Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

Join us as reporters bring us up to date on the latest news in the Journalists’ Roundtable.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable," I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Luige del Puerto of the "Arizona Capitol Times," Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," and Bob Christie of the Associated Press. Fred DuVal and Doug Ducey went at it in their first face-to-face debate this week. Luige, looked like education and maybe the economy are the focus here?

Luige del Puerto: They are obviously the big focuses of the debate. We can see a stark contrast in how they view the government, how they view spending, and what they want to do. Both of them of course want to improve the state's economy, but there are some clear differences that we've known all along. I think they are both very articulate, did pretty well. I think DuVal probably needed this debate more than Ducey. Ducey's a beneficiary of the primary. DuVal probably needs to more define himself.

Howard Fischer: Duval has decided that education is the key. We can talk all we want about cutting taxes, attracting big business. Companies aren't going to come here until we have good education. We've shorted schools $300 million a year for four or five years. We owe them the money, let's pay them the money and let's invest. What we hear from Doug Ducey is well, yeah, the courts did rule, let's drag this out a little longer and see if we can revamp the structure, how the money's paid out. And saying trust me, because I'll have a plan for how we will redo the money, but I don't know what it is.

Bob Christie: And that's really difficult for Doug Ducey because he has -- you know, he's campaigned, his signature line is I've grown a company, now I'm going to shrink a government. He was asked repeatedly what are you going to shrink, and he generally wouldn't answer those questions. He says, I'm going to go through the budget line by line. He's the state treasurer, he ought to know that budget forwards and backwards and he didn't answer the question.

Howard Fischer: But to be fair, neither did DuVal. He said procurement reapportionment: I'm sorry, those are nickels in the couch. Our maybe we'll privatize the lottery.

Luige del Puerto: He did mention using the rainy day fund.

Howard Fischer: That's exactly the point, that's one-time money. $450 million in rainy day fund.

Bob Christie: Then he mentioned the state trust plan, I think it's up to 4.5, that's been floating around as a solution to this, the state trust lands fund is up to four or $5 billion or so.

Ted Simons: We have a lot of big ideas, but no idea how to incorporate them in the real world.

Luige del Puerto: This is really where the realities of running a government, you know, and it clashes with campaign rhetoric. What you have is that a state that will have a deficit next year, not to mention the court-ordered K-12 funding that will have to come up with money for that, but our resources really are not enough to cover our expenses. That is the first thing either one will have to solve from Day One. That starts next session.

Howard Fischer: And that's where it gets tricky. Ducey says right out of the gate, I will not raise taxes. DuVal has not really said. But you've got the key point. We have cut taxes 24 of the last 25 years because that was supposed to be the key. We should be swimming in jobs. Well, take a look at job recovery, it isn't there, so the question becomes: how do we do this? Do we want the government -- if we want a $6 million government, we can do that, if you get rid of maybe the University, maybe a couple of prisons or things like that, but you've got to decide, if you want government, education, K-12, how do you pay for it.

Ted Simons: The income tax has been cut. Recently taxes were raised by the citizenry said I think I understand for education we need that penny sales tax for three years.

Bob Christie: And that's why we're in this education mess that we're in. We managed to get over the recession with this temporary sales tax. It went away. They tried to make it permanent, but they cut a billion and -- $1,300,000 illegally. The temporary sales tax is gone and you've got this huge hole in the budget. Ducey's problem is he's promising tax reform right away, which is a signal that he's going to cut taxes even more. I don't know how you're going to fill this giant budget gap --

Howard Fischer: We're going to make it up in volume. Don't you understand how this works?

Luige del Puerto: Talking about cutting taxes, and you're right, we did this estimate a couple weeks ago. Our estimate is $800 million would be given away in tax cuts in the next three fiscal years. That's a remarkable amount of money. If we are already doing that at a time when we are facing a deficit, and you're thinking about cutting the income tax, the individual taxes constitute around 41% of the state's budget. If you add the corporate, it's like 49%, it's like half of the budget. The sources of half of the budget, doing away -- economists have said it's not possible.

Bob Christie: That led to the best line of the night which was Fred DuVal, fairy tale stuff. I'd love to promise you balmy summers.

Ted Simons: He's used the tooth fairy before, and he's going to use it again in the same way Ducey is going to, as he did in the debate, mention that DuVal was "responsible for increasing tuition."

