Democratic Legislative Leaders

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House Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Senate Minority Leader Anna Tovar will discuss the Governor’s State-of-the-State speech and the Democrat’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," Democratic leaders from the house and senate talk about their plans for the new legislative session. Also tonight, a new effort to treat Lou Gehrig's disease. And we'll check out the stunning artwork of Dale Chihuly on display at the desert botanical garden. Those stories, next, on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Democrats flexed some muscle last legislative session by teaming with moderate Republicans and the governor to pass Medicaid expansion. But what kind of pull will democrats have this session, and what do Democratic leaders see as their main priorities? Joining us now is senate minority leader Anna Tovar, and house minority leader Chad Campbell. Good to see you both again. Thanks so much for joining us. Let's start with the state of the state address. It's been two weeks ago, but it was just a few days ago, your thoughts.

Anna Tovar: You know, when the governor mentioned her executive order with CPS, I think many -- It was surprising, I think, but for the people that work there on a day in, day out basis it wasn't really a surprise. It was a step in the right direction, but I know as you've heard, the devil is in the details, so something that we are anxiously anticipating not only in her budget proposal, but as well in the details with CPS. So very much looking forward in working together and building a sustainable CPS.

Ted Simons: Are you OK with the idea of her doing this by way of executive order?

Chad Campbell: I go back and forth on it. I'm not sure what she did, still. That's the problem, to be honest. I don't think anybody knows. I'm glad Carter is out of the picture, I was the first person to call for Carter's removal, so I'm happy he's gone. But I'm not sure exactly what she did. I agree with Anna, it's a step in the right direction. We needed a new agency, probably a new direction, but we have to get down in the weeds now and figure out what we're going to do. Because we're talking about more money, staffing, more -- New mission, all of these things takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and we have a short amount of time to do this. We've got to get down to the brass tack and get this going.

Ted Simons: Cabinet-level division report to the governor, turning the division eventually to a standalone agency. Does that necessarily mean more money?

Anna Tovar: I would suspect so. I mean, we have a whole new way of doing something, and essentially you can't just take CPS out of DES, expect it to run differently, if no changes are brought forward. So definitely believe in working together with a plan. And I think essentially what is very important here, from the 6,000 cases, we can learn so much on what went wrong and how to fix our system as well.

Ted Simons: Indeed you can learn so much. Should you have waited a little bit to learn that much before making this move?

Chad Campbell: Personally, I would have, yes. I think Carter should be gone. I think Carter should have been removed and you should have put a temporary person there. I've said for a while we should have waited for the CARE team to come out with their report, for the oversight committee to come with recommendations. I don't think this needed to be done right now. Carter needed to be removed, but this new creation of an agency and everything else possibly could have waited. I don't want to criticize the Governor too much. I think she took too long to take any action, but we just don't know what this means. Right now it's a new agency with a new name, nothing has changed in terms of operations yet and that's the problem. We've got to fix the problems.

Ted Simons: Again, necessarily mean more money?

Chad Campbell: I think yes. I think Anna is right. No matter what, if you had kept it CPS, put a new agency together, whatever it may be, we need more money. We need more caseworkers, bought line. You need more people taking calls, following on up calls and making sure kids are safe.

Ted Simons: How do you make sure real change happens?

Anna Tovar: I feel the first step is not only having a great -- We have the care team we anticipate their proposals at the end of the month, Charles Flanigan in charge, today we had the Latino caucus, representative Kate Brophy McGee -- A great discussion, yes, we are anticipating working forward with them, and there's so much work to be done, but I feel that we need to make sure that we have professionals, building that strong stakeholders team, not only within legislative partners, but looking outside. We have so many professionals that can give us opinions on what works, what doesn't work, nationwide we can look at examples, positive examples of how we move CPS forward.

Chad Campbell: That's my concern the way the governor handled this on Monday. It was behind closed doors, again, we got in this mess in the first place because of a lack of transparency. And she comes out with a surprise announcement that nobody had talked to her about, at least that I know of, in terms of Republicans or Democrats, legislature, she brings in Director Flanigan who I respect and has done a great job at juvenile corrections, but he has no background in this field. Zero. And so I think he's a great person, but is he the right person for this job? I'm not sure. And quite frankly, her appointment of Clarence Carter and many other agency heads leaves a lot to be desired in terms of performance. So we need a greater conversation about this agency and who should be heading it up.

Ted Simons: Do we need a greater conversation regarding school funding? I know the governor talked about this idea of linking student funds, funding for education to student achievement. Good idea?

Anna Tovar: Absolutely. Well, that was a bill that Representative Campbell and I dropped last year on in-state tuition. We felt it was a very crucial component in moving education forward, particularly higher education. We have children and families that cannot afford our current state tuition. So we were very proactive in working with a student association from all the college universities. This is an important issue, this is one of the issues to be tackled on education --one of the many issues.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Back to K-12 and the idea of linking education funding to student achievement, that was an issue, I don't think you dropped --

Chad Campbell: Last year was an issue -- This -- The governor brought up last year this issue. We didn't like that idea last year because it was taking money from underperforming schools and feeding it to the schools that are already performing. To her credit, she's come back with a new idea that I think is better in concept, it's not linked to school performance, it's linked to student performance, and it's new money. And so from the data I've seen from the governor's office, it will not hurt lower performing schools, it will give them a chance to claw back to the top and get these kids where they need to be. But again, time and time again, until I see the bill I can't say I'm going to support it, but if the data holds and the concept works, I have no problem with that bill.

