Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alfredo Gutierrez said he would abolish the state schools facilities board and take a hammer to tax loopholes and giveaways.
Gutierrrez spoke at a debate last night at the Marriott University Park hotel sponsored by the Tucson Citizen and the Goldwater Institute that featured all 10 candidates for governor.
He is trailing in the polls behind Democratic front-runner Janet Napolitano, the state's attorney general. Gutierrez, a powerful state lawmaker in the 1970s and 1980s, blasted Arizona government, saying it is dominated by Phoenix interests. "Every major decision is made within three miles of the capital," he said.
Gutierrez said he would would move the Department of Commerce to Tucson because it is "the gateway to international trade." And he would move state border policy operations from Phoenix to Douglas.
Gutierrez said if he were elected governor, he would eliminate the schools facilities board, which he labeled another Phoenix power grab. Created to equalize school construction across the state, Gutierrez said it has resulted in Phoenix politicians stealing control of school construction from local school districts.
Napolitano said she would not abolish the schools facilities board, but make it more accountable by providing better oversight.
Napolitano identified her No. 1 priority as education. "We will fight for children by having a quality education system where every child must learn to read by the third grade," she said.
Gutierrez, considered Napolitano's toughest primary opponent, said he is the only candidate who will increase state spending for education. "I am running against the attorney general, the state treasurer, the secretary of state and a past congressman and not one of them will commit to increasing money to universities and K-12 education," he said. "These four elected officials maintain they can better manage the current quagmire than Jane Hull. Well, I don't accept the quagmire. I am operating on a different set of assumptions."
Napolitano was asked if she would support an initiative similar to one approved by Colorado voters that limits state spending increases to growth in the economy. "We are different than Colorado. We have infrastructure needs we haven't even begun to develop," including health care, roads and education.
Napolitano did say, however, that some cuts in state spending are needed. She suggested some vacant positions that are unfilled because of a state budgetary shortfall should not be filled. Mark Osterloh, a Tucson ophthalmologist who has written and campaigned for successful voter initiatives to improve health care and provide public financing of elections, said the next governor must take issues directly to the people and that he is prepared to do that.
"If we get a Democrat elected governor, chances are that one or both Houses of the Legislature will be controlled by Republicans," he said. Osterloh, who was asked to comment on issues of church and state, said morals and ethics can be and should be taught in schools and "that it can be done without pushing a particular religion." He said laws to legalize medical marijuana are a "smokescreen" to legalize pot.
Dr. Mike Newcomb, a geriatric specialist running for office for the first time, said the state has not spent enough on social services and education. "Our greatest asset is not the Grand Canyon and it isn't our weather, it's our people. I want to see us get back to a state that truly values people."
Libertarian Party candidates Gary Fallon and Barry Hess espoused limited-government views.
Hess said if he is elected, he would make dramatic cuts in the Department of Corrections by granting clemency to all nonviolent prisoners convicted of victimless crimes. "Our prisons are the fastest-growing part of state government because we have too many stupid laws that prevent people from doing what they want."
Fallon said no spending cuts would be off the table if he were elected.