Democratic Lawmakers on End of Session

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The state legislature has ended its 2017 session. We’ll hear from Senate assistant minority leader Steve Farley and House minority leader Rebecca Rios for a recap of the session and how democrats fared.

TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," WE'LL GET DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP'S TAKE ON THE JUST-ENDED STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. ALSO TONIGHT: A MEDICAL EXPERT SAYS THERE IS A WAY TO RESCUE THE U.S. HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. AND WE'LL HEAR ABOUT A NEW METHOD TO DETERMINE THE COST OF A MAJOR OIL SPILL. THOSE STORIES NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

"ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. THE STATE LEGISLATURE'S 2017 SESSION IS OVER. TONIGHT, A RECAP FROM DEMOCRATIC LEADERS, WITH A REVIEW FROM "REPUBLICAN" LEADERSHIP SET FOR WEDNESDAY. JOINING US NOW IS SENATE ASSISTANT MINORITY LEADER STEVE FARLEY AND HOUSE MINORITY LEADER REBECCA RIOS. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THIS IS OUR LAST TIME NOW FOR THE SESSION. I APPRECIATE YOU SHOWING UP THROUGHOUT THE SECTION TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS SESSION?

STEVE FARLEY: SO MANY DISAPPOINTMENTS. THE DISASTER FOR OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS MASSIVE. PARTICULARLY THE VOUCHER BILL THAT WENT THROUGH AND NOW GIVES UNIVERSAL PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS FOR EVERY STUDENT IN THE STATE. IT'S GOING TO DEVASTATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS TAKING $5,400 PER-STUDENT OUT OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND GIVE THEM TO PARENTS WITH NO MEANS TEST WHATEVER TO BE ABLE TO SPEND HOWEVER THEY WANT TO ON HOME SCHOOL OR PRIVATE SCHOOL PRESUMING THEY CAN COME UP WITH THE $10-15,000 A YEAR IN ORDER TO DO IT. IT IS A MASSIVE REDISTRIBUTION OF INCOME FROM HAVE NOTS TO THE HAVES.

TED SIMONS: THE GOVERNOR SAYS THOUGH IT IS JUST A START, LET'S LET IT PLAY OUT, SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

REBECCA RIOS: YOU KNOW, I GO BACK TO THE DAY THE GOVERNOR GAVE THE STATE OF THE STATE ADRESS. HE MUST HAVE GIVEN US 12 DIFFERENT IDEAS AND PROMISES OF WHAT HE WAS GOING TO DO FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION AND THE FINAL RESULT WAS AN EMBARRASSMENT. HE ENDED UP GIVING A 1% TEACHER PAY RAISE THAT ACTUALLY ISN'T EVEN A PAY RAISE. THOSE IN THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY AND TEACHERS IN PARTICULAR ARE CONCERNED IT'S NOTHING MORE THAN A TEMPORARY STIPEND BECAUSE IT DOESN'T GO INTO THEIR SALARY BASE LINE. THE GOVERNOR AS YOU RECALL TALKED ABOUT FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN, THAT DIDN'T MATERIALIZE, THE ESA VOUCHER ISSUE WAS A BIG PROBLEM. HE ALSO WENT INTO TEACHER CERTIFICATION, AGAIN A KIND OF SMOKE AND MIRROR'S ATTEMPT TO DISTRACT FOLKS FROM THE FACT THAT WE NEED TO PAY TEACHERS MORE. THAT'S WHY THEY ARE LEAVING THE STATE. WE DON'T NEED TO CHANGE THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS.


TED SIMONS: AND YET, THE GOVERNOR IS CELEBRATING WHAT HE CALLS "AN EDUCATION BUDGET." PRIORITIZES EDUCATION HE SAYS, BOOSTS TEACHER PAY, MAYBE NOT BY MUCH, INVESTS IN UNIVERSITIES ALL WITHOUT RAISING TAXES. HE HAS SAID THIS ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. IS HE WRONG?

STEVE FARLEY: BOOSTING TEACHER PAY AMOUNTS TO $18 PER PAYCHECK BEFORE TAXES AND PAYROLL REDUCTIONS. THAT'S NOT GOING TO STOP THE TEACHER RETENTION CRISIS. 44% OF TEACHERS LEAVE AFTER TWO YEARS IN ARIZONA RIGHT NOW. OTHER STATES ARE COMING INTO ARIZONA TO RECRUIT OUR TEACHERS AFTER WE TRAIN THEM AND GIVING THEM A WHOLE LOT MORE MONEY TO GO ELSEWHERE. THIS IS A MAJOR CRISIS AND HE'S NOT DEALING WITH IT. WHAT'S TRAGIC IS THAT HE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY. AS DEMOCRATS WE INSISTED ON 4% TEACHER RAISES. JUST FOR PERSPECTIVE, IT WOULD TAKE 7% TEACHER RAISES JUST TO GET US TO 49TH IN THE COUNTRY IN AVERAGE TEACHER SALARIES. WE HAD WAYS OF PAYING FOR IT WITHOUT RAISING TAXES BUT HE REFUSED TO EVEN MEET WITH DEMOCRATS BECAUSE HE WAS SO PARTISAN HE DIDN'T WANT TO TALK TO US.

