Legislative Update

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A mid-week legislative update with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome To "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Lawmakers are in their Second week of the new legislative session and Already we're hearing of a budget gap between the legislature and the governor. For more on that in our Weekly legislative update, We're joined by Luige de Puerto of the "Arizona capitol times." Thank you for joining us.
Luige del Puerto: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the sentence today --
Luige de Puerto: He was sentenced today. He had been indicted and pled guilty to two felony charges and today was his sentencing, and he was facing potentially 30 to 37 months in prison. He will not go to jail. What he got instead was three years' probation, 18 months of house arrest, and I think he gets to pay about $540 or so in restitution.
Ted Simons: This is again solicit and accepting a bribe, mail fraud, misleading donors on a scholarship fund which I guess he apparently kept the money himself. Not while he was in the state legislature.
Luige del Puerto: Well, some happened when he was still a councilor in Tempe. Some of this spilled over when he was with the state legislature.
Ted Simons: Restitution, house arrest -- why not any prison time?
Luige del Puerto: Well -- defending him, getting the court to agree that a prison sentence would not be right for him. They had been pleading for leniency in the sentencing. Three arguments for it. One, the tickets that he accepted were supposedly inflated or the prices of the tickets that he accepted were inflated by government. The other one is that he has mental and physical problems, and supposably he was sliding into dementia. And in putting him in prison would not be good for his health. The third is that it is out of character for somebody who has served in the public sector for decades to be facing such scary-sounding charges, and, therefore, he should instead be given house arrest. And that's what the judge did.
Ted Simons: All right. Let's get to that budget gap. Projections between the governor and the legislature, just a wee bit off here.
Luige del Puerto: Right. One of the first things they have to do is reconcile the revenue figures. That is the starting point of any negotiation. As you recall, the main point of hold-up last time around, they couldn't agree exactly how much the state was getting in revenues in a few years. Governor's projected rose here -- number for fiscal year 2016, three years from now, the governor said we will probably get about $139 million in cash balance, legislature thinks we're going to face a $70 million deficit. So, yeah, quite a huge swing. They have to reconcile those numbers first.
Ted Simons: Is it basically the idea that the governor sees a better economic recovery than the legislature? Is that pretty much the bottom line?
Luige del Puerto: That has typically been the case and been the case with this governor also. In bad times, during a recession, the legislature has been correct to paint a more conservative number, but in better times, the governor's office has been mostly correct in painting a rosier revenue projection, that's typically been the case and as far as I know since I have been covering the state legislature, that is always the case.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Is there room for compromise here? Is this going to be a knock down drag out as we go along?
Luige del Puerto: Revenue figures are a political question. Therefore, because it is a political question, always room for compromise. I think the last year, governor decided to just use the legislature more conservative revenue projections. There is room for compromise. At some point they will have to compromise. That is the starting point of any negotiation. That is how they can lay out a spending plan for the state by agreeing what the numbers would be.
Ted Simons: Before we leave the budget conversation, how much does either side put into the equation that court decision regarding education funding?
Luige del Puerto: That is a good question. I think Andy Biggs is expecting the state to appeal that court position. If the state appealed and still lost the case, we're probably looking at, depending on whose equation you're using, probably looking at another $500 million deficit I think is what Cavanaugh said by fiscal year 2016.
Ted Simons: You would have to add $80 million a year.
Luige del Puerto: For three years. Remember, adjusted according to inflation. So you are getting $80 million one year, more the next year and some more the year after.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about parking meters in Phoenix specifically, but I guess in all cities, representative Chad Campbell is tired of broken parking meters.
Luige del Puerto: Yes, he introduced a bill -- his experience -- there was a broken meter and he was -- if I'm not mistaken, ticketed for it, I could be wrong there. But in any case, it wasn't working. He said, well, this can't be right. The city can't snag me for -- if they have broken meters. His legislation would mandate a testing. I think 10% of all of the meters would be tested on a regular basis. And then just to make sure that they're working. First democratic bill in the house that passed out of committee yesterday. If I'm not mistaken, the vote was unanimous.
Ted Simons: It would take something like that I think would get a democratic bill out of a committee.
Luige del Puerto: Let's see if it gets beyond a committee hearing.
Ted Simons: I have heard the criticism that it is an expensive mandate on cities.
Luige de Puerto: From the city's viewpoint, their assumption is that their meters are working. So, if it -- you know, the other side obviously saying some of them might be broken. And the other side, unless you test them you never really know. For the cities, doing a quarterly check on all of those, assuming there is a lot of them, would be costly.
Ted Simons: We will see how far that one goes. So much else to talk about. We will have the Friday "Journalists' Roundtable." Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
Luige del Puerto: Thank you.

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