After two years in the “super-minority,” when his caucus was unnecessary for even a two-thirds vote by Republicans, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell is ready for Democrats to have a voice on the budget.
This year, Campbell hopes the governor will have to work with his caucus if she wants to pass her budget proposals, including AHCCCS expansion, and he sees a chance for a grand compromise on the budget. The 2013 session is Campbell’s third year as House minority leader, and his seventh year in the Legislature. This is his fourth and final term in the House under term limits.
So this is your senior year. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the past six years you’ve been here?
I think the biggest change has been more partisanship, less compromise. When I first got down here we had a Democratic governor, we had a coalition of moderate Ds and moderate Rs that would work together with the governor, and that doesn’t exist any longer. I think we’ve seen it the last two years in particular with the supermajority. It’s one party rule down here and that’s unfortunate.
For the past couple of years you’ve talked about how the Democrats’ role is to be watchdogs. With the increase in the caucus numbers, how do your tactics change?
I think that’s still our job in many respects. We’re still in the minority party and I think anytime you’re in the minority party you need to be the watchdog. You need to make sure the public knows what’s going on here and what the majority party is doing. That being said, we do have closer numbers now, so I think that we need to work proactively to influence legislation and pass legislation as much as possible. And again, stop the bad legislation, work with people across the isle who are willing to work with us, work with the Governor’s Office if she’s willing to work with us. And we have some big issues that need that type of approach, Medicaid expansion being one of them.
How does the governor’s decision to pursue a full Medicaid expansion change the dynamics in the Legislature, specifically in the House?
That’s hard to project. At the end of the day, I think the biggest thing is we have to recognize, and everybody does, that this is going to be an effort that needs bipartisan support. We can’t expect this to go along party lines, and that’s the way most legislation should be, if you ask me. I think in an ideal world we wouldn’t put aside good ideas just because they’re introduced by one party. We would actually debate them all and have a conversation about all the good ideas down here. Hopefully this issue around Medicaid will create some more opportunities for us to work with the governor and vice-versa. And maybe we can build on that, not just in Medicaid but some other key issues that I think we all agree need to be addressed.
What are the other areas of legislation that you think the Democrats can influence?
I think most people down here agree that we have to have a conversation about how we finance and fund our schools. I know that Governor Brewer is working on something, I’m working on something, and I think that others are working on some things. Hopefully there’s some common ground we can find on that. I think accountability and transparency is a huge issue down here. I think a lot of Republicans agree with my position and many other Democrats’ position that we have too many handouts, too many bad tax credits, not enough transparency in certain entities like the Arizona Commerce Authority. It’s time to get rid of these cronyisms and abuse of the system that’s taking place across the board and make sure the taxpayer dollars are protected.
If you had a magic wand that could restore three programs that have been cut in recent years, what would those three programs be?
I think we have to look at how we’re doing education funding. We have to put money back into our school system. I think that’s the number one priority for us right now, is how we put money back into the school system. I know it hasn’t been gutted totally, but we have to look at how we restore that. If you want to talk about something that’s been cut completely and it’s a very, very big issue for us right now, the School Resource Officer program. We don’t fund that anymore out of the general fund. I think in light of what just happened (in Newtown, Conn.) we need to restore that ASAP, and that’s something that we’re going to propose… Magic wand? I think we need to go the full expansion on Medicaid, that’s a big one.
Do we have a revenue or a spending problem?
At this point we have a revenue problem. Especially with the loss of Prop. 204 and the eventual loss of the sales tax, we have a revenue problem. That being said, we have a revenue problem in terms of we’re spending money in the wrong places. So, for instance, stealing $50 million from the mortgage settlement fund last year and then pushing that money over into private prisons was a joke… Overall we have a structural revenue problem in the state that we’re going to have to address and at some point we’re going to have to talk about how we get more revenue into the state’s bank accounts.
How seriously are you looking at a run for governor?
Seriously looking at it, obviously. I’m not rushing to a decision, I think we have plenty of time, but it’s something that people have been talking to me about for quite some time, and we’re looking at it, analyzing numbers, looking at the landscape, doing what we should be doing. But my priority right now is to focus on the session, get ready for the session and gear up for that.
If you were to not run for governor and do something non-political, what would you like to do?
(Laughs) That sounds so dreamy right there. I’m a private consultant, I work for a communications company. We do strategic communications and corporate affairs things like that. I would just continue doing that. It’s something that I love to do, and I don’t define myself by being a public official.