Howard Fischer: Which is despite "the republic" saying it's a factual statement. A little misled there. Going back to look at what happened between 2006 to 2012, per student state funding went from $8500 to around $5,000, and the share of the university's budget that came from the state went from 29% down to 17%. You talk to the Republican regents they say look, we did make cuts, we've made changes. Fred talked about alternatives to going into a classroom. If you want three Universities -- well, five, if you consider major branch campuses of ASU as being full-blown Universities, you have to pay it for. That's why this whole attack is going wear thin after a while. That doesn't keep the Republican governors' association from running ads and thinking that's where it goes. Anybody who looks at the numbers says, how do you keep the lights on?

Ted Simons: And DuVal saying, we did what we had to do, we fixed your mess, something along those lines. Did what we had to do, could go on the other side with the legislature saying we did what we had to do as far as the budget is concerned because there was no money coming anywhere.

Bob Christie: That's absolutely true. The problem right now is the legislature, many state legislatures around the country tightened their belts, made massive cuts, but didn't make massive tax cuts. Now that the economy is rebounding, boom, they are flush again. Even California, in a much more horrible deficit, has now got a surplus because they didn't go in and slash these taxes. That's a philosophical argument on either side. The facts are that many states now have extra money, they don't have this cliff that we're running up against because we've cut a billion in revenue.

Howard Fischer: What's fascinating, we've cut corporate income taxes by 30%, individual income taxes by 10%, after prior tax cuts from the Symington administration. We've given new tax credits to research and development. All in the idea that companies would be coming here. Yet when Tesla was looking, where did they go? They went to Nevada. I recognize that Nevada is giving away the store.

Ted Simons: About $1.3 million.

Howard Fischer: But they may have something to show for it. The question becomes, okay, for all this talk, we have a very high business personal property rate. If you're a company, this table, this coffee mug this, computer is taxed every year. That is antibusiness. They have lowered that. But at the point we're trying to take every little bit and say, look, we're going keep cutting it, if companies won't -- this is the debate with common core last year, where the chamber came out and said, we will not hire people. Motorola said, Intel said, we won't hire Arizona grads because they are not turning out qualified people.

Luige del Puerto: There are two schools of thought. Most economists have said look, if you want to attract the businesses, Arizona has done as much as it could have done. We pretty much -- we are there already. We've cut as much as we've cut to ensure those companies come in. We have to focus on incentives. That's what they are saying. We have to focus on cuts that would incentivize companies to come here.

Bob Christie: And I think we have to focus on quality of life issues and education issues. We've got the tax structure now. Now, if we can -- many would say if we stop with the 1062s and 1070s and stop putting up such a horrible picture of state --

Luige del Puerto: A suggestion of maybe just carving a beachfront somewhere and we'll be all set.

Ted Simons: They do have that. You mentioned common core, and common core mentioned in the debate. Again, Doug Ducey not enamored of common core. We'll talk about the chamber of commerce endorsing a Democrat because of common core. Yet a Republican candidate endorsed by the chamber doesn't seem to like common core. How do you square that?

Luige del Puerto: Ducey is a very good politician, he's very good at not getting pinned down. We know he dislikes common core. But he hasn't declared he's going to get rid of it right away. I think what's going to happen is common core is going to stay because we've had it for four years and really what, do you replace it with? We're going to have debates maybe. But the fact of the matter is we do need standards and right now we don't have anything else besides common core.

Howard Fischer: That was one of the points the chamber made when I asked about not endorsing Diane Douglas but endorsing Doug Ducey, they said, well, he understands the need for standards as opposed to Diane off in la-la land.

Ted Simons: There are teachers who say if you put in another standard they are going to scream and yell all the way down the hallway. Goodness, gracious, when does it stop?

Bob Christie: We put these standards in place, they are very -- they are much different than the previous ones. They are gold standards. They don't necessarily talk about these are the curriculum, is this is what your new student needs to be able to understand and reason at the end of the day. Problem for Mr. Ducey and a lot of the proponents of this, common core was so politicized around the country, the governor tried to tame it down here by changing the name but it has no --

Luige del Puerto: Even John Huppenthal equivocated saying he was for it, against it, really for and against it. So that's right. Maybe the Tea Party has won the debate insofar as the public perception of common core.

Howard Fischer: Had there been somebody other than Barack Obama in Washington perhaps we wouldn't have had the same debate.

Bob Christie: We'll go to the Diane Douglas versus David Garcia. Mr. Garcia was endorsed by the chamber, the guy was the first Democrat endorsed by the chamber for statewide office since Janet Napolitano in 2006, so it's a rare thing. Diane Douglas is a one-issue person. David Garcia, if you look at him, he's worked in the superintendent's office.

Howard Fischer: He's worked for Republican superintendent and that's really crucial.

Bob Christie: And he understands, you know, administration of large education systems. Diane Douglas has been on a school board in Peoria. I think that also worked in.

Luige del Puerto: Yes. And the other interesting thing is that they never even interviewed her. They asked for her candidate questionnaire which she submitted. They looked at it and said, we know where you stand and we don't really need to go through this interview process.

Howard Fischer: It goes a step beyond common core. When I talked to the Chamber's president, he said you've got an interesting situation. One of the functions of the department of education is administering federal grants above and beyond common core. You have a woman who is philosophically opposed to the federal grant. How can you put somebody into a job who doesn't believe in the core duties of the job? That's where it ended.

Luige del Puerto: At the end of the day the Superintendent of Public Instruction, really, it's not a policy position. He can lobby for changes, he or she or whoever becomes the next superintendent, could say hey, let's stop common, all he or she wants but that authority is not vested with the superintendent.

Ted Simons: We'll go further with that. Is the Republican led legislature -- I think we can assume it's going to be a Republican legislature again -- are they going to listen to a David Garcia, a Democrat?

Luige del Puerto: Well, that's a really good question. It really depends on what he is going to be asking for. Huppenthal was asking for, what, 30, $32 million for his data system he's been wanting to put in place. He had to fight so hard every single year to get just bits and pieces, just a small sum of what he's asking for. I guess at the end of the day they have to fund it.

Howard Fischer: I think they also recognized that again, Garcia's street cred versus Diane Douglas, look, at the point where I went up to the governor and said, you've endorsed the candidate for statewide office. What about Diane Douglas? She looked at me and said, I won't be talking about that. That's how bad it is when this governor, who will back almost anything with a GOP label, will not back Diane Douglas.

Bob Christie: The voters vote, they are not enamored on the right of the Republican Party with common core to say the least. She will get support and this will be a very close race.

Luige del Puerto: I want to see whether the chamber of commerce puts its money where its mouth is and the spending on this race. Diane Douglas is running with Clean Elections money and she's going to be limited in her spending. I'm curious to see if the chamber uses its political advocacy arm on the debate.

Ted Simons: Last point on the governor's debate. Any winners? Losers? Haymakers? What was the tenor of the debate, any tone?

Howard Fischer: It was Les Resnick trying to get them to answer questions, at a certain point you can't just say I'm going to sit there until you answer. I think perhaps a few extra points for DuVal, only in the sense that he has at least defined himself for those who watch as somebody who supports education, and suggests he's got something out there. No real haymakers or anything like that. A few snide lines but that's it.

Bob Christie: I was a little disappointed because I expected that with all of the debates we had with Mr. Ducey in the primaries, we would see him start to roll out some of his programs. He didn't do that. He wouldn't go through, he didn't answer the question.

Howard Fischer: You and I will be sitting there November 3rd.

Bob Christie: I think that's the truth.

Ted Simons: We'll see how he does on his upcoming debate on that issue. Same-sex marriage, shifting gears. A court decision, very interesting, talk to us a bit about that.

Howard Fischer: Fascinating decision for what's -- when this started off, there were actually two lawsuits in federal court by different groups challenging the long-term state law about men and women marrying, and the 2008 voter approved constitutional amendment. Meanwhile, they added up a couple of plaintiffs, a guy named Fred McGuire and George Martinez, living together 45 years, got married in California, got added to the case to make sure one of them would be able to smile. George died in August. Fred says I want to be listed on the death certificate State health department says we can't do that, we don't honor out-of-state marriages between men and men. They said, look, there are reasons we need this. He's entitled to be recognized. He had a valid marriage and the judge needs to recognize that. He said narrowly on this one, list this person.

Bob Christie: But the much broader point here, is that in unequivocal language, the judge said, it appears from everything I've seen and all the other decisions happening around the country, Arizona's gay marriage ban is likely to be unconstitutional.

Luige del Puerto: In fact, I think you're seeing a template for what this judge is going to rule --

Ted Simons: It's the same judge.

Luige del Puerto: It's the same judge exactly. He said there is probably a conflict between this same-sex marriage ban and the U.S. Constitution. You're seeing the template of what he'll rule on the bigger issue.

Ted Simons: The judge basically saying that Arizona's claim of the current law doesn't discriminate "lax marriage," considering it focuses on this particular --

Howard Fischer: The argument was well, we're not guilty of discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation. Duh, the only reason they can't marry is because of their sexual orientation.

Ted Simons: And again, it applies only to this couple. We want to make sure we get the state's position on this. They said it was unfortunate it was the case between these two gentlemen, but there was no irreparable harm, thus no need for emergency action. The real harm would be to the State and the state's idea of the sanctity of marriage.

Howard Fischer: The public has an important interest in the same officials' complying with the highest law in the land, the United States Constitution. When discharging state law runs afoul of the Constitution, you necessarily ride in compliance with the higher law. That becomes the Fourteenth Amendment.

Luige del Puerto: A lot of this extends from the DOMA ruling. The judge said this definition of marriage is illegal. Since then we have seen district courts and even state courts saying, look, the U.S. Supreme Court has already stated that this definition of marriage is unconstitutional.

Bob Christie: The Ninth Circuit had heard two cases on Monday this week. A Nevada case from a year and a half ago where a federal court upheld their marriage ban, and one from Idaho after DOMA. It looks like the ninth circuit is going to throw that out, too. The question is, at the end of this month the Supreme Court will consider four appeals from around the country. It's believed they will take those cases and we should know by this time next year.

Howard Fischer: And despite the things you say and - you don't put a lot of money on what Supreme Court will do because a lot of what the DOMA decision was based on -- the federal government in refusing to recognize marriage as performed in states where it's allowed have taken from the states their ability to define marriage. If you use that same logic, giving Arizona the ability to decide marriage.

Bob Christie: I disagree you with you on the Windsor case, it involved a gay couple from New York City who were together for decades, married in Canada. One of the couple died and the other was forced to pay a very large inheritance tax. If she had been married there would have been a tax exemption. The court ruled that's unfair to them to not recognize their marriage. And that's just --

Howard Fischer: But that still goes back to the marriage being legal where performed and each state or province around the country made that decision.

Luige del Puerto: You're right. But here's what happened since then. You could interpret the ruling in Windsor two ways. You could say that the states really do not have the ability to prohibit same-sex marriage. Or you could basically look and say, look, it's up to the states to decide. Just for this particular case, if it's a federal issue, then you can't prohibit same-sex marriage.

Bob Christie: The case we have today is a perfect example. One of his arguments was, I'm not going to be able to get my federal benefits I would have been able to get if I had been married to a woman. Arizona doesn't recognize my marriage, therefore --

Ted Simons: With in this mind, we don't have too much time left but I want to keep on this particular topic. Does this issue about, a factor in the election?

Howard Fischer: Well, it came up during the debate. Doug Ducey said, I support "traditional" marriage. What's interesting, he was very careful to say, given the heat over the propositions, I will treat everyone with dignity and respect. So clearly he can sense that the winds are changing.

Ted Simons: The state also said that this case is unfortunate but they're still taking it to court.

Bob Christie: No, absolutely, they have to defend this case, it's a voter approved law. Today Cathy put out that just like all the other judges' rulings are given by activist judges.

Luige del Puerto: What's interesting about that statement, I think for the very first time she's implicitly acknowledging this is a losing issue for the organization. She said.

Bob Christie: The fact that this is a George H.W. Bush appointee and many of the others are also conservative Republicans.

Ted Simons: She might have to watch her mouth, language, she's part of the Doug Ducey campaign cabinet is she not?

Howard Fischer: It was interesting -- when Ducey was asked about that, how do you associate yourself with the Cathy Herons and Joe Arpaios. He said, I didn't pick this coalition, they sort of picked me. He is kind of pivoting toward the center for the general election.

Ted Simons: Okay, we have to pivot our way out of here. This is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning www.LNScaptioning.com 17:55:16:12

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Bob Christie:Journalist, Associated Press;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: