Q&A with Chad Campbell
House Democratic Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix is entering his eighth and final year as a lawmaker, coming off of a huge win last year when Democrats were able to pass a budget including some of their key priorities with the help from a few Republicans and Gov. Jan Brewer. Campbell is hoping it won’t be a one-time deal and the minority party can become a real part of the budget and legislative process this year and beyond.
How does that bode for the legislative session if both the Democratic leadership and Republican leadership were caught off guard by the governor calling for CPS to become its own agency?
It’s Groundhog Day. It happened last year (with Medicaid expansion) and we got through it. I mean Medicaid was a bombshell and none of us knew that was coming. So at least this year, around CPS, everybody down here agrees that something must be done. I don’t think there’s anybody down here who says ‘CPS is fine, we don’t need to do anything with it.’ So we all agree there’s an issue and we need to address it. Last year with Medicaid there was a fundamental, philosophical difference of opinion on whether or not Medicaid (expansion) needed to be enacted at all. We had two very different factions working around that principle. So we have a much better starting point this year and I think we’ll move forward quicker. But I don’t think it’s going to be a quick session, to be honest.
(After approving a budget that included Medicaid expansion last year, Campbell and Gov. Jan Brewer celebrated with an embrace). Have you talked with the governor since the hug?
No, not really. We’ve had conversations with her office regarding her education funding plan, obviously CPS, we’ve had disagreements over that obviously, but that’s been the gist of it so far.
What about the nine House Republicans from the Medicaid coalition?
We’ve been talking to all of them. I’ve been talking to the speaker (House Speaker Andy Tobin) as much as anyone. The speaker and I talked about some ideas around the budget, some ideas around HURF funding, I’m sure you saw the letter the speaker and I wrote together to the governor. I’m feeling relatively optimistic that the speaker and I can come into this session and work together. I think we have some priorities that overlap.
Yeah, it seems like you guys have almost turned over a new leaf. I mean you’ve famously not gotten along over the years, right?
I still think that’s been overblown. (Laughs) I don’t think that on a personal level that we’ve ever had an issue. We’ve disagreed on policy, and we’ve disagreed on some things down here in terms of how things are being run. But personally, we’ve always gotten along. I don’t have anything against Andy, and I don’t think he’s had anything personal against me. The difference this year is we actually have some similar policy ideas. So that’s a good thing.
So last year showed a new bipartisan Legislature, to some degree. At the end of this year, do you expect to be looking back and seeing that as the new normal, or just an anomaly?
I think on the House side, it will be – I don’t want to say the new norm – but I think we’ll have a bipartisan group of people working together. On the budget, on CPS, on a few things. On the Senate side, I don’t know. I don’t know what Senate President (Andy) Biggs is looking to do. But based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t feel confident that Andy Biggs is looking to form a bipartisan group in the Senate in any way, shape or form.
And what are your actual budget priorities, specifically, where should we increase spending?
Infrastructure, obviously, HURF is a big one, we want to restore HURF funding. CPS, we’ve got to reform it and we’ve also got to fund it, I believe it needs more money. And the big one is education. We’ve got K-12, they’re going to get inflation funding, and that’s huge. I think there is some promise, hopefully, with the governor’s new model that she changed from last year’s model, which was horrible. And we have to get some more money into the K-12 system for some other needs too. But I think the big one is higher education, we’ve really shortchanged them for several years. And on a personal level, something I’ve been fighting for for several years, and I hope this year we can get it back into the budget, is financial aid. We need to put money into financial aid for students. Our students are going into massive debt. We don’t fund any financial aid at the state level, which is just insanity to me.
After seven full years in the Legislature, what would you say is the biggest institutional problem here?
Lack of transparency, definitely, and the budget process kind of exemplifies it. I think there has to be more integration inclusion of the public in the budget process, and I’m not sure exactly what the answer is. But I think bottom line is the budget process should be going through the appropriations committees, and should be going through sub-committees, as it used to if you talk to some of the people who have been here a long time… Unfortunately, that’s just become par for the course down here – doing these back-room deals, doing these budgets behind closed doors and then forcing them on the floor. I mean, we had to do it last year. We had to take part in that last year, which was not the way I wanted to do it.