TED SIMONS: AND YET WE'VE HEARD YOU INSISTED ON THE 4% INCREASE AS PART OF MAYBE BECOMING A PLAYER IN THE UNIVERSITY BONDING. HE DIDN'T WANT ANY PART OF THAT. YOU DIDN'T WANT TO SOFTEN UP ON THE 4%. SO, INSTEAD OF WORKING WITH DEMOCRATS, HE WORKS EVEN FURTHER RIGHT WITH CONSERVATIVES AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF THAT YOU GUYS AREN'T HAPPY WITH AT ALL, COMES TO PASS. DID YOU OVERPLAY YOUR HAND?

REBECCA RIOS: WE DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAVE A HAND TO PLAY. THE REALITY WAS I TOOK IT UPON MYSELF TO CALL THE GOVERNOR'S CELLPHONE AND SAY "HEY WE ARE READY TO NEGOTIATE IF YOU WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE." I THINK IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS REPORTED IN THE NEWS A COUPLE OF TIMES THAT HE ACTUALLY PICKED UP THE PHONE AND INVITED ME TO HIS OFFICE BUT IT WAS NON-COMMITTAL CONVERSATION WHERE I TOLD HIM WE WANT TO FIGHT FOR A 4% TEACHER RAISE. HE WAS VERY KIND BUT VERY NONCOMMITTAL AND NOTHING EVER TRANSPIRED FOLLOWING THAT 10 MINUTE MEETING. WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING, AND THIS IS POLITICS, AT THE END OF THE DAY WE ARE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT WAS JUST A PLOY TO HAVE REPUBLICANS SEE DEMOCRATS GO TO THE OFFICE SO THAT ESSENTIALLY SCARES THE REPUBLICANS INTO LINE. HE WAS ABLE TO BUY OFF REPUBLICAN VOTES, VERY CHEAPLY, $2 MILLION FOR THE KOCH BROTHER FREEDOM SCHOOLS, PROPAGANDA SCHOOLS, ESSENTIALLY AND OTHER ITEMS SOME OF HIS OTHER MEMBERS WANTED. THE LOSER? TEACHERS AND EDUCATION. DID WE OVERPLAY OUR HAND? WE OFFERED UP A 4% STARTING POINT AND NEVER GOT A RESPONSE.

TED SIMONS: YET, POLITICS IS THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE. AGAIN, I ASK YOU, DID DEMOCRATS OVERPLAY IT?

STEVE FARLEY: ABSOLUTELY NOT. AS WE WENT INTO THE PROCESS, WE KNEW WE HAD SOMETHING HE WANTED AND HE HAD SOMETHING WE WANTED AND WE MADE CLEAR IT WASN'T JUST US IT WAS TEACHERS ALL OVER THE STATE SAYING WE ARE IN CRISIS HERE. THE 0.4% RAISE WHICH HE CAME OUT WITH IN JANUARY WAS AN ABSOLUTE INSULT. $15 A MONTH BEFORE DEDUCTIONS AND TAXES. THERE IS NO WAY THEY WOULD SEE THAT AS A LEGITIMATE THING. IT'S A NONSTARTER UNLESS YOU TALK WITH US ABOUT IT. THE FACT IS THE REPUBLICANS CONTROL THE LEGISLATURE AND THEY CONTROL THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF THEIR HEART NEGOTIATE WITH US IF THEY CAN FIGURE OUT ON THEIR OWN HOW TO GET WHAT THEY WANT ANYWAY. I THINK THE PEOPLE OUGHT TO STAND IN AND CHANGE THAT EQUATION.

TED SIMONS: I'M GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT THAT IN A SECOND. YOU VOTED FOR THE UNIVERSITY BONDING BILL, CORRECT?

STEVE FARLEY: I DID BECAUSE AS SOON AS THE GOVERNOR PROVED HE GOT THE VOTES TO BE ABLE TO PASS ALL OF US DEMOCRATS HAVE ALWAYS SUPPORTED UNIVERSITIES AND GOOD UNION CONSTRUCTION JOBS. THAT'S UNTIMELY WHAT IT WAS AND THAT'S WHAT I VOTED FOR. I ALWAYS VOTE FOR THE BENEFITS OF THE BILL ARE.

TED SIMONS: AND YOU VOTED AGAINST THE BONDING BILL.

REBECCA RIOS: I DID. THEY TRIED TO PLAY DEMOCRATS AS SOMEHOW OPPOSING UNIVERSITIES AND THAT'S JUST NONSENSE. I HEARKEN BACK TO 2 YEARS AGO WHERE IT WAS DEMOCRATS FIGHTING AGAINST THE 100 MILLION DOLLAR CUT THAT DUCEY MADE TO UNIVERSITIES. FROM MY PERSPECTIVE WE HAVE SO MANY EDUCATION NEEDS THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED. WE ARE UNDER A LAWSUIT FOR NOT FUNDING SCHOOLS THAT ARE LITERALLY FALLING APART. A LAWSUIT THAT WAS BROUGHT TO US 25 YEARS AGO, WE ARE NOW AT ROUND TWO. WE ARE RANKED 50TH IN THE NATION IN PER PERSON FUNDING, 50 TH IN THE NATION FOR TEACHER PAY. SO WHEN I LOOKED FROM THAT PERSPECTIVE THAT HIERARCHY OF NEEDS THAT FELL THIRD ON MY LIST AND THAT'S WHY I OPPOSED THAT.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DO DEMOCRATS NOW CONCENTRATE ON MOVING FORWARD?

REBECCA RIOS: IT'S EDUCATION. IF YOU ASK MOST ARIZONANS WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE IN ARIZONA, IT'S EDUCATION. I THINK WHAT WE SAW THIS EDUCATION GOVERNOR DO IS REALLY RALLY TEACHERS IN THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY. WE HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MUCH PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGEMENT AND RALLIES AND TEACHERS FILLING THE GALLERY ON A WEEKLY BASIS. THAT IS GOING TO CONTINUE I THINK WITH YOU SAW TEACHERS ANNOUNCING THEIR REFERENDUM TO DO THE REPEAL OF ESA. HE'S KINDA POKED THE BEAR AND HE'S WOKEN UP TEACHERS. I HOPE THAT CONTINUES AND AS DEMOCRATS WE CAN CONTINUE TO AMPLIFY THEIR VOICE IN THIS ISSUE BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

TED SIMONS: HOW DO YOU CONVINCE FOLKS THAT DEMOCRATS CAN GET SOMETHING DONE. THE NARRATIVE IS YOU GOT PLAYED A LITTLE BIT. WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THAT IS ONE THING. THAT'S THE NARRATIVE. HOW DO YOU CONVINCE FOLKS YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE NOW THERE?

STEVE FARLEY: OUR HAND WAS MAYBE SIX HIGH. WE DIDN'T HAVE A HAND TO PLAY THAT WAS ABLE TO DO ANYTHING. WE DON'T HAVE THE NUMBERS AT THIS POINT. WHAT WE DO AS DEMOCRATS POINT OUT WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF THINGS WERE DIFFERENT, IF DIFFERENT PEOPLE WERE IN CHARGE. EVERY DYNAMIC WOULD ABSOLUTELY CHANGE. ONE OF THE THINGS I DID WAS WORK WITH THE CHAIR OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE DAVID FARNSWORTH. I GOT HIM TO COSPONSOR ONE OF MY BILLS TO LOOK AT THE $13.7 BILLION A YEAR WE ARE GIVING AWAY IN SALES TAX LOOPHOLES. 331 IN OUR TAX CODE. I GOT THAT THROUGH THE SENATE, 28-2 UNTIL IT RAN INTO A PARTISAN WALL IN THE HOUSE. THAT'S SOMETHING WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH AND LET THE PUBLIC KNOW WE ARE INTERESTED IN A FAIR PLAYING FIELD FOR EVERYONE, EVEN THE LITTLE GUYS, AND A SOURCE OF FUNDING FOR ACTUALLY REBUILDING OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IN A RIGHT WAY.

TED SIMONS: YOU MENTIONED THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN CHARGE. ARE YOU RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR?

STEVE FARLEY: I'LL BE MAKING AN ANNOUNCEMENT ON JUNE 5TH IN TUCSON. I HOPE PEOPLE WILL LIKE WHAT IT IS.

TED SIMONS: WHAT ABOUT AN ANNOUNCEMENT TONIGHT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

STEVE FARLEY: IN ITS OWN TIME. I'LL BE HAPPY TO COME BACK AFTER JUNE 5TH.

TED SIMONS: WE'LL HOLD YOU TO THAT. GOOD TO SEE YOU BOTH. THANKS FOR JOINING US WE DO APPRECIATE IT. YOU'RE WATCHING "ARIZONA HORIZON." UP NEXT, ONE MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL'S IDEA FOR FIXING OUR HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM.

Steve Farley: (D) Senate assistant minority leader

Rebecca Rios: (D) House minority leader

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