Two incumbents, one from each major political party, and two newcomers are matched up in the Legislative District 10 House race in Southern Arizona.
Democratic incumbent Rep. Bruce Wheeler and Republican incumbent Rep. Ted Vogt are facing off along with Democrat Stefanie Mach and Republic Todd Clodfelter.
The newly drawn district covers midtown Tucson to the far east side, to the Coronado Forest boundary on the north, Valencia Road on the south. It includes Park Place, El Con, El Encanto, San Clemente, Tanque Verde and Civano.
Read the forum transcript here:
Jim Nintzel: Good evening everyone and welcome to Arizona Illustrated for Tuesday, the 9th of October, 2012. I’m Jim Nintzel and tonight I’ll be moderating a Your Vote 2012 Forum with the candidates for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 10. This new district includes most of central Tucson south of Speedway. Democrats have a slight voter registration edge but it’s considered one of the most competitive districts in the state. We have four candidates running for two house seats. State Rep. Ted Vogt is a Republican who has represented District 30 for the last three years of the Legislature. State Rep. Bruce Wheeler is a Democrat who has represented District 28 for the last two years. Republican Todd Clodfelter owns a graphic design and printing firm and is making his first run for the Arizona Legislature and Stefanie Mach is making her first run for public office after working as a consultant with local nonprofit organizations. Thanks to all of you for being here. Representative Vogt, obviously the state has gone through some very serious budget crises in recent years and one of the casualties of that were some cuts to the education program. Your critics have complained that you cut too deeply into K through 12 education as well as the universities and the community colleges. What would you say to your critics?
Ted Vogt: Well, I think what we’ve got to look at is where Arizona was when I got up there. We are coming out of the worst economic crisis, the State of Arizona, in fact the United States has been in since the Great Depression. We had a $3 billion budget deficit. Per capita that was worse than any other state in the country so we had to take some very critical steps in order to get out of that. Education, K through university, is more than half of our budget and as we had to balance and we had to reduce spending, we had to reduce spending for education. Now, we’ve come out of what’s been the worst economic crisis, we’re starting to see state revenues come back and what did we do this last year, we were able to add back $120 million in some strategic programs in K through 12 and the university. For instance, I helped get about $6 million of ongoing funding for the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the expansion campus up in Phoenix. So as we come out of this economic crisis the Legislature has shown its willingness and indeed its efforts to return some of that funding to education. But when we were up there, our economic crisis was the worst in the country and so we had to take some difficult steps.
Jim Nintzel: And Representative Wheeler, you voted against those budgets. Where do you think you might have found money to prevent those education cuts if you had had that opportunity?
Bruce Wheeler: Well, let me say first those cuts were devastating. I disagree with my friend Ted Vogt. Those $2.2 billion cuts from education in four years is completely untenable. We’re closing schools, we’re building for-profit prisons, classroom sizes are approaching 45 students per classroom. I think that’s really counterproductive to educating our kids. For my work on the education field I’ve been endorsed by the Arizona Education Association and an example of what they have not addressed with the money is this year we had over a $400 million surplus and my friend mentioned $100 million that was put back into certain programs of education but the other $300 plus million has been left in a so-called rainy day fund. That money could have been reinvested. An example of that is that I introduced legislation to refund what had been cut last year from JTED, the Joint Technology Education District, to have enough funds for ninth graders. It was about $9 million. I had a co-signor that was the Republican Chair of the House Education Committee, Doris Goodale. At the end of the session she said, ‘Bruce, I’m sorry. The Governor said no restorations.’ Jim, in spite of a $300 million still sitting on the table to allocate to education it was not done. The last thing I’ll say about that. They’ve also gone the other way heading us toward a financial cliff. In 2014 we’re going to face $415 million tax cut that the Legislature passed last year that corporations didn’t even ask for. The CEO of Intel wrote the Legislature and said, ‘Look, I don’t need this tax break. I need that money in education so that I can hire kids from high school and college which is what we need, a well-educated workforce,’ and they failed at that quite frankly.
Jim Nintzel: Mr. Clodfelter, we also have a proposition on the ballot this year that would raise about a billion dollars for education primarily, I think 10 percent of it’s going to roads and highways but it’s a one cent sales tax, continuing the one cent sales tax, Prop. 204. Do you…what’s your stance on Prop. 204?
