State [Needs] More Business, They Say
Front-runner Matt Salmon won't lose much ground in his quest for his party's gubernatorial nomination if volume by supporters is an indicator of success at the polls.
Salmon's contingent at a near-standing-room only forum featuring all 10 candidates for Arizona governor last night appeared intent on cheering him into office. Several times, Salmon responses to questions drew loud approval from his supporters in the hall.
Nearly 300 attended the debate, which was sponsored by the Goldwater Institute and Tucson Citizen at the Marriott University Park hotel at the University of Arizona.
A poll last month showed Salmon with a nearly 2-1 lead over Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, and much farther ahead of State Treasurer Carol Springer, as the campaign heads toward the Sept. 10 primary that will decide the party candidate to succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Jane Hull.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney, who served as secretary of state as a Democrat from 1991-95, also was present, as were all four Democratic candidates and two Libertarians.
A four-person panel peppered the candidates with questions during the two-hour forum.
Bayless, in her second four-year term as secretary of state, said the state needs to direct more money to education and ensure that more of it reaches classrooms and students. She also called for cutting "middle levels" of state government, a "reasonable regulatory environment" for businesses and eliminating the personal property tax for business.
"This tax is killing us in the attraction of wealth-generating companies," Bayless said.
Mahoney made it clear he has cut his ties to the two major party system.
"You know what this is about - it's just Phoenix interest groups," he said.
Mahoney called for a moratorium on construction of electrical generating plants. He also vowed to cut the salary of the governor's job by 25 percent if elected, and sell the aircraft used by the governor to help offset the state deficit.
Salmon pledged to bring 500,000 new jobs to the state, each paying at least $40,000 a year.
Although the state's short-term financial picture is glum, Salmon said the future will be bright.
Springer, elected state treasurer in 1998, is running as the candidate with the experience to fix the state's budget woes.
Three years ago, Arizona's financial picture was good, Springer said. Miscues and outright blunders by elected officials changed that.
"In January, six months from now, there will be only one issue in Arizona," she said.
"We are in the midst of a monumental financial crisis in Arizona."
In response to a panel question, Bayless said few programs are safe from potential state cuts to address the budget deficit.
Public safety programs and services, education and some "safety net" programs are among the areas that are "off the table" and won't be cut if she is governor, Bayless said.
In response to a panel question, Mahoney said the state's precarious financial picture would "make it tough" to provide tax credits to businesses that would underwrite scholarships to private and charter schools.
One way to raise money for the financially strapped state, he said, would be to start applying the state sales tax to areas where it currently isn't collected.
On the Arizona economy as a "knowledge" based economy, Springer said that "information in one form or the other is the wave of the future."
But the state's role in molding the future economy should be carefully thought out, she said.
"I think we should confine our efforts primarily to those things the government should do better."
Bayless said the state has shortchanged education in cutting funding.
In response to a question, Mahoney said he would support an initiative tying growth of state government to economic growth.
Also in answer to a question, Salmon supported higher pay for many teachers. Springer also agreed that teachers should be paid more.