With a mere third of the House of Representatives being Democrats, Minority Leader Chad Campbell knew it was going to be an uphill battle trying to put a dent in the Republicans’ agenda this past session.
Predictably, the Democrats couldn’t get their proposals for tax reforms into the budget, nor could they stop a torrent of conservative legislation. But Campbell said that they did manage to get some of their goals accomplished, even if it was just keeping the public eye on the Legislature.
In an April 28 interview, Campbell discussed some of what he and the Democrats were able to do, the things they wished they could have done and his plans for the future.
Coming into the session, you knew you were outnumbered two-to-one by Republicans. What was your strategy?
Our strategy this session was really just to make sure the public knew what was going on down here, make sure it was as transparent as possible, try to hold the majority party accountable for their actions, and really make sure that the voters of the state were paying attention to what was going on, because we knew we weren’t going to be able to stop much, obviously.
What did you do, to that end?
We were proactive in our approach to the media, and I know that our members held office hours throughout the session, we would hold office hours with our constituents in our districts. We really just tried to make sure we got the message out through the media, as well as just talking to our constituents back home.
Do you feel like you were effective in that strategy? Do you think it made any sort of a difference?
Yeah, I think so. I haven’t seen any polling yet, necessarily, but in my conversations with people across the state, both Democrats and Republicans, I definitely think it’s worked. I think people probably paid more attention this year to what was going on down here than they have in quite some time. And I think people are unhappy
Let’s talk about the budget. Obviously, the Democrats objected to the size and scope of the cuts. What sort of things would you have rather seen?
We’ve said time and time again: we need to start looking at these bad tax credits that aren’t working, I think the STOs (student tuition organizations) are a prime example. That tax credit needs to end. It’s ridiculous that we continue to expand that program. We’ve seen the corruption in it, we’ve seen the abuse of that program. It needs to end.
We need to look at some of these exemptions, some of the loopholes that exist in the sales tax code, and I think we need to look at how we make our tax code more structurally sound in the long term.
Can you give me some examples?
We need to modernize our economy; we’re not solely a manufacturing-based economy anymore, like we used to be. There’s a lot of service type of work going on. It’s not fair to other business sectors that they’re being exempted from this code.
And I think the bottom line, though, to all of this is if you start looking at these loopholes and these exemptions, if you start closing these loopholes and these exemptions, and start spreading that tax base, you can hopefully start lowering the overall tax rate and lower the overall tax burden. And that’s key.
I know that one of the big criticisms when it came to the budget, is “you’ve never come to the majority party with a budget.” They said, “You need to create a budget, bring it to us, and then we’ll talk about it.” First of all, is there any truth in that?
We came to the majority party with a budget the past two years. Never got a single hearing; never got anything out of it, in fact.
The budget process is broken down here. The majority party shouldn’t be making a budget behind closed doors. The budget should be made in the Appropriations Committee — that’s why you have the committee. So the fact that they say that we’re supposed to come to them with a budget is absolutely incorrect.
But don’t you think your constituents expect, if the budget is being done behind closed doors, for you to be banging on those doors?
We tried. And we offered them tons of ways to get more revenue in the door to fund some of these programs, and we made examples of that on the floor during the debate. The bottom line is, the majority party has no interest in any new revenue. Period. That’s the bottom line. They do not want to fund anything down here, they want to gut government. That is obvious.
We offered two budgets in ’09, we offered a budget in 2010 that had cuts in there, we showed the Republican Party we’re willing to make cuts. We have to make cuts. We know that. But the Republican Party has not once shown us anything where they will come into the middle and say, “here’s how we can fix our broken tax code, make revenue more stable, pay for education.” They’ve never once moved.
Luige: I think every legislator is thinking about a higher office, and that’s natural, you’re all politicians, you all think that way.
Come on. We’re not all politicians. I’m really hurt by that. (laughs)
Luige: But I’m wondering, is that something that’s on the horizon for you?
Uhhh… I’ve had a lot of people talking to me about it, actually. There’s a bunch of rumors going on right now. And, um… (Pause.) I was really focused on session, so now we’re out of session, I’ve kind of recuperated a bit. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do. At the end of the day, there are people who are talking to me about it. I guess I should be honored — or scared, I’m not sure. But, you know, I am talking to people, and at the end of the day, the bottom line for me is, I’m an Arizona native. I got involved in running for office because I wanted to make my community and my state a better place. I never actually viewed myself as a politician. I still don’t, actually, and I mean that. So if I were to run for something else, I would only do it if I think it’s gonna help out the community that I would be running in, or the state, or whatever it may be.