Todd Clodfelter: I oppose Proposition 204 because it is a regressive tax number one and secondly it equals to a 14 percent increase in taxation and it was promised to be eliminated three years ago when it was first initiated or two years ago so it would fade away. They want to bring it back and maintain it. I have no issues with giving more money to education, I’m all for it, if we can identify where the money is going to be spent and how it’s going to actually help the educational programs rather than just saying, ‘Here’s a blank check, here’s a billion dollars, go spend it however you want.’ I know there’s also some restriction on how it can be addressed down the road. It would be mandated that this money could never be modified or handled in a different way to rebalance the budget down the road. And I’m also aware that Mr. Vogt and the Legislature has balanced the next two years’ worth of budget excluding the need for that sales tax increase and I think it’s going to hurt the people that need it the most. When you take money out of an economy that’s already struggling to come back, you’re hurting it even further. So an additional sales tax isn’t going to be a good thing and the people, like I say, the people who are going to suffer the worst are the low income, fixed income people when you add another 14 percent tax on their…it’s not one percent on the dollar but the increase is 14 percent. People aren’t understanding that. It’s the math of it all.
Jim Nintzel: Ms. Mach, your position on the Prop. 204.
Stefanie Mach: I think that Prop. 204 is a direct response to the failure of the Republican led Legislature to actually solve the problem that needed to be solved which is that we have, as Bruce mentioned, children who are in classrooms that are not appropriately sized and facilities that are not working for them and that still leaves kids in a place where we’re not investing in them, that they’re not prepared to take on the jobs that I think will sustain us in the long term. So we had to take it to the voters and I think the voters will make the right decision. I support it. It’s maybe not the best way that we can address the situation but this is what we have and I’m willing to make that investment in our kids. I’m willing to make that investment in our future.
Jim Nintzel: Bruce, your thoughts on Prop. 204.
Bruce Wheeler: It’s necessary because of the failure of the Legislature to adequately address education needs, as Stefanie said. We should not be in a situation where we have to have a one cent sales tax to fund education but we’re dead last in the nation on investment of our students and performance of our students and that needs to be remedied and unfortunately money is not everything but money is a lot of it. And instead of what the Legislature did, voting to allow guns on campus, come on, Jim, that’s not the solution to our education problems. We need to adequately fund it and make substantial reforms in education where we hold certain districts accountable, that’s fine. But we need to fund it. Let me give you one final statistic. We fund…every student in the State of Arizona is funded at the rate of around $7,800 per year. The inmate cost for the state is $42,000. That is a totally lopsided set of priorities in my opinion. $7,800 per student, $42,000 per inmate and it’s a for-profit prison system. Something is substantially and fundamentally wrong with the direction of this Legislature.
Jim Nintzel: And Representative Vogt, let’s let you respond both to the Proposition 204 and also Representative Wheeler raised the question of the tax cuts for the corporations.
Ted Vogt: Sure. I don’t support Prop. 204. As Todd has mentioned, it is a regressive tax. It hits the people on fixed incomes and at the lower end of the economic ladder the hardest. The State of Arizona is overly reliant on sales tax for revenues and it’s very unstable and so we need to do comprehensive tax reform and get off this reliance on our sales tax. There’s only one other state that has a higher sales tax than us and that’s Tennessee. And there’s no checks and balances of how those dollars are going to be spent and there’s no checks or balances and no oversight of how those dollars are going to be spent. Now let me go back to something that Mr. Wheeler said. Last month Robert Robb from the Arizona Republic did an article on what the Legislature did and did not do to education. We took $8 billion of deficit reductions before we ever did any sort of reduction in spending on education. We protected education at this time. We even went to the extraordinary steps of selling the Capitol buildings in order to raise $750 million to protect education during this worst economic downturn we’ve seen in over a generation. So now as our revenues are coming back we are reinvesting in education. And I just want to remind everybody that education, K through university, is the largest investment that the State of Arizona makes. It’s over 50 percent of the budget. It’s about $4.5 billion annually and as our economy recovers, as we add more Arizonans back to work, the state revenues increase, we’ve already shown that the Legislature is willing to reinvest in our education system.
Jim Nintzel: Let me follow up with just an education policy question. One of the things we’ve seen the Legislature do in recent years is expand scholarship programs that allow people to get tax breaks essentially for contributing to programs that provide scholarships for students that attend private schools. Should a program be expanded so that more tax breaks are available for folks who want to send kids to private or religious schools?
Ted Vogt: Well, I like where the program is right now. The fact of the matter is, we should be encouraging choice. There’s not a cookie cutter approach to how kids are going to learn and where they’re going to learn best. I was in public school for awhile, I was in private school for awhile and I think that giving parents the choice, giving students the choice is a good thing. This is opportunity to let kids flourish in the environment that they’re going to flourish best. That’s what I think supporting education is. We can’t take this cookie cutter approach and if there are kids that are trapped in failing schools, they need a way out of that so that’s why I’ve been supportive of the program so far.
