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Natinal Public Radio, Talk of the Nation - Transcript

Location: Phoenix, AZ

National Public Radio (NPR)

SHOW: Talk of the Nation (3:00 PM ET) - NPR

HEADLINE: Governor Janet Napolitano discusses politics and policy in the state of Arizona



This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Phoenix, Arizona.

And here are a few of the stories NPR News is working on this afternoon. The Senate has voted for a measure that would block the Labor Department from implementing new rules on overtime pay. The Bush administration wants to change the number of Americans eligible for overtime, and the White House has threatened a veto if the Senate version of the bill is the one that arrives on the president's desk. A car bomb exploded at an American intelligence compound in Erbil in northern Iraq today. The attack killed three people, including two children. Details on those stories coming up later today on "All Things Considered."

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION, journalist Katherine Ashenburg talks about her new book "The Mourner's Dance." It's a story of personal loss and an exploration of the traditions and rituals of mourning across time and culture. Join guest host Lynn Neary next TALK OF THE NATION, tomorrow from NPR News.

Today we're broadcasting from member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona, and joining us now in the studio is the governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano.

And good of you to be with us on TALK OF THE NATION.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): Oh, thanks a lot.

CONAN: I feel like I'm in your house. They've relabeled this studio 3AZ for us today, but you're here a lot more often than I am.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I am. I do a monthly show here.

CONAN: Well, you were here only yesterday, but if you didn't get a call in yesterday to Governor Napolitano or if you're calling from somewhere else in the country and would like to ask her a question, our phone number is (800) 989-8255; (800) 989-TALK. And our e-mail address is

And, Governor, before the break we were discussing the dangers to illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico, another record year for deaths in Arizona. You know, we were talking to the federal agents; it's largely their problem. What's the state government's role?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, it is limited because immigration is exclusively federal. But you know, we are working with the states of northern Mexico and with the government of Mexico to see if we can do some things to deter people from crossing, at least in the summer when it is so hot and so difficult to cross. I was just in Mexico City meeting with their minister of foreign affairs, and one of the things we talked about is we know the states in Mexico that a large percentage of those who are crossing originate from, and to do kind of a campaign down there, encouraging people not to cross in the summer when, again, it is very, very hot.

CONAN: There are various kinds of civilian activist groups on the border, those who are worried about the illegal immigration and, you know, sometimes called vigilantes, those who are trying to prevent the high number of casualties are sometimes called Good Samaritans. What are you doing to control this activity?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, we do have groups on the border, the so-called vigilantes, and you know, we're watching them very closely to date—and we haven't many actually 'break the law'; when they have broken the law, they've been prosecuted. We just prosecuted a couple in Yuma, but, by and large, it's a few people. It certainly doesn't represent Arizona per se, but there's a few people at the border very frustrated at the amount of traffic we're getting, which is huge. And they're walking around and if they run into somebody that's illegal, they call the Border Patrol.

CONAN: As you say, and as we heard earlier, development in Mexico is one possible solution. One thing that was supposed to be the engine of development in Mexico was NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. And it was interesting to hear the Democrats debate in Albuquerque just last week, and all of them to varying degrees—but all of them were saying you either had to renegotiate NAFTA or get rid of it altogether. You're a Democrat here on the border listening to them. What do you think of NAFTA?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know that NAFTA has had the kind of economic input that people predicted, particularly for Mexico. The Mexican economy is stagnant, even compared to the United States economy, which is also fairly stagnant. And you know, the big issue here is you have the wealthiest nation in the world and you have a nation that has a stagnant economy, a huge unemployment rate and very low-wage jobs, and one is just sucking from the other. You know, there just—draw, and that draw seems to be almost unstoppable until the economies get more in line with each other. That being said, I think there's some things going on in the long term that will help that: a CANAMEX Corridor that comes from Mexico all the way through Arizona, Nevada to Canada to facilitate trade and jobs, and the flow of commerce between our countries—those are all good things.

CONAN: Yeah, for a border state, obviously though, trade with Mexico is hugely important.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: It's huge. Mexico's our leading trade partner. Last year we did over $8 billion net of trade with Mexico, and it should be 10 or 12.

