Farnsworth was narrowly defeated by Verschoor, who at the time was a favorite for Senate president. For the time being, Farnsworth said he is happy to be out of professional politics and doesn’t know if he will ever again run for office.
But that won’t keep him from voicing his opinion on the problems facing the state, especially the budget. With his trademark candor, Farnsworth talked with the Arizona Capitol Times about the conflict between the governor and the Legislature, this year’s budget discussions and possible election outcomes.
What is your opinion of the budget “deal” struck by the governor and Republican leadership?
I think overall there is an opportunity that is being lost in these budget discussions. When we go back and look – you can’t just take this budget in a vacuum – we had this insatiable desire to increase programs and spend money. When I was there, I told them that in five years we wouldn’t be able to balance the budget without a tax increase. And that is where we are now. This is simple economics. There is no surprise here.
If the Legislature had followed what I said, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We would still have an economic downturn because the market moves in cycles, but we wouldn’t be in the fiscal mess that we are in today if we had followed the conservative way of thinking.
With that as a background, I think the agreement is a step in the right direction. My concern is, though, that they are not cutting enough. I think we need to take this opportunity right now to get our fiscal house in order. They ought to decide that they are going to take the next three years to closely look at the cuts and adjustments that need to happen. The lobbyists will say that we are moving backward, but we never should have been spending this much to begin with. It is going to be painful, but the price has to be paid.
What should be cut?
There are some obvious cuts, I think, that could be made. For example, all-day kindergarten. You would think that I would support that or push it, but it is a relatively new program that no one has become entrenched in. Plus, there is no viable data that says it is valuable other than as a babysitting service. I don’t mean that to be rude or harsh. There just simply is nothing that says quantitatively that all-day kindergarten is going to make anybody a better student. There are more programs like that that are relatively new that we could make cuts to that won’t be as detrimental.
I do have concerns that we are making cuts to education before we are considering non-constitutional programs. Education has to be a consideration because it makes up half of the budget. But we should protect those constitutionally mandated programs against other programs that are not constitutionally mandated, as painful as those cuts may be. It makes absolutely no sense to have a Constitution that we all swear to uphold if we are all going to go straight to cutting the constitutionally mandated programs.
Republican lawmakers seemed to believe at the start of the session that with Jan Brewer on the Ninth Floor they would be able to make the cuts needed to balance the budget. What went wrong?
Nothing went wrong. We don’t have enough conservatives in the Legislature, even within the Republican Caucus. If the Republicans had been able to come together under (Janet) Napolitano they would have had the majority and those budgets might not have passed. But they never could. In fact, some of those that were pushing for the increased spending were from the Republican Caucus.
You also have the politics of it. No one wants to go back to their constituents and get beat up because they cut a key program. People say it is easy to say “no” on a budget. But the reality is that it is the most difficult thing to say “no” on a budget that has momentum and push. It is much more difficult to say we are not going to give everything to everybody.
We have those who are unwilling to stand up for what is right fiscally. Some don’t believe it is the right thing and believe in socialism or fascism, which is the wave of the future, instead. Some are too concerned with the politics of it. And some are just coerced by the process and they cave.
What would you have done differently if you were the speaker of the House or the Senate president to garner support for a more conservative budget?
I certainly don’t blame the president or the speaker. Although they have some authority and some power in their positions, they have one vote. The individual rank-and-file members are going to have to make their decisions individually. I think the legislative members have to get real about the consequences of their votes. I am not sure that a lot of them recognize the damage they are causing in the long run.
Do you support the governor’s tax increase?
I don’t support that. I think she believes a lot of what she is suggesting. I disagree. I think she is looking to get re-elected.
We have to make a decision. We are either going to continue the wonderful model set up by our founding fathers or we are going to continue the Barack Obama model of injecting government into every facet of our lives. The next few budgets are probably going to be key to that. Either the Legislature is going to stand up and say “enough is enough. We are unwilling to go down that path to socialism.” Or they are going to embrace it.
Do you think Brewer’s decision to back the tax increase will hurt her chances in a primary election?
Yes, I think some of the decisions she is making will rankle the conservative side of the caucus. I respect her for her willingness to come out in support of the tax increase knowing the kind of backlash she would get. I disagree with her, but I respect her.
We need to be taking this time to reduce the structural deficit. We can’t keep raising taxes and borrowing. The gimmicks just keep building upon each other. We are passing this legacy of fiscal irresponsibility on to our children. We have to close the structural deficit so that when the stimulus money runs out we can move forward without any additional burden whether the economy is better or not.
