Gubernatorial front-runners Jan Brewer and Terry Goddard faced off against each other Wednesday night and made a number of statements on jobs, education and health care. Were they factual?
Goddard several times noted that Arizona's economy has lost 128,000 jobs since Brewer took office in January 2009, charging she hasn't addressed the emergency aggressively enough.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the job loss is actually higher: 143,000 jobs down since the start of 2009.
Whether it's fair to hang the job losses on Brewer's leadership is another matter. While the unemployment rate has been stuck at 9.6 percent for three months, the U.S. rate, at 9.5 percent, has been persistently sluggish despite attempts to inject more money into the economy with stimulus funds.
State Commerce Department numbers show the rate of job loss is slowing, little by little.
Goddard has said his job plan will bring 300,000 new jobs, which he said was derived from consultations with economists and business leaders. Glenn Hamer, the president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has endorsed Brewer, said he hadn't studied the plan in detail, but the broad outlines didn't seem to approach that level of job generation.
Brewer countered by saying that under her administration, she's brought thousands of jobs into Arizona and millions in capital assets.
Her staff has circulated a list of 33 projects that have come to the state since the beginning of 2009, bringing a total of more than 7,200 jobs and more than $2.8 billion in investments.
On the list: Sargent Aerospace and Defense, which is pegged for 175 new jobs in Marana, with $15 million in investments. The company announced in June that it plans to double the size of its operation here.
Brewer's role? Lisa Short, Sargent's director of strategic planning, credited the town of Marana and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities with making sure the company wasn't lured away by California or Florida. Marana offered to help speed up development and provide tax credits for money spent on the construction. She did say the Commerce Department is helping the company explore state tax credits as well.
She said she couldn't commit to the 175 jobs listed on the chart, saying the growth is contingent in part on the economy.
Goddard said the federal health-care overhaul law will save the state money over time.
Brewer said the state can't afford it, since it's already having a hard time meeting its obligations under its Medicaid program.
Who's right hinges in part on how you look at a report produced by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on the long-term impacts of the new law.
The report, using the fiscal 2010 budget, estimated $2.3 billion in savings over the next decade, in large part because the federal government ratchets up its assistance to offset costs to the states over time, to help them comply with expanding coverage to 133 percent of federal poverty level ($29,300 for a family of four.)
But relative to the fiscal 2011 budget base - which includes spending for Kids-Care and complying with higher eligibility approved by voters in 2000 - the state will pay an additional $9.7 billion. Add in the $2.3 billion in savings and the state is still on the hook for $7.4 billion in additional costs.
Goddard several times insisted Brewer did not meet her constitutional mandate to balance the state budget.
Brewer said it was balanced just fine until the Obama administration blew a hole in it.
On the first point, it was never really balanced.
The budget assumes that voters will approve two fund sweeps in November. If they refuse to hand over funds for early-childhood programs and land conservation, the budget will be out of whack by $469 million.
The bigger problem is the state still faces an ongoing structural deficit since it relied on a number of one-time fixes, from delaying education payments to the lease-back of state buildings. The difference between what the state takes in and what it spends is projected at $1.7 billion.
As far as the role of the federal government, the August federal-aid package funded health-care costs at a lower level than budget analysts had predicted. The aid package provided $236 million, but the full cost is closer to $394 million.
Goddard said he has actively opposed using an economic boycott to pressure the state into rescinding SB 1070. He said the letters he wrote to Rep. Raúl Grijalva - who called for a limited boycott of conventions and conferences - "helped to change his mind, and I'm very proud of that."
Grijalva, however, said, "As much as I like Terry and support him, his influence was minimal to none." He said, "It had more to do with the fact I was being blamed for the economic depression in Arizona. I felt that jobs were being hurt and that it was becoming a reason not to deal with the issue of immigration.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org