CONAN: Speaking of Democrats, Arizona's senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, are both Republican. Six of Arizona's members of Congress are Republicans; 42 percent of the voters registered are Republican as compared to 36 Democrats. You feel lonely?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: (Laughs) Well, for a while—when I was the attorney general I was the only statewide elected Democrat. Now I have company. The attorney general's a Democrat; I'm a Democrat. But Arizona's a very competitive state; it's going to be very competitive in the presidential race, and it is increasingly Democratic in voting performance if not by registration.

CONAN: Some of your critics have said that since you were sworn into office you haven't stopped campaigning, that you continue to make events out of every executive order and every bill signing—that this is a permanent campaign.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know if that's a criticism. Maybe that's a compliment. No, we—you know...

CONAN: I think there was some grudging respect in there.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: No, I—you know, I'm very much—I'm out in the community. I'm meeting with groups. I'm on the radio a lot. I talk with people. I want them to know what we're doing and why and to feel that they have somebody in the governor's office that's listening to them.

CONAN: One more issue before we leave the subject of the border, and that is guest workers programs. This was something that was on the president's agenda before 9/11...

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Before 9/11, yeah.

CONAN: ...and has really been on a back burner since. Is it important to you as governor of Arizona that the federal government come up with some kind of a guest worker program, and if so, what kind should it be?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think there should be a guest worker program, a program that provides for temporary visas for those who are coming over to work. That would have—align our immigration policy with the reality of the economic situation. I think it would take a lot of the pressure off of illegal immigration and maybe dry up that black market and people who are trafficking in human beings who are having to cross illegally. So I think a guest worker program that provides for proper protections for those who are crossing, but allows us to keep track of who's coming into our country and where they are and how long they're allowed to stay would be a very good development.

CONAN: One of the proposals was that of Senator McCain and I think a couple of Arizona Republicans. Would you support his idea?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I support most of it. I think there's going to be some changes in it. As in any piece of legislation, the more you dig down, you know, there are issues that need to be worked out, but the overall structure of it—yes, I support.

CONAN: One of the areas in which you differ with the Republicans, at least those in the White House, is on forest policy, and your state has faced forest fires this past summer and I...

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Right, and last summer and the summer before that.

CONAN: ...and summer before that. So is there a workable forest fire policy? If so, what is it, and how much help do you need from the feds?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: There is. In fact, it is a policy, a 10-year strategy to restore the forest to health, and talking forests primarily on federal land—a 10-year strategy on how to do that. But all the Western...

CONAN: And federal land is—What?--50 percent of the state?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Oh, more than that. Yeah. It's--85 percent of the forests in the country are in federal land, to give you a sense of proportion. And on this one, the Western governors, who are Democrats and Republicans, have agreed on what needs to be done in a bipartisan way. They should just implement that strategy. But the more important thing is they need to appropriate enough money to the Forest Service so the Forest Service can do the restoration work they need to do. Right now they do what's called fire borrowing. They borrow from all those accounts to pay for forest fire fighting, and they never have enough money to actually do the thinning and the forest treatments deeper into the forest that are necessary to really restore forests to health.

CONAN: And at the same time, though, we're running huge deficits as a country. Those deficits are only going up. What gets cut to provide money for thinning forests?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know about that, but I'll tell you this: The amount it would take to really restore all the federal forests to health is miniscule compared to what we're spending in Iraq, for example, and on some other issues. And we're talking about a huge national asset here. Our forests are one of the great gifts we have in the United States, and we're quickly letting them go to waste.

CONAN: I wanted to ask you about something that we heard about, of course, across the country which was after the gasoline pipeline break here in Arizona.


CONAN: And all of a sudden, there was the prospect of the governor having to declare rationing. I mean, there were lines at gas stations. It looked like—somebody described it as the '70s without the disco.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: (Laughs) Oh, God.

CONAN: Yet you looked at your powers and facing this—you know, this was going to be some pretty dramatic stuff—did you have the power to do those kinds of things that you needed to do?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: We never got that far. You know, we did get some relief in terms of the kind of gas we could use. I used the governor's office as a bully pulpit to get the industry folks to the table and say, 'What is going on? Where are your trucks? Where are your drivers? How do we get gas from the terminal to the gas stations where it's needed?' And really, within about 30 hours the supply/distribution got re-established. What this did raise, however, is the sensitivity of the gasoline infrastructure in our country. Arizona is supplied by two pipelines, both owned by the same company. When one goes down, there's a problem.