Jim Nintzel: Bruce, your thoughts on these school tuition programs and public dollars for private schools.
Bruce Wheeler: The voucher system is a lousy idea. I oppose it strenuously. That’s my tax dollars going to a parochial school, religious schools and private schools that I have no control over. That’s not what we’re about. It’s a waste of money, it’s a drain of money from our public school resources and it’s part of the problem.
Jim Nintzel: Stefanie, your thoughts on this.
Stefanie Mach: Yeah, it’s costing our state money that could be in the public education system. Every parent should have the choice to send their kids to a good school and that means that we fund the public education system, not an un- or under-regulated school that may go against people’s values. We have the separation for a reason and I want my tax dollars to improve all kids’ ability to have access to opportunity.
Jim Nintzel: And Todd, your thoughts.
Todd Clodfelter: Well, I agree with Ted. I think the voucher system is appropriate. I’m a Sahuaro High School graduate from TUSD, my two sons went to TUSD schools and my daughter started at Sahuaro but ended up in a private school and the voucher system to be is an appropriate way to go and I disagree with Bruce on this because you’re not giving the money to a parochial school, you’re giving it to the student and the student then can make a choice or the parents can help make the choice as to where the student goes to get their education. It has nothing to do with giving money to any religion or faith or anything. It’s for the child and it’s the child’s choice and the child’s parents are taxpayers as well so you can’t restrict them from spending the money on what they think is best for their child.
Jim Nintzel: All right. I want to shift gears to healthcare. Bruce, these last few years we’ve seen the decrease in the number of people eligible for the AHCCCS program from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to much lower for childless adults in the state and as part of the Affordable Care Act the big question that lies before the state at this point is whether or not to expand that all the way up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. It would cost the state a couple hundred million dollars to begin with but we’d get a consider amount of federal dollars, probably more than a billion in federal dollars as a result of that. Your thoughts, should we expand that population again?
Bruce Wheeler: We quite definitely should expand it. It’s two issues. It’s a moral issue, Jim, and it’s an economic issue. It’s a moral issue because those are people that we ought to be insuring. Arizona already experiences 21 percent of our people without health insurance. The figures for children is abysmal. We should not be having this…we should not have a system in which children don’t have adequate healthcare and that’s the moral issue. Then the economic argument is that we’re losing practically $8 for every…$8 of federal money for every dollar of state money that we would invest in this. The beneficiaries would be the people that are served by this, the hospitals, the clinics, the doctors and the providers. For that reason I was endorsed by the Nurses Association and Family Physicians Association because they understand that that is money lost at preventive care and what happens is you and I wind up paying through our premiums, health insurance premiums and the hospitals wind up paying for costs that are unrecoverable in the emergency room. Instead of having preventive care, people wait until they’re real sick, then they go into the emergency room or they call paramedics and that’s their first line of medical defense. It’s a waste of money, it’s immoral and hospitals and physicians are suffering as well as human beings.
Jim Nintzel: Ted, your thoughts on the expansion of AHCCCS.
Ted Vogt: I don’t think we should be expanding it. I don’t think we can afford it. Now what did the State Legislature do? We rolled back the coverage and brought us in line with 44 other states. We had been overly generous and it was busting our budget and this discussion about, ‘Well, we put in one dollar and we get eight federal dollars that come down from Washington,’ ignores the issue that we’re talking about federally. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are what is busting our budget. By the middle of the century we’re going to have about $70 trillion worth of debt and we are not acknowledging that we have a role to play in that. We’re putting in one dollar, we’re pulling down $8 but one, that money comes from taxpayers, there’s no money tree in Washington, D.C. and the other thing is this, the federal government now borrows 41 cents, almost 42 cents of every dollar they spent. We are caught in this cycle that is leading to this national debt that is becoming a real national security issue. If we want to see where this road ends, all we have to do is look over at Europe, look at Greece, look at Spain where your creditors, the creditors of these countries are coming in and dictating what they can and cannot do and there’s riots in the streets. We need to take a global view of this, we need to take a real approach and get our national debt and deficit spending under control and the states are playing a role in that as well and we need to acknowledge that and start tackling it at the state level.
Jim Nintzel: Todd, your thoughts on AHCCCS expansion.
