Senate President Andy Biggs discusses the latest from the Arizona legislature, including several bills signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- Senate president Andy Biggs joins us in studio to discuss a number of things including the governor's call to settle a budget. The head of England's national health care system talks about government's role in health care. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
Ted Simons: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Members of your PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Retired Phoenix sergeant Paul Penzone says he's running for Maricopa County sheriff again. He plans to give it another shot. He tells 12 news when it comes to Arpaio if you lose touch with what's going on in your organization you overstayed your welcome. I think it's been more about keeping his job than doing his job. Penzone lost to Arpaio by five percentage points and outspent more than 8-1. State treasurer Jeff Dewit tells the Arizona Republic he will not seek reelection. He's only been in office 18 months but says he's Fed up with politics at the state capitol. He says it's hampered his ability to work with the governor and the legislature. Dewit says politicians seem to catch some sort of disease and I never want to catch that disease.
Ted Simons: Governor Ducey's office says the governor wants lawmakers to agree on a budget before sending over any more bills. Here with us is Senate president Andy Biggs. Good to see you again.
Andy Biggs: Good to see you.
Ted Simons: No more bills until the budget. My impression is the budget could be flying around right now on a spread sheet. How close are we?
Andy Biggs: Well, you know, there's all kinds of ideas and the budget -- there are spreadsheets that are circulating. You know, I had hoped that we would vote on one this week. We're probably not going to get there. Maybe next week I'm hoping. I'm told consistently I'm an Optimist, cockeyed Optimist.
Ted Simons: Is the message from the governor he's going to veto any nonbudget bills?
Andy Biggs: No, what he wants is for people to focus on doing the work of the budget, which includes everything from small group meetings to one on one meetings to meetings with the house, meetings between legislative bodies and with the governor's office. I think he's trying to provide encouragement and stimulation.
Ted Simons: Are there outstanding issues out there that still need to be resolved?
Andy Biggs: I would say so, yeah.
Andy Biggs: Can you give us a hint as to what they might be?
Andy Biggs: I can give you broad terms. What happens is when there's not much money, most people realize there's not much money and they tamp down on their expectations. They understand you have to make adjustments. When there's a perception that there's some money it's not so much. There's more spending desires. Pent-up desire to spend. What we see happening is requests to spend typically you're going to be far more than you've got an ongoing funding. You have to determine what's ongoing, what's one time, what can we afford, what can't we afford.
Ted Simons: Can we afford, can Arizona afford Kids' Care?
Andy Biggs: Good question. Is this a favorite topic?
Ted Simons: It's always a favorite topic.
Andy Biggs: With kids care there's some things most people forget about. We had kids care at one point. When we had Kids Care, the federal government wasn't paying for everything. Now, they are telling you they are going to pay for everything now but Kids Care is up for reauthorization actually not too many more months. When it comes up for reauthorization in fiscal year 2017 we don't know what CMS is going to do or the federal government is going to do. You're talking about a federal government that has a budget north of 3.3 trillion and revenue south of 2.5 trillion. You have almost a trillion dollar deficit. The question is are they going to continue to fund all these types of programs. If they are not I hearken back to where we were last time we did Kids Care and came to a termination under Governor Brewer because we were spending tens upon tens upon millions of dollars every year that we just didn't have. So that becomes a question. People say, it's free. We'll figure it out. But you know, supposedly many of these kids should have been taken care of under Obamacare but they are not because Obamacare has been an utter failure. Some of these children may be eligible under normal access or Medicaid.
Ted Simons: Well, I don't want - some would argue that Obamacare has been an utter failure. There's apparently a way for folks, working poor, to not qualify for the better insurance, needed insurance under Obamacare and still be ineligible for access and Medicaid. There is a bill through 2017, no cost to Arizona, with triggers that if the federal government decides we're going to renege, mess around, fool around, the triggers are into place, the state is off the hook and we return to where we are right now. That bill is out there. If 47 out of 60 folks in the house said they like that they thought it was a good idea, comes to the Senate and you don't do anything with it. Why?
Andy Biggs: Well, Ted, the idea of triggers is an interesting concept that you put there. What does from a trigger do legislatively?
Ted Simons: Well, a trigger from my impression says if you don't do X, I pull the trigger and we return to where we were.
Andy Biggs: Right. Let's talk about the way it really works. What you create a constituency of 30 to 50,000, as much as 50,000 people. Now you pull the trigger take them off. The answer is that's not going to happen. Nobody will pull that trigger. You can't pull the trigger. They want to make it automatic but it's this simple. You do not withstand a bill and now your trigger is unpulled. The reason you do it, some people haven't lived through this. That's why it's good to have some experience. I lived through a scenario when we were flat busted as a state. Had a new governor who came in, said I want you to cut $170 million out of social medicine spending. That's what she said. We proceeded to have those hearings which were tragic, horrible hearings. We didn't really want to do it but we did it. What do you think happened? Those constituents said you can't cut the spending on us. The governor said, veto. She had asked for us to make the cut, made the cut. She vetoed it. That's what happens with these issues. To simply say I think it is OVERLY simplistic to say, oh, we're just going to put a trigger on and it stopped. It won't stop because you've created a constituency.
Ted Simons: If you've created a constituency, a need, if you've created an outcry, doesn't that tell you it's needed now?
Andy Biggs: I disagree, Ted. What happens is you get somebody who writes repeatedly, me personally, what she says is -- she's never examined nor revealed anything like I just said that you step into it, you walk into it, you've got some other things to take care of. The fact of the matter, Ted, is I could point to many things that people believe we need to do right now. I have people coming in saying, we need transportation infrastructure dollars desperately. Let's go ahead and put hundreds of millions there. The whole point is there are priorities and balances that have to be taken into account. When you do this.