Can the state eliminate a structural deficit when it has things like propositions 204 and 301 on the books, which require the state to increase spending in health care and education annually?
That is not what put us in this problem. It did exacerbate the problem. And, in fact, I was one of the first ones to call for altering these voter-approved mandates. I ran a bill, which passed, that has helped this problem. The bill said that if the voters were going to approve a spending law that they had to identify a revenue stream that was not the general fund. That at least stopped the hemorrhage.
There is a problem with props. 204 and 301, I agree with that, but it is small compared to the tax-and-spend mentality overall.
Let’s talk about the election.
Mine or the federal one?
Let’s start with yours. Do you think being endorsed by Equality Arizona affected the outcome?
I don’t know. I really haven’t taken the time to analyze it. It is what it is. I knew I was running against an incumbent. And he did a very good job of selling that he was going to be the next Senate president, which obviously he is not. It was a straightforward election. He got more votes than I did.
Do you think Senator Verschoor has properly represented the district?
Thayer is a friend. I know that he is conservative. But the reason I chose to run was that I believe he has set aside his conservative values because he had lobbyists telling him he had to do that to get to a bigger and better office. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not looking for a bigger and better office. I am representing this district at this time whenever I am there.
Whenever I had constituents call or e-mail me to say they wouldn’t vote for me if I voted a certain way, I would tell them I am not running for office. I think that Thayer set that aside because he had a number of lobbyists, some of whom I find to be less than honorable -
I will just leave it at that. They know who they are. They convinced him that he had to give up his conservative values to move up. That is unfortunate.
Senator Verschoor is termed out after this term …
That is what I hear.
Are you planning to run?
I have no idea.
I have heard that you are considering running for attorney general. Is there any truth to that?
I have heard a lot of rumors. I have heard Corporation Commission, attorney general, Legislature and all kinds of stuff. To be quite honest with you, I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever run for office again, and I can’t say that I won’t. Right now, I am just enjoying not being in politics.
Do you think your frankness would be a disadvantage if you ran again?
It has absolutely tripped me up in the past. But I had to decide early on how I was going to act. I had to decide why I was there. Conservatives are in the minority, even though Republicans have the majority. And I decided I wasn’t going to be a go-along to get along. That isn’t my style.
I am more direct at the Legislature than I am at home or in my business or in church, where I think I need to show more decorum. But at the Legislature, I was dealing with people who were trying to take away freedom and tell me what to do. I knew it wouldn’t do any good to be like the others who sit back and compromise on everything.
Did you want to talk about the federal election?
I will touch on it for just a second. We are no longer headed down the path of socialism. We have been socialist for a long time. The only thing that has tempered that is that we are constitutional republic. But at the federal level, we have blown past socialism and are now fully entrenched into fascism.
I mean, the federal government owns private industry. They decide who are the winners and losers through these loans that are happening. They have legislation now that would take out the limitation on the federal control of waterways. The law currently gives them control of navigable waterways, but the bill would take out the navigable part. That means that the feds will control all water, like a puddle or a local stream.
The federal government is now injecting itself so far into state’s issues and the individual lives of the people in this country. If we don’t push back, we will never be able to capture that authority at the local level.
If you could do anything and you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?
I never worry about failing. Not that I won’t, but I just don’t let it stop me. If I want to do something, I just do it. But I guess if there was no chance of failing whatsoever I would be involved in some higher level of government.
Should we keep an eye out for Farnsworth for president?
That would be one way. And, candidly, that might be the best way because apparently the president can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, though, I wouldn’t be able to because I would adhere to the Constitution.
What childhood event shaped your political views the most?
I don’t think there was any single event. It was more just the upbringing I had. My parents were very strong in doing what is right. And for some reason, I had a tremendous interest in understanding government principles. My mom bought me a series of books about the presidents, and I read those. I was a voracious reader even as a child. That has never ended. I continue to read and study and learn.
If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Fearfully so, I would love to have a few minutes with Jesus Christ and talk with him. Next to that, probably George Washington. Washington is one of my heroes. He carried the freedom movement on his shoulders for years and years. And even though he was imperfect, he continued to strive to achieve what he saw as a tremendous blessing in his life and in the lives of his family and his posterity.
Do you think you are funny?
Since I have been out of the Legislature, I am actually a really funny guy. It has come back.