Todd Clodfelter: I agree with Ted. I don’t think we can afford to expand it. First of all, health insurance and healthcare is a commodity. It’s not a right or an entitlement, although as much as I feel positive that everybody should have healthcare available, I think we really need to review the whole model of the whole thing. If we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it and if we expand it and we can’t afford we’re going to expand the unaffordability and the money, like Ted said, has got to come from somewhere and the question is, where do you get it. The model of creating a system that rewards preventative medicine as opposed to sustaining repair medicine or people who get sick and have to have it at that point has got to be considered. If we could figure out a way to pay people to stay well rather than paying to have them repaired when they become sick or have medicines or need doctors attentions and a lot of the chronic illnesses that you find are based around some obesities and nutrition values and whatnot and that’s where complications begin. And it turns out that a large percent of the people don’t have too many health issues but a large percent of the monies that are spent are spent on a smaller portion of people who have complications because it’s the lack of preventative care.
Jim Nintzel: Stefanie, your thoughts on the AHCCCS expansion.
Stefanie Mach: I think we can’t afford not to. I think that you talk about all these costs that they’re just materializing out of thin air. They’re already in our system. People are already paying these costs through their insurance companies, through their own premiums, through everything that they’re already doing right now and what we’re doing with expansion of these services is allowing people to have preventative care that reduces the costs. Emergency room care is skyrocketing and it’s leaving hospitals to have to make up those costs anyways. So they’re doing that right now. This issue affects me very deeply. I had health insurance when I had my accident and that was because my dad was in the military and he gave to his country. I’ve given to my country through AmeriCorp, I’m done all that, and I’ve done everything right. I’ve gotten…I’m the first in my family to get a Bachelor’s Degree, I went on to get a Master’s, I started my own business and I can’t have access to that as an individual. I’ve done everything right in this society and yet still I don’t have access to the quality of life issues that I think are so important to not only human beings but also to our economy. I think that…you talk about how people are not playing a part in the system and they’re not being responsible. This is responsible. This is looking at it holistically and I think that we need to look at how it fits in the whole system.
Jim Nintzel:** Let’s talk about some of the social issues. Lawmakers passed a number of bills this last year regarding abortion and contraception, one of them that’s now on hold pending a federal or a challenge in the federal court involves whether or not state funds that come down through the healthcare system can be spent with Planned Parenthood for programs other than abortion such as cancer screenings or birth control or things of that nature. And Ted, you voted for that bill. Why did you vote for that bill?
Ted Vogt: Well, I’m pro-life and I understand that these are difficult issues, they are…these are issues that individuals feel very strongly about and one of the things we’re asked to do when you go up there to the Legislature is you vote your conscience, you do what you think is in the best interest of your constituents and society. But I think these…too much time is spent on these and you would think that the Legislature that’s all we do. 93 percent of the bills that passed out of the House of Representatives of Arizona were supported bipartisanly. 90 percent of the bills that were actually enacted into law were bipartisan. So this is a very, very small portion of what the Legislature has been doing though it gets a lot of press but quite frankly it’s like, what do you do after that. Do you focus on these issues and get fixated on it or do you go out and actively look for other areas of common ground to work on. That’s what I spend my time doing is trying to find the other areas where we can work together. As a matter of Mr. Wheeler and myself, we’ve done a couple of pieces of legislation up there, one to fix Rio Nuevo, another to help funding for the Poison Control Center run out of the University here. So it’s kind of like, what do you do after these issues. Are there difficult issues that you’re going to have to vote on that your colleagues might not agree with you on, yes. But what’s that next step that you do.
Jim Nintzel: And Bruce, your thoughts on…you voted against this legislation that would block the funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
Bruce Wheeler: Absolutely. I thought we settled this argument 50 years ago. A woman’s right to reproductive rights is fundamental in my opinion, it’s absolutely essential. And whatever the percentage of bills that were passed bipartisan, those were mostly housekeeping issues but the real issues of the direction of this state, education, healthcare, a woman’s right to choose, a woman’s right to have contraception in her healthcare plan is fundamental. Arizona passed the most restrictive such bill in the country last year and the courts continue to intervene and call them unconstitutional. It’s a misdirection of this Legislature, it does give the state a black eye and it’s very wrong.
Jim Nintzel: Stefanie, your thoughts on the bill that would block federal funds to Planned Parenthood for programs other than abortion.
