are gutting education. It's not good for Arizona.
Chad Campbell:Look, and people that say we should not be talking about the bad things in Arizona, or only focus on the good things, I have a feeling he said the same thing to Michael Bidwell, and let's focus on the five, not the 11 losses, you have to focus on the bad things when they outweigh the good things, the system in this state right now not getting enough money. And I'm not sure about that claim in terms of, of the general fund percentage, it may or may not be true but the bottom line, is most of the states have different mechanisms for funding their schools and they put more money into schools from a variety of sources whereas we do not. And to Leah appoint, our per student spending is the lowest in the country. Any valid source agrees with that. We have got to fund our schools. And we have enacted a bunch of reforms the past few years, they are all going to come online the next few years, and so let's give the schools the money they need to enact those and see what happens next. And we have got to fund the schools in order to see performance enhancement.
Ted Simons: We'll stop it right there, good discussion and good to have you here, thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.
Leah Landrum Taylor: Wonderful.

Leah Landrum Taylor:Minority Leader, Arizona State Senate; Chad Campbell:Minority Leader, Arizona State House;

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