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NPR All Things Considered - Transcript

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National Public Radio (NPR)

SHOW: All Things Considered (9:00 PM ET) - NPR

January 15, 2004 Thursday

HEADLINE: Sonny Perdue and Janet Napolitano discuss the current fiscal situation of their respective states

ANCHORS: MELISSA BLOCK; MICHELE NORRIS

BODY:
NORRIS: Republican Sonny Perdue, governor of Georgia.

Democrat Janet Napolitano is in her first term as governor of Arizona. Her state's fiscal situation is much improved over last year, but the budget is $310 million in the red. She wants to make up the difference with bond issues and assorted financing schemes. She's also proposed millions of dollars in new spending, mostly on education.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): I'm proposing a multifaceted investment in Arizona children, improving the quality of child care in our state, increasing the amount of child care subsidy we can provide to working parents, combining with a five-year phase-in of voluntary all-day kindergarten for our students--currently, all-day kindergarten is not uniformly available throughout our state--combined with a focus on increasing literacy in our early grades, and that means looking at our certification process and increasing the number of master teachers we have in our schools.

NORRIS: You also focused on higher education, but one thing that I didn't see, and I was a bit surprised by that, is a focus on the dropouts in the state since the dropout rate, particularly for Hispanic students,

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Yeah.

NORRIS: ...is somewhere around 40 percent. How do you hope to build a work force in the state if so many students are dropping out of school?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, it's a combination of things. One is by putting master teachers in the classrooms, that is really designed to help us with dropout. But in the long run, the most systemic and effective way to reduce dropout, or to keep kids in school, is to make sure they get attached to school early. That's why we have to take--not only do some things in the short term for the students currently in school, but really look at the long-term future of our state.

NORRIS: Your education and early childhood proposals--How much will all this cost?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, it is difficult to say because it's difficult to predict. But in the early stages, in the first year, we are looking at, for just the kindergarten part, putting in a little over 25 million.

NORRIS: Now Republican lawmakers--you know, they're going to be looking for specifics, and many of them in the state say they're worried about taking on new spending programs and initiatives when the state faces another shortfall. Might it not be prudent to take a more conservative approach to expanding state programs?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, this is a conservative approach. And what would be wrong would be to be recklessly pessimistic and not to invest. We really will not build our economy unless we build the next generation. We don't need to do what we did in the '90s, which is do nothing. We need to do something.

NORRIS: Governor, I'd like to ask you about immigration, if I could.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Sure.

NORRIS: Arizona, of course, shares a very large and long border with Mexico.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Yes.

NORRIS: What's your opinion of President Bush's proposed immigration reforms?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I am very pleased that the president is re-engaging in the debate on immigration, because it is such a federal issue. For us in Arizona, the current immigration law is unworkable as a matter of law enforcement, as a matter of economics and has had a terrible humanitarian cost in terms of literally finding hundreds of people who have died of thirst in the desert trying to cross when, in effect, if we had some sort of temporary worker program, they could cross safely and through the ports of entry.

I can't comment more specifically on the president's plan because his plan doesn't really have specifics. But just in terms of the notion of 'Let us now begin to rethink our immigration policy' and 'Is it working, and how can it be made better?' I'm delighted to see it.

NORRIS: Governor, thank you so much.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. We also spoke earlier with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

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