Originally Published: October 2, 2010 9:56 p.m.
Following is a series of questions The Daily Courier asked the Legislative District One (LD1) candidates for Senate and the two Arizona House of Representative seats. Their answers are paraphrased.
Democrat Bob Donahue is facing off against Republican Sen. Steve Pierce for the Senate seat in the Nov. 2 general election.
Three people are seeking the two LD1 House seats: Democrat Lindsay Bell, Republican Karen Fann and Republican Rep. Andy Tobin.
How do you feel about the U.S. Supreme Court's June freeze on Clean Elections money until it rules on the legality of Arizona's Clean Elections system?
Donahue - I'm a Clean Elections candidate, and once I committed I couldn't back out. The Supreme Court should have waited until after the general election to change the rules. Its actions will affect this race.
Pierce - I agree with it. It should have happened sooner. Candidates took a chance to run as Clean Elections candidates.
Bell - I'm a Clean Elections candidate. It's hard when the rules change midstream in the election, although I understand people have issues with the Clean Elections system. My two opponents already have about twice as much money as I do. And it's ironic that some people who challenged the system in court also are Clean Elections candidates.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the Clean Elections system for campaign finance reform. It does not use state general fund money; it actually donated millions of leftover dollars to the state general fund. Public financing is better so special interests aren't buying political seats and leaving officials beholden to them.
Fann - I oppose the Clean Elections system, especially in bad economic times.
About half of the money for candidates comes from a surcharge on court fines but the other half comes from voluntary individual income tax credits, so that is a reduction in income tax revenues that the state could have used for the general fund. Look at the pamphlet the Clean Elections Commission mailed to all registered voters.
I just don't think tax dollars should be going to political campaigns.
Tobin - The Clean Elections system is not what voters expected it would be. By giving money to your favorite candidate who is not a Clean Elections candidate, you also are committing matching money to the candidate you don't support. You're also drawing money from state government coffers for that Clean Elections candidate.
It is appalling to use taxpayer money for Clean Elections right now when the state is in a budget crisis.
Q: In retrospect, is Arizona's new SB1070 immigration law helpful or hurtful to the state's image and border security? Should the state do more?
Donahue - The only effect I've seen from this law is a negative effect on the
economy because of the negative public perception of Arizona now.
The older state employer sanctions law has helped reduce illegal immigration. So has increased federal border security. The employer sanctions law should have stronger enforcement provisions, however. Right now enforcement reacts only to complaints. A state agency such as the Department of Public Safety should be able to conduct investigations on its own. The Legislature should not have cut DPS.
We also need guest worker permits for harvesting crops and possibly for construction and service industry jobs.
Pierce - It's all in the hands of the courts. We need to move on to fiscal issues. The Obama administration doesn't care for Arizona. Seventy percent of the country supports SB1070.
We need to seal the border while making it easier to get guest worker permits.
Bell - We need to secure the border and crack down on cartels and smugglers. SB1070 doesn't do anything about those problems. It hurt Arizona financially. We lost about $140 million from cancelled conventions, and we can't afford that.
The law turns local law enforcement officers into Border Patrol agents, when they already have enough to do. It makes us potential criminals if we give an illegal alien a ride. It subjects law enforcement to citizen lawsuits if someone says they're not diligent enough in checking papers. And it could extend the stay of illegal immigrants while they wait for deportation hearings. Meanwhile, they get work permits.
On the bright side, the law has focused attention on the need for immigration reform. I hope it forces Congress to act.
Fann - Arizona's new law shows we are strong and willing to stand up for states' rights because the federal government is violating the 10th Amendment. If the federal government gets away with this, what's next?
It's ironic the federal government is suing Arizona because the feds aren't doing their job.The boycotts are hurting Arizona's economy, but there isn't anything we can do about it.
I like the idea of training military recruits and the National Guard on the border instead of on our bases.
Tobin - We in the Legislature have an obligation to protect our citizens. It's not just a federal obligation. People are dying on the border and the federal government isn't stopping it.
The bill has significant public support. It took a long time to put together, and we did it right. The federal government should spend its money protecting the border instead of suing us.
Arizona officials asked the federal government for border protection money many times. We did everything we could. We went after employees who are hiring illegal immigrants, without federal help.
Arizona's health care system, jails and schools are overburdened with illegal immigrants and the federal government is forcing those costs on us.
We will continue to talk about more border protections as long as we don't get enough federal help, but we're limited by our lack of money.
Q: What should the Legislature do to help Arizona's economy?
Donahue - The increase in the state sales tax and $10 billion worth of tax loopholes hurt the economy. Sen. Pierce voted to put the sales tax question on the ballot even though he opposed it, and the voters should hold him accountable.
A state investment bank like North Dakota's could loan money to expanding businesses in emerging markets such as solar energy. The banking industry isn't providing these loans.
If we increase the 1.25 percent severance tax on copper mines to five percent it would bring in another $90 million annually. We could put $30 million in the general fund and the rest into loan money for the state investment bank.
Pierce - We need to reduce regulations, reduce taxes. For example, the personal property tax on business equipment needs to be reduced or eliminated. Other neighboring states have better incentives. To start new businesses, they need equipment.
Bell - Arizona has relied too long on the "Five C's" (copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate/tourism) and it needs to diversify. The sixth "C," construction, also is unsustainable. It made us particularly vulnerable to the economic downturn.
The bioscience sector offers a lot of opportunity. The state was investing $25 million per year into that sector with a private partner, then de-funded it.
The state is encouraging renewable energy with tax exemptions and credits, and we should review those incentives for their productivity.
My opponents will propose tax cuts, but research shows that a good education system that produces good employees is more important to business. Arizona has cut more than $1 billion from education, and dropout rates are on the rise. Public infrastructure, public services and quality of life also are important to business.
Analyses by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Arizona State University Office of the University Economist, show no links between state tax cuts and the economy. State revenues are $2.6 billion lower because of a long series of tax cuts since 1989.
Fann - My plan is "revisit, reduce and reinvest."
First, we need to revisit state government programs and cut what isn't necessary.
Second, look outside the box and see how we can reduce waste.
Third, reinvest in infrastructure where it creates jobs.
Arizona has some of the highest business and personal property tax rates in the country. We're running businesses out of here. We need to work with businesses to see what we can do to help them move here, including tax cuts.
The personal property tax should go away. Business owners pay sales tax on new equipment, then every year they continue to pay personal property taxes on that same equipment. Imagine if people had to do that at home.
Tobin - I have a plan to create jobs. Arizona's tax structure is not competitive and it discourages new businesses from coming here. Our corporate income tax rates and business personal property tax rates are too high.
My plan to reduce those taxes wouldn't take effect until the state's temporary sales tax increase starts going away. My plan would reduce state revenues by $38 million annually, but only if you assume it wouldn't create new jobs.
My plan would eliminate the corporate income tax over seven years, after businesses invest $500 million on new infrastructure. It would expand enterprise zones, which would be great for rural areas. It would offer job training for new employees, and the cost would be covered by increases in tax revenues generated by the new employees.
Q: What would you cut first in the state's 2010-2011 budget if more cuts are necessary? Is there anything the Legislature already cut that it needs to restore?
Donahue - I would close $1.2 billion worth of tax loopholes such as tax credits for attorneys, architects, spa treatments, facelifts and country club dues.
I'd use some of that money to reverse education cuts.
Pierce - The state budget still is $350 million in the hole. If voters don't approve propositions 301 and 302, we'll be $825 million in the hole. Then health services, social services and education will be the only things left to cut. At the same time, the U.S. government requires us to spend a certain amount in these areas or we don't get federal money.
We don't have any choice but to cut education. Federal stimulus money ends this year. More money needs to get to the classrooms and teachers; right now only 57 cents of every education dollar makes it to the classroom, and administration costs grow annually. We should require 80 percent of the money to go to classrooms, find better ways to test progress, and institute merit pay.
There has to be some common sense put back into it. If a deaf child reads lips well, he doesn't need a $40,000 employee sitting next to him using sign language.
Bell - Education cuts are what spurred me to run for the Legislature this year, especially when Arizona already is last in per-capita spending.
We need to restore some education cuts, possibly all $1 billion of them. We basically have balanced the state budget on the backs of kids.
We need to close the tax loopholes for big business and the rich, such as country club memberships and spa treatments.
The student tuition organization tax credit also needs to go. It was sold as a tax credit for organizations that offer scholarships to low-income students, but most of the scholarships go to the wealthy. Donators can earmark who will get the scholarships.
These organizations get to keep 10 percent of their tax-exempt donations for administration costs, as well as keep interest on the accounts, but they're not accountable to anyone. Some of the group administrators are former legislators who voted for the tax credit and now make millions administering the scholarship funds.
Fann - Right now the final budget for the current year is uncertain, but we can find waste and get rid of it.
People on government health care should co-pay on a sliding fee scale based on income.
The state's home health care for adults has nearly doubled in the last seven years. Why? Part of the reason is add-ons such as paying to clean their homes. What happened to the days when people helped each other out instead of expecting the government to pay for everything?
We need to keep services that keep people alive, but a lot of people are taking advantage of the system.
Tobin - We can always cut more, but I'd like to reverse some cuts in public safety, high schools with job training and adult education.
The state could privatize some services such as interstate rest areas, state parks, jails and health care.
Q: What is the first bill you plan to introduce in the Legislature?
Donahue - One of my first bills would repeal the law that requires local governments to compensate landowners for zoning changes. It's a giveaway for developers.
Pierce - I'll be focusing on fixing the budget, then creating a business-friendly image with tax reforms.
Bell - My first bill will curtail or eliminate the student tuition groups I discussed in the budget question.
Fann - I'd like to work with Andy Tobin on his jobs bill.
Then I'd like to seek out wasteful programs and unnecessary bureaucracy to reduce the size of government.
Tobin - I hope the new water augmentation committee that my bill created this year will produce some ideas for legislation in its report.
My dream is to see Arizona become the energy exporter of the Southwest, and create water supplies that will protect our rivers. For example, a new nuclear energy plant could drive a new desalination plant on California's coast and then Arizona could get more Colorado River water.
We need more energy infrastructure to support our demands in general, too.
Q: What should be the state's role in regional water planning?
Pierce - We should offer assistance to communities and let them handle it themselves.
Fann - Less government is better, and local-level planning is best. The state should enact laws that enable local jurisdictions to carry out what's best for them, such as plans for water importation, mitigation and reaching safe yield (a balance between the amount of water entering and leaving an aquifer).
In the long term, the state needs to be more involved in larger-scale plans for importation, basin water transfers and desalination plants.
State laws also should encourage water conservation and rain harvesting. When Chino Valley added about 1,000 Chino Meadows homes to a municipal sewer system and took them off septic tanks, the town was able to recharge an extra 155 acre-feet of water annually into the aquifer. Think what we could do on a larger scale.
Tobin - We should lead in water strategy and create a water and power grid. Our new statewide water committee needs to establish the amount of power and water we need for the next 50-100 years, then list the three best ways to get the water. We need the energy to pump the water.