Stefanie Mach: I think it’s ridiculous. I can’t understand why you wouldn’t be able to have access to healthcare that’s appropriate and safe. And really the cancer screenings and some of these people can’t…don’t have access to healthcare in any other way. These are the cheapest services that they can have access to. And so I think that it’s every woman’s right, every person’s right to have their own healthcare decisions. And for Republicans, I’m surprised that they want to have the overreach of government. It’s surprising to me that people who believe in small government want to get into people’s lives in such an intrusive way.
Jim Nintzel: And Todd, your thoughts.
Todd Clodfelter: I’m pro-life and I oppose abortion but at the same time I think that the nature of this topic is it’s a personal choice, it’s based on the needs of the family, perhaps somebody’s faith and community and there’s…I disagree with the government or legislation getting involved with this type of a thing. I agree with Stefanie that healthcare regardless should be available to anybody at an affordable cost and if you can do cancer screenings and other personal maintenance screenings for your healthcare, I’m in favor of that but not to support anything that has to do with abolishing a human life.
Ted Vogt: And Jim, I just want to point out that it’s been a longstanding federal law and it’s been a longstanding state law, no taxpayer dollars go to fund abortions.
Stefanie Mach: That’s exactly right.
Jim Nintzel: But the key to this bill was that it also said that other programs that Planned Parenthood does, even if these were not related to abortions, would not be eligible for funding.
Ted Vogt: And that has to do with more of the fundability of money. If you take money here or give money there, it frees up money to go over here. Again, it’s been a state law and a federal law on the books for years that no taxpayer money goes to abortions.
Bruce Wheeler: It’s vindictive. It’s vindictive, specifically targeting Planned Parenthood and all the services as Stefanie mentioned that it provides women and men and families. And that is wrong and that’s in the courts and already the federal judge has put a stay on it because of its unconstitutionality.
Jim Nintzel: All right, we’re down to about three minutes here so one last question just about taxes. There have been a number of recent efforts to just flatten the tax code, have a flat tax in Arizona. Ted, your thoughts on that.
Ted Vogt: I do think we need to have a lower and a broader tax here in the State of Arizona. Again, I think we’re overly reliant on sales tax and broadening the base and lowering the rates I think would be a good step, whether or not we go down to a complete flat tax, I’d have to look at the specifics on that.
Jim Nintzel: When you say broaden the base of income taxes…
Ted Vogt: Correct.
Jim Nintzel: …you mean raise taxes for folks who are not now paying taxes?
Ted Vogt: I think a little bit. I think people need to have some skin in the game, even if it’s a nominal amount but I think we can have a level right now where people, if it’s..again, I don’t know what the exact number is below amount you won’t pay anything but I think it’s good that people have skin in the game and a lower, broader tax base would be good for the State of Arizona.
Jim Nintzel: Bruce, your thoughts.
Bruce Wheeler: Briefly the whole tax code needs to be reexamined and unfortunately that’s not going to happen unless we take…have a majority in the Legislature which hopefully we’ll get a lot closer to this year. It’s skewered toward people that can…in favor of people that can afford to pay more and they’re not and it’s after the…it targets the middle class. For instance, what I say…when I mentioned how it’s skewered, it’s skewered for instance to not attract businesses into town, into southern Arizona. We were able to track the optics industry because we had tax incentives 17 years ago when I served on the city council. We aren’t doing that now. We ought to be doing that with biosciences and solar energy and have a tax code that’s really reflective of protecting the middle class and having a fair corporate tax instead of corporate tax giveaways.
Jim Nintzel: All right. We’re down to about 45 seconds so Stefanie, quickly here on the flat tax.
Stefanie Mach: I agree that…with what Bruce said. I would just say that in addition to that we need to make sure that we get the proper return on investment. We need to make sure that we guard taxpayer money and make sure that it is going towards what…I think the current realities are it’s important to have that return on investment.
Jim Nintzel: And Todd, you get the last word on this one.
Todd Clodfelter: I appreciate that. I agree with Bruce, I think we need a total overhaul of the tax code but we also need a broader tax base, we need to bring business, commerce and industry into Arizona and that will put more people to work who will spend their money, they’ll be paying taxes which means everybody pays a lower, fairer share. We’ve just go to increase industry, got to have a robust economy and that will solve a lot of our woes.
Jim Nintzel: All right. I’m afraid we’re just going to have to leave it there. So many more issues to discuss but I think all of you for coming in here tonight. You can learn more about what’s happening in politics by visiting azpm.org where we have this forum and many others posted online. To find out the latest from AZPM follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned next for the NewsHour and then be sure to be back into Arizona Illustrated for more Your Vote 2012 political forums between now and election day. I’m Jim Nintzel. Thanks for watching and have a wonderful night.