CONAN: And when the special kind of gas of Phoenix under the Clean Air regulations—has to use a special formulation, and that's what you got lifted at least for the...

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Temporarily, yeah, that was lifted. Yeah, we have to use a special blend because of our ozone issues, and we got that lifted temporarily to ease the situation here.

CONAN: We're speaking with the governor of the state of Arizona, Janet Napolitano.

And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And wanted to ask you another question about gas...


CONAN: ...prices. You're not the only one to notice it. You're a pretty prominent one to talk about it. They seem to go up like a rocket and come down like a feather.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: You've got that right, and I find gasoline pricing absolutely unfathomable, and it's very difficult to get accurate information. You know, what is—you know what a barrel of crude costs, and you know what transportation costs, but it's very difficult to get information about, say, for example, the true costs of refining and who's making the money all through the system. But you're absolutely right. The prices went up very quickly, and they're still over $2 a gallon here.

CONAN: Wanted to talk about an issue that affects or afflicts, either way, almost every state in the union at this point, and that is budget deficits.


CONAN: You took office with a billion dollars in deficit facing you. What are you doing about it? Have you gotten it down?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Yeah, we balanced the budget. It was a billion dollars on about a $6.2 billion base. And we did it with a combination of spending cuts, we did it with a combination of bonding for construction as opposed to paying cash and some other fiscal measures. We did not raise taxes and we cut no money from public education, which—those were the two priorities I had.

CONAN: Let's also talk some politics in terms of, well, the presidential primaries.


CONAN: You have a primary in Arizona, also New Mexico next door, but one week after New Hampshire.


CONAN: You were a big advocate for this. Why?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I moved the date. I moved the day of our primary. I wanted it to be earlier. I wanted the presidential candidates to pay attention to our state and to come here and to campaign and learn about our issues, like immigration you were talking about earlier. And the best way to do that was to put us on the primary map. We haven't been on the map before. We were always kind of an afterthought. Now everybody's here, everybody's got campaigns going. It's exciting.

CONAN: As you listen to the candidates—I'm sure you did when they were in Albuquerque. Next week you're going to get to host them when they come into Phoenix here for another debate next month. And as the host, I'm sure you haven't announced a selection of one candidate over another as yet, but you're in a position to be something of a kingmaker.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know about that, and I have stayed religiously neutral in this. As we say, I'm daring to be neutral. But I think we have some very good candidates and I think the debate they're having is an important debate for people to listen to. And now the differences among them are beginning to emerge.

CONAN: In the first hour of the program, we were talking about the importance of Latino voters and I don't know if you got a chance to hear it, but one of the things that is going to be more and more dominant throughout the campaign season, which lasts a long time, is both parties going after this segment of the vote. How important is it in Arizona? What role is it going to play in this state?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: It's very, very important. Latinos now make up 25 percent of our population. It's the fastest growing part of our population. Phoenix will, in the next decade, become a majority Hispanic city, and we're talking the sixth-largest city in the United States. And so reaching out, dealing with issues that are important to that community and having that community be involved in the electoral process is incredibly important.

CONAN: Arizona has immigrants from all over the country moving here.


CONAN: People from California are moving to Arizona.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Right. Right.

CONAN: This is like Nevada and other parts of the somewhat inland West—this is the fastest-growing part of the country.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: It's very fast-growing. I think Nevada's the fastest-growing state; we're the second-fastest-growing state. Our net population growth net between 1990 and 2000 was 42 percent, just to give you a sense of—and it's only accelerating. Why? Because it's a great place to live. There are jobs here, housing is affordable and the quality of life is high.

CONAN: Governor Janet Napolitano, who is also apparently able to run for the Chamber of Commerce president as well. Thank you so much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Oh, thank you much.

CONAN: Janet Napolitano is the governor of the state of Arizona, and we're going to wrap up our broadcast here from the studios of KJZZ.

We wanted to thank a lot of our colleagues here for their help with this program, their warm welcome and their hospitality.


CONAN: Lynn Neary will be your host tomorrow. Of course, Ira Flatow with "Science Friday."

In Phoenix, Arizona, I'm Neal Conan, NPR News.

Copyright 2003 National Public Radio ®. All rights reserved

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