Governor’s State of the State Address

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Jaime Molera, political consultant with the Molera Alvarez Group and Pete Rios, Pinal County Supervisor and a former state legislator give their political analysis of Governor Jan Brewer’s 2012 State of the State Address and the upcoming legislative session.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. This week, Governor Brewer outlined her policy agenda in her second state-of-the-state address. Some of the details included improving Arizona's education system and boosting Arizona's economic competitiveness. We'll talk about more specifics of the speech with a former state lawmaker and political analysis, but first, here is some of what Governor Brewer said in her state-of-the-state address.

Governor Jan Brewer: We knew Saturday, January 8th, 2011, would be a mark on our memory. Fixed forever. Today Arizonans and Americans are saying to Washington: We don't like an ever-expanding government threatening our personal liberties, we don't like government living beyond its means and trying to be everything to everyone. We don't like unconstitutional and unfunded healthcare mandates. And by the way, we don't like open borders either. [Applause] Now, an integral part of our recovery plan was the passage of proposition 100, the one- cent sales tax approved overwhelming by the voters for three years. The voters were promised it would be temporary. Many doubted that. Well, I gave my word to the voters and a promise is a promise. So I'm here to say, this tax will end on my watch. [Applause] How are we going to create the conditions for success? Well, today, I'm releasing a detailed written policy agenda. It will be limited, efficient, nimble government. Including personnel reform that improves the management of the workforce. Restructures the grievance and appeals system and modifies human resource practices. So to fortify that symbol, to make all of our capitol truly ours, once again, I'm asking you send me a bill by statehood day that allows me to buy back the capitol complex. [Applause]
José Cárdenas: With me to talk about the governor's speech is Pinal County supervisor Pete Rios. Supervisor Rios was a former state lawmaker for more than 20 years. Also here is Jaime Molera, political consultant and partner with the Molera Alvarez Group. He is also the former Arizona superintendent of public instruction. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas: What we had up there was a collection of different comments that the governor made. The first was a reference to the shooting a year ago of Gabby Giffords and on that occasion, they scrapped her longer speech and gave a shorter one. She kind of did the same here, it was a relatively short speech, but before we get to that, the Giffords thing, how does that -- any lingering impact on the mood of the state?

Jaime Molera: Well, I think it still set a tone that Arizonans need to come together and I think she tried to reference that. And there's been a lot of good changes that have occurred and more of an emphasis not being so mudslinging at the capitol. After the Giffords incident last year, I noticed even with the different president, Russell Pearce there and there was a lot of acrimony, they tried to tone down the harsh rhetoric. With the new president, Steve Pierce, I think you'll see a much different tone with the legislature. I think a lot of the members like him on both sides of the aisle. I think he tends to bring people together. Andy Tobin the same way. They have the common sense approach about them. And that combined with the governor and her tone saying, look, Arizonans, it's a great year for us, 100 year anniversary, we just need to come together now and tackle these issues.

José Cárdenas: Supervisor Rios, a lot of emphasis on the centennial, your impressions on the speech?
Pete Rios: The governor did an excellent job on the power point presentation on Arizona in the last 100 years, it was fabulous, looked elegant, she didn't make any mistakes. One of the best presentations that I've seen her make. But as important as the last 100 years is and was, we look forward to the next 100 years, and in that respect, the governor was rather short and thin. Many. Of us walked out of the gallery where's the beef? Where's the meat? Where are the issues? We're at a precipice. Looking at a deep hole, come 2013, 2014, that's when the governor's proposal of corporate income taxes go into effect and reductions in business property taxes going into everybody and the one penny on the transaction privilege tax the penny for education and public safety goes away. We're look looking at more than a billion dollar hole and yet the governor did not touch on anything having to do with tax reform or what we're going to do with the needs of the state in about a year and a half. Not the wants of the state. But the needs. So I thought it was a little thin in that area.

José Cárdenas: Jaime, before we get to -- is that a fair criticism of the state of the state address, it was as thin as it was on substance?

Jaime Molera: I disagree, I think the governor has to set a tone and the overarching vie and she did that. She talked about more efficient government and need for education reform. So did she give a lot of specifics? No, but she set a tone of what she wants do as governor, where she wants the legislature to focus their attention on and I think that in that regard, she was very successful. And the fact of the matter is, look, a governor like Jan Brewer, I don't think she's comfortable in a situation where she's given the minutia of what the legislation needs to look like. I think it was smart to focus on the broad things and she did that well and in doing so, she captured the high ground where Arizona needs to be and I think that was smart.

José Cárdenas: And do you think stylistically it was one of her better presentations?

Jaime Molera: Absolutely. I think she was confident and comfortable and her demeanor was much more, I'm ready to give this speech and I'm ready to be here, whereas the first speech as governor, she was a little intimidated by the grandeur of the state of the state. But she looked like a governor standing up there.
Pete Rios: She did a good job rallying the troops but most were the Republican legislators, if you heard the comments made later by the democratic legislators, I mean, they weren't anywhere close to the rallying cry that the governor was utilizing. And I like Jan Brewer, I love her --

José Cárdenas: You served with her in the legislature.

Pete Rios: That's correct. We served a number of years as state senator. I had a nickname for her, but I won't use that in respect for the governor and the office. But at the end of the day she did a good job as a legislator and did a good job in presenting and Jaime is correct. Different governors have different styles. And clearly, giving detail is not part of Brewer's style. Like Janet Napolitano, Janet Napolitano would give a lot of statistics and numbers and issues and things she wanted to deliver on. That's not the same --

Jaime Molera: She was her own policy advisory and chief of statistic staff and Napolitano was her own budget director, for goodness sakes. I don't remember Republicans rallying around Napolitano after the state of the state either.

José Cárdenas: And you wouldn't expect them too. But Jaime, what do you think the governor gave them to rally around? She had a few specifics, one was the -- I want to pay off the mortgage on the state capitol and most people don't think that's possible anyway.

Jaime Molera: Well, but remember, the themes what she talked about, being efficient and also being more aggressive about limiting the debt going forward. I think that's going to be important. From a -- from a fiscal perspective, Arizona is in much better shape than a couple years ago when they passed the sales tax. Our own economists and budget folks at the legislature, from where they thought, we're in much better shape so I think she can crow a little bit. She's saying we don't need to continue the sales tax, if we continue down the path we're in, we can hit the mark. Yeah, we're not going to have a lot of money for the extras, that the Democrats want to see. But we'll be able to sustain government without going into a major cliff of where we were and that's a important piece.

Pete Rios: Let me just respond to that a little bit, because to the extent that the governor says and she got a very sound round of applause, we have a balanced budget, was my mission accomplished. Well, it was not accomplished when the president said it nor do we have a balanced budget. I mean, this budget is smoke and mirrors. We're turning over the last payment to K-12 to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. I mean, it's not structurally sound. I remember my Republican colleagues when Napolitano was governor, they were insisting on a structural sound budget. This is nowhere near that. Smoke and mirrors all over the place. We even sold the state capitol and that's what you made reference to, she wants to buy it back, even one of the conservative writers for "The Arizona Republic," Robert Robb, made reference to the killing fields and where we're going with this particular budget, where we're going with economic development and going with incentive in that Arizona is addicted to these incentives and so at the end of the day, balanced budget, I don't think it's there.

José Cárdenas: And Jaime, does the senator have a point. He was talking about Bob Robb's column and one of the things he said was, yeah, we have a balanced budget but part of it was we took so much from other funds that was dedicated to other things. There seems to be a legitimacy to that.

Jaime Molera: One of the things that would be unfair is saddle Governor Brewer with this. She did inherit pretty big holes. One of things they did as opposed to making deep cuts in K-12 and AHCCCS, even though there was quite a bit of reduction made, a lot more could have been done and a lot of the extreme conservative element wants to do that. Russell Pearce fought tooth and nail from Governor Brewer, establishing the one cent sales tax to try and protect the base. Did they use these mechanisms? Of course they did but where Arizona is compared to three years ago, everyone would admit, economists would admit, we're starting to come back, starting to see positive gains and is it something that we're out of the woods yet? Of course not, but we're on the right track and that's what she wanted to highlight. Is that from where we were to where we are now it really is a much better day.
José Cárdenas: In fairness to the governor, she did provide some of the substance people said was missing in a policy document she made reference to in her speech and issued the same day. The four cornerstones of reform. One being economic competitiveness. The first item was the Arizona commerce authority which was launched to a lot of fanfare and we just got word that Don Cardon, the the director, I forget his exact title, is stepping down. How significant is that?

Pete Rios: I think it's significant to those that see this particular entity as a save-all. I think some of us basically saw the department of commerce doing the same thing. This puts a different twist to it. Will it hurt what the governor is trying to do by not having this particular person at the helm? It possibly will, but José, again, we look at economic development, and is that something that we need in the state of Arizona? Absolutely. We need jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. But to the extent of what -- how much are we willing to give away in tax incentives and once we do that, how do we make up for it? Where is the governor's proposal on tax reform? How are we going to fill those holes? Because by trying to provide the incentives to bring the companies here to provide the job, there's a lot of revenue that's not going to come in.
José Cárdenas: Jaime, she talks about tax reform in her document but it's all about tax cuts. What's the answer to Pete's question where the dollars are coming from?

Jaime Molera: I think Arizona needs to diversify the economy. That's a big problem in the state and precedes Governor Brewer, we've been addicted to growth in Arizona, we've relied on sales tax and when times are good and selling a lot of houses and people are filling the houses with big ticket items that cost a lot of money and brings a lot of revenue in the state and times are good and we never had the diversification that we need. One of the that the commerce authority has talked about is looking at the various areas we need to start attacking and building on and I think that's a healthy thing And to the point of the changes being made I think that in a lot of ways that's helpful for the governor because there's been criticism of the leadership. And all of that came into play. If you looked at Governor Brewer, she had made a lot of difficult changes, remember, she changed out a closed chief of staff early on in her administration. So her being able to make changes when needed has served her well and I think the business leadership are respecting the fact this person may not have been the right one but made a quick change so it wasn't something that just dragged her down for the rest of her administration. That was a smart move.

José Cárdenas: Pete, the governor's agenda document echoed something she said in her speech and that we quoted on the screen, and that is challenging the federal government in several areas, including immigration and healthcare. What is the point there?

Pete Rios: Well, and then the other thing that she mentions is specifically the four forests, the thinning out of the forest and what are you waiting for, federal government? We need to thin out our forests because of fire danger we have. But if we're looking at the federal government, I mean, we have to look at the whole picture. Not just pick and choose. We turn back, José, for children, that needed healthcare, a federal program that would give us free federal dollars for every state dollar. So we have approximately 120,000 children that would qualify for that program that are on a waiting list because we're not looking at that kind of federal help. We look at the federal government in respect to the medical marijuana and the governor is saying, you supersede state law, federal government, we shouldn't be able to have these dispensaries and yet on S.B. 1070, she's saying the opposite. Federal government, you're not doing what you're supposed to so we'll do it at the state level. Never mind that all of that is being up by the federal courts and the supreme court will decide.

José Cárdenas: Jaime, almost out of time. Two things, one a comment on the governor's swing at the federal government and then just what can we expect from this legislature which will have -- won't have Russell Pearce for the first time in a long time?

Jaime Molera: Well, I think the tone will be very different. With Steve Pierce as president and Andy Tobin as speaker. I would anticipate a fast session. Get with the governor and hammer out a budget deal quickly because I think they like each other and they can negotiate rather than just from a ideological base that Russell wouldn't let go of, does he have the votes to get what he wants.

José Cárdenas: And despite the governor's comments about open borders, or not wanting open borders, are we going to see much of immigration legislation?

Jaime Molera: I don't think so in Arizona, we saw that there's a strong bloc of Republicans that want to focus on economic development and they realize if we go down the very -- what I would call extreme immigration path I think there will be the biggest backlash from an economic perspective. They don't want to see that. The business community rallied around those Republicans so I think we'll steer clear of it.

José Cárdenas: On that note, we have to end our interview. Thank you both for joining us.

Jamie Molera:Political Consultant, Molera Alvarez Group; Pete Rios:Pinal County Supervisor, former state legislator;

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