Ted Simons: Shouldn't that then be heard?
Andy Biggs: Well, should every bill then be heard, Ted?
Ted Simons: We're not talking about every bill. We're talking about a bill that came over from the house, 47 out of 60, a Republican sponsored bill. At least hear it.
Andy Biggs: Do you think every Republican sponsored bill should be heard?
Ted Simons: I'm not talking about every one. I'm talking about this one.
Andy Biggs: That's because it's the one you want to talk about.
Ted Simons: Sure.
Andy Biggs: Why don't we talk about every Republican sponsored bill, if that's your rationale.
Ted Simons: How many bills come over with that kind of support from the house that are never heard in the Senate?
Andy Biggs: Well -- more than you think. More than you would think. I'm not the only one who holds bills. Every committee chairman also has the prerogative TO WITHHOLD a hearing. Let me give you an example of four bills right now that we're struggling to see if there's a way to make them work. There are four bills that came over. 59-0. You know why? Because people said we need the Senators to fix them. We'll see if we can fix them. Now, what's the rationale there? The rationale is they want someone to intervene. You're saying put it up, I'm saying I don't think we need to put it up.
Ted Simons: You were quoted saying you don't support Kids Care.
Andy Biggs: No, no. That's not what the quote was. The quote was I don't support Kids Care. The reason -- I iterated the reasons that I don't support Kids Care. I don't support, Kid's Care, I don't suppport socialized medicine, I don't, I simply think that's wrong.
Ted Simons: 30 to 50,000 kids are just out of luck.
Andy Biggs: No. I think that there are mechanisms in place that are actually providing health care for those children.
Ted Simons: And they don't know enough to take advantage of them?
Andy Biggs: Well, let me ask you this. What makes you think they are not?
Ted Simons: I don't know if they are or not.
Andy Biggs: You're making a huge assumption to provide fuel to castigate me on an assumption that you don't have the information.
Ted Simons: I'm not castigating. I'm asking for your reasoning. People want to know. I don't think people think that you're a bad guy.
Andy Biggs: You haven't heard the phone calls that come in.
Ted Simons: You haven't heard the phone calls this come in to me. 30 to 50,000 kids could be helped here. I'm hearing a lot of procedural talk. I'm hearing a lot of ideological talk. I'm not hearing about the 30 to 50,000 kids.
Andy Biggs: Let me explain to you again. Do we have the money to afford it when the federal government says no? Let me give you an example. IDEA program was supposed to be funded 60%. It's never been funded more than 25%. Arizona spends millions upon millions a year. We go through and we prioritize. You're talking about a population that most likely qualifies under already existing access to Medicaid rules. You're talking about a population that was supposed to be able to receive ACA care. So what you're saying is they are not getting it. Nobody really knows how accurate that is. Nobody has come through and what they say is we would like this taken care of. If you were to look at uncompensated care at the hospitals and other medical care providers, they would tell you that they are providing much of this care. It's that simple.
Ted Simons: So there aren't 30 to 50,000 kids.
Andy Biggs: I'm saying I don't know. You say you don't know either.
Well I don't know for sure but I do know that there are 30 to 50,000 families out there that apparently are not covered by insurance. That would be covered if this -- I'm not even talking about whether it passes or not. Just saying why didn't you hear it?
Andy Biggs: I think --
Ted Simons: You can't hear every bill. I understand.
Andy Biggs: It's beyond that. Look, one of the jobs that a Senate president takes on is sometimes their members don't want something to be heard. They are going to say to me, I can't do this. If it goes on it goes on. But the reality is I take the beating. That's my job.
Ted Simons: Was this one of those cases?
Andy Biggs: In some instances, yeah. I'm not the only one who opposes Kids Care.
Ted Simons: Are you saying some folks who support it came to you behind the scenes saying I'm on record supporting this but don't hear it?
Andy Biggs: That may be the case.
Ted Simons: Do you feel you're being unfairly maligned?
Andy Biggs: No. People can castigate me, they can say whatever they want to, I'm okay with that. That's the beauty of America. That is the beauty. But I do think that when people don't want to hear my side or they really don't want to investigate -- I mean, to be frank, Ted, there's a lot of what you said and you've admitted you really don't know this issue.
Ted Simons: What do you mean I don't know about the issue?
Andy Biggs: You don't know whether there's 30 to 50,000 --
Ted Simons: It's been reported repeatedly. Are you saying through are not 30 to 50?
Andy Biggs: And I'm saying I don't know.
Ted Simons: We're both sitting here, we don't know anything and we're not going to listen to the experts.
Andy Biggs: Who are your experts, the up in reporters? That's what you're relying on. You said it's been reported.
Ted Simons: But children's health advocates -- there's a Republican sponsoring the bill in the house. 47 lawmakers. Did they not know what they were talking about?
Andy Biggs: I'm going to just say this very humbly. Maybe not.
Ted Simons: Okay.
Andy Biggs: The point I'm trying to make to you, Ted, is I'm okay with people disagreeing with me. You disagree with me obviously.
Ted Simons: Not necessarily. I'm trying to get an answer out of you.
Andy Biggs: What answer do you want?
I'm seeing common sense that says we don't have to pay. There's a trigger if we have to pay we're out of it.
Andy Biggs: I'm telling you that my experience says you can have all the triggers you want but when you have a constituency the triggers don't mean anything. That's my point. People say, well, there's a trigger. This just won't happen. I say, you know what? I have lived through it and believe me, it happens. We go through this stuff all the time.
Ted Simons: We have run out of time.
Andy Biggs: You got to be kidding me.
Ted Simons: I didn't have a chance to ask about why you supported dark money. [laughter] Good to see you.
Ted Simons: Good to see you, Ted. Thanks.
Andy Biggs: Senate President