I've been busy lately. The Corporation Commission is holding hearings on an Arizona Public Service rate settlement and I've been attending the hearings and following on the listen line. The stakes are very high. The company will argue that if the ACC rejects the settlement, the company could be downgraded to junk status.
Four of the five ACC Commissioners are former Legislators. Republicans have three seats on the ACC and two of those members came straight out of the legislature--Pierce came straight out of Legislative leadership.
The legislature, of course, has been in full meltdown trying to get a budget to the Governor. Republican leaders Burns and Adams have struggled and to get Gov. Brewer's sales tax on the ballot but don't have the votes. Ironically, the only group who hates the sales tax more than Republican Legislators is...Democratic Legislators. The state is bleeding red ink and Treasurer Martin is warning that he can't get short-term financing from banks who are unwilling to lend to Arizona if we don't have an approved budget.
After seven weeks of trying to get the votes, Republicans have sent Gov. Brewer nearly the same budget that they sent her in June and are hoping that she will sign it. With the state on the brink of shut down the stakes are