Ted Simons: $40 some-odd million?

Chad Campbell: $36 million I think.

Anna Tovar: It is workable. It's a step in the right direction. But I think Chad said it correctly, we need to make sure our most vulnerable children in our low-achieving schools have the support they need to gain the momentum, to earn -- To climb up that ladder and be successful and get the amount of money they deserve. So far it looks good, but I know we'll -- We're working and making sure our most vulnerable children are taken care of.

Ted Simons: You mentioned tuition rates, the idea of stable four-year tuition rates. Obviously something concerns you, however we're back again and board of regents has its own ideas as far as funding, and also it sounds as though we're talking cost shifts. If you're going to have stable tuition rates and you can't raise it here, here come the fees, here come -- When is the state going to get involved?

Chad Campbell: Hopefully now. Let there be no doubt about this, Governor Brewer has failed education in the state since she took office. Since day one. She has gutted the K-12 funding. Together with the board of regents over the last six years, we have raised tuition higher than any other state in the country except for California, and we've lowered financial aid for students more than any other state in the country except for California. This is a formula for failure. We have to fund universities as a state legislature, the governor has to support that. And the board of regents has to start helping out too. They have not been doing the job. The bottom line, the best way to solve this problem for students at least is to put money back into financial aid. We do not fund financial aid in Arizona and that is absolutely unacceptable.

Ted Simons: It's a pretty bold statement. The governor has failed education in Arizona. You agree?

Anna Tovar: When you look at the past few years, education from a K-12 perspective, even universities, is nearly $3 billion in cuts. Yes, last year we passed a bipartisan budget that put money back into education. But it was a drop in the bucket to compare it to the $3 billion. So we have a ways to go, particularly some of the issues, full-day kinDER. If we have legislation in place that requires kids to be proficient at the third grade reading level in order to move on, why not fund full-day kinDER in order to have them -- We have our ways to go in education, but I feel we have the business community, the chamber has come out making it one of their priorities, K-12 funding education, universities, early education, we're in the step in the right direction, and we need to keep moving forward.

Chad Campbell: Here's an illustration of why I say this. I mean, Anna brings up a great point $3 billion in cuts is unacceptable. We've cut funding more than any other state in the country. It wasn't like Arizona was the only state suffering in the recession. This is a national problem, and they've balanced the budget on the backs of kids in the state. Be it CPS, education, wherever it may be. We have a $900 million surplus which the governor touts as a great accomplishment. That happens to be the same amount of money the voters approved when they voted for the temporary sales tax because they thought that money was going to go to schools, and instead the governor pushed it into a bank account and sat on it and the schools never saw a dime of it. $3 billion in cuts, $900 million in the bank voters thought would go to school.

Ted Simons: $900 million in the bank, yet you've got some Republicans, Republican leadership was here saying by that's not only gone, but we're facing the same situation we saw a few years ago. They don't want to go back to that situation. How do we avoid it?

Anna Tovar: None of us want to go back to that situation. So it's about preparing for our future and being wise with our investments. As Chad said, we're one of the states that didn't invest in education, where other states double-downed in education and invested properly. Yes, we do have -- We have to plan properly for 2017 so we're not in that hole. But it's about working together, building a stronger Arizona, and it's going to take tough choices. But again, we're here to work for our families and our children, and make proper investments.

Ted Simons: As far as those tough choices are concerned, Republicans say the same thing. We made tough choices. Many of them will say we weren't happy to make these cuts to do it considering the balance. You don't find that reasonable, understandable?

Chad Campbell: No. I don't. Again, the fact that we have a $900 million surplus now proves they weren't using that money over the past couple years. That's proof. But the problem here is that the governor made very, very short-sighted decisions and the Republicans for the most part in the legislature supported her. The temporary sales tax was a horrible idea. I voted against it at the capitol and at the ballot. It was horrible for businesses, it was horrible for low-income families, and it was horrible way to actually try to bring in money and help fund things. Relying on the sales tax is a horrible way to drive an economy. Absolutely ridiculous. We could have done a lot of things over this tough time, could have done tax reform, could have made our tax structure more fiscally sound, more broader, much more stable, and actually lowered taxes for a lot of people in the state while generating revenue we needed to fund schools, build roads and keep the state going.

Ted Simons: Last point on this, the other side would say without the tax reform, without the incentives, without the ability and the wherewithal to attract business here, yeah, could you maybe fix a couple holes now, but in the future there's nothing there.

Anna Tovar: I believe we're on the right track of where we're moving in Arizona. We've made -- We have to be more progressive on our outlook, on how to make sure we're never in this recession again. That's going to make some tough choices, but it's about planning properly and having that budget invested in education, invested in our right priorities to move Arizona forward.

Ted Simons: All right.

Anna Tovar: We've got some work to do.

Ted Simons: Good to see you both. Thanks for joining us.

Both: Thank you.

Chad Campbell:House Minority Leader; Anna Tovar:Senate Minority Leader;

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