State legislators from Southern Arizona attended a recent forum at the Northwest YMCA.
Legislators Manuel Alvarez (D-District 25), Patricia Fleming (D-District 25), Al Melvin (R-District 26), Vic Williams (R-District 26) and Nancy Young Wright (D-District 26) all were on hand to answer prepared questions and those from audience members.
Government lobbyist Michael Racy moderated the discussion.
The Explorer attended the event on Friday, April 23. Here's some of what the lawmakers said.
Question: What did you accomplish during this legislative session?
Alvarez: "I'm not really proud of what has happened." He also worked on a bill to aid the state's minority communities, but without success."It died before it even got to committee."
Fleming: "Making myself a voice for Southern Arizona…(legislators) from the highly populated metropolis of Phoenix don't often pay attention."
She also said she worked to support the men and women who serve at the state's military installations. "They all made major contributions to our economic base."
Melvin: "The state budget is not unlike our own family budget, you can't spend more than you make." Melvin also addressed the costs to the state from illegal immigration. "The cost of illegal aliens in Arizona is roughly $2 billion per year, that's the same amount of our deficit."
Williams: "I intentionally took a very minimal role in the legislature." He said the budget travails have taken up most of his energy in the recent sessions. "Spending was out of control…It took us 12 to 14 months to get the budget in a situation where we can have a balanced budget."
Young Wright: "Trying to bring the voices of parents in our community to oppose cuts to education." She also said she took a lead role in trying to get visitation rights for siblings separated by Child Protective Services after a parent or guardian was found unfit.
Question: What other than Proposition 100 would you do to address the state's deficit?
Alvarez: "We don't need to pass legislation that makes us look like the Third World."
Fleming: "If we want to have jobs, we can't cut public education." She also said numerous tax loop holes should be closed because many businesses don't pay a fair share of taxes.
Melvin: "The way I see for us to accomplish this is for us to be the most atomic energy-friendly state in the nation." He suggested the state allow for the construction of three to four new nuclear power plants so the energy could be sold to neighboring states and to power water desalination plants. That water, Melvin said, would in turn be sold to other states.
Williams: "Jobs would be the No. 1 issue going forward." He also suggested the state eliminate the business personal property tax. "We're one of the few states that continues to have a business personal property tax."
Young Wright: "The No. 1 thing that we need to do is stop cutting funding to our universities." She also suggested the economy would be helped by enabling a solar power sector.
Question: What do you think of the recent immigration and "birther" bills? (Note: The legislature passed a bill that would require a presidential candidate to prove citizenship to appear on Arizona ballots.)
Alvarez: "This (immigration) bill is strictly an Arpaio bill." The reference was to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made numerous high-profile roundups of illegal immigrants.
Fleming:"I opposed both the bills … There's other things the state can do without stereotyping."
Melvin: "As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a problem with people producing a birth certificate for every office in government."
Williams: "I support it (the immigration bill), but there's some things I'm not happy with." On the birther bill: "It's a waste of time. I voted against it."
Young Wright: "I guess we're being laughed at nationwide. I've already heard from people in Oro Valley who say they have been pulled over because they are Latino."