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AZ Week Notebook – 2011


Republicans who control Arizona state government -- and its purse strings -- are beginning to discuss what might be done with the state's growing revenue surplus.

A very tight state budget, following three previous years of significant cuts, has caused teacher layoffs and crowded classrooms, reduced health care for the poor and crowded emergency rooms at hospitals that are absorbing the costs and local governments scrambling to cut because of state-taken revenues.

Now reports are that the state is taking in hundreds of millions more than budgeted. The surplus will be at a minimum $330 million and could go as high as $500 million by the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Here's what political leaders are saying so far:

  • Gov. Jan Brewer, who said earlier this year that she fought for more funding for education but couldn't get all she wanted, now says the top priority for spending some of the state revenue surplus should be more money for tourism promotion. She is proposing adding $7 million to the tourism marketing pot.

  • Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says he wants to proceed cautiously but is included to support Brewer's proposal.

  • State Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, says he wants to save all the surplus and keep next year's budget flat to this year's. His rationale is that the state will need the money by 2014 when the one-cent education sales tax expires and federal health-care regulations begin kicking in with pass-along costs to the states.

  • Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, says he wants to see some of the surplus go to restoring health-care for poor children and childless adults who were cut from the rolls this year.

The legislative session begins Jan. 9 with Brewer's State of the State address. Look for her to outline what she thinks the budget ought to look like and what increases, if any, ought to be made in state spending.

Friday's Arizona Week will look at the possibilities for state spending in 2012.

Rep John Kavanagh Rep Matt Heinz Senate President Steve Pierce,


Arizona tax revenues could exceed projections this fiscal year by $330 million, maybe even more, as the economy slowly emerges from the recession.

That's put a gleam in some eyes about the next state budget and what ought to be done with it.

Most Republicans agree that much if not all of it should be set aside for the rainy day that's sure to come in a couple of years when the one-cent education sales tax expires. That will leave a $900 million hole in the budget.

Here are some ideas for what to do with at least a portion of the surplus:

  • Gov. Jan Brewer says state tourism marketing and promotion spending should be jacked up by $7 million, which House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, says he is willing to go along with.

  • State Senate President Steve Pierce says he prefers to see the entire surplus squirreled away for that "fiscal cliff" coming in 2014.

  • House Appropriations Committee member Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, says some of the surplus should be spent on restoring funding for health care for the poor and, perhaps, for education.

On Friday's Arizona Week, we will look at the options and alternatives for the next state budget. Interviews on the program will be with Pierce and Heinz.

Journalists Andrea Kelly of Arizona Public Media, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic and Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times will analyze and comment on the coming session.

Matt Heinz Steve Pierce Arizona Legislature,


U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has all the comforts of home in the suburban Houston residence she shares with husband Mark Kelly.

And why shouldn't she? It is one of three homes that Giffords and Kelly have maintained as part of their once hectic schedule -- she in Washington for congressional work, back to Tucson most weekends for constituent visits, to Houston when she could; he mostly in Houston, sometimes blasting off into space, visiting his wife in Washington and Tucson when time permitted.

Then came Jan. 8, 2011, when Giffords was shot through the left side of her brain in a tragedy that took the lives of six people who had come to visit Giffords at a "Congress on Your Corner" event. Giffords was among 13 people wounded.

That changed life for Kelly and Giffords, and they have settled in -- temporarily -- to the modest brick home on a quiet, tree-lined street in a residential neighborhood of suburban Houston.

There, the decor includes several of Giffords' mom's paintings on the family room walls, a brightly decorated Christmas tree and several toasters. After all, Kelly pointed out during our visit Thursday, "Gabby likes toast."

Ah, yes, that report of the first word she spoke after the shooting. "Toast," she was reported to have said when served a breakfast that didn't include it. Kelly and Giffords' book, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, debunks that, saying her first word, a day or two earlier, was "what" or more like "whatwhatwhat."

Giffords departs each morning for physical therapy in downtown Houston, carrying with her a cooler filled with lunch that Kelly has prepared. Included, he told us, are a couple of pieces of fruit and, usually, her one junk-food indulgence, Cheez-Its.

She was at physical therapy on Thursday when we interviewed Kelly. Our interview can be seen at

Cheez-It Gabrielle Giffords Mark Kelly,


The Arizona Legislature will convene Jan. 9 in Phoenix and hear Gov. Jan Brewer's State of the State speech.

The legislative session comes as Arizona governmental finances are looking a little less precarious than they did during the last session. At that time, the governor and the Legislature took more than $1 billion out of state spending to erase a structural deficit that had been building for 15 years.

The deficit was created in part by the state's sorry economy, driven by the housing bubble burst, foreclosures and plummeting home prices.

In the larger, longer-range sense, the deficit came because state legislators had cut taxes a half-dozen times in the last 15 years without reducing spending.

Those big cuts may be over, at least for the time being. With sales taxes leading the way, the state's overall revenue picture is on the upswing. That's leading some legislators to rethink some of the drastic cuts they made last session.

For Friday's Arizona Week, we plan to speak with Arizona Senate President Steve Pierce, a Republican, and Arizona Rep. Matt Heinz, a Democrat and member of the House Appropriations Committee, about what they foresee.


New Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild says his city and Phoenix have much more in common than might meet the eye.

Thus, Rothschild says, he and Phoenix Mayor-elect Greg Stanton plan to cooperate and coordinate efforts, especially when it comes to approaching state government for help.

Or, in some instances, when fending off state government's attempts to dictate to municipalities how they operate.

In an interview for Friday's Arizona Week broadcast, Rothschild cited Gov. Jan Brewer's veto earlier this year of several bills that would have imposed new procedures on cities as a sign that she believes in local control. That's a good start, Rothschild said.

He and Stanton, both Democrats in a Republican-controlled state, already have begun cooperating. They participated in one another's campaigns and fund-raising and have been in close communication, Tucson's mayor said.

It will be worth seeing how that manifests itself with the Legislature, controlled by conservative Republicans and not known for its friendliness toward local governments, specifically Tucson.

Arizona Legislature Greg Stanton Jan Brewer Jonathan Rothschild,


By LUCY VALENCIA, Arizona Week Intern

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild hit the ground running as soon as his term began today. Rothschild, wo already had been working at City Hall in the transition since he was elected last month, met this afternoon with Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to begin working on inter-governmental cooperation.

Rothschild, 56, was sworn in at 10 a.m. today in a ceremony at City Hall.

The Tucson native, lawyer and father of three believes the only way to improve the economy is to help put people to work. He wants to give University of Arizona graduates a reason to stay in Tucson after earning their degrees.

He served as treasurer of the Pima County Democratic Party, was on the board of Casa de los NiƱos, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and Temple Emanu-El.

Rothschild has a 180-day plan to boost small business interests in Tucson, beginning with revamping the 1,000-page land-use code.

He promises 14-hour work days that will include roundtable meetings with the business community, educators and politicians from many neighborhood groups and jurisdictions.

Hear more about how Rothschild will approach his job on Friday's Arizona Week in one of two interviews with big city mayoral newcomers in the state. Also interviewed will be Phoenix Mayor-elect Greg Stanton, who will take office in January.

Greg Stanton Jonathan Rothschild Phoenix mayor Tucson Mayor,

About AZ Week Notebook

News and commentary from Arizona Week producer/host Michael Chihak and interns Melanie Huonker and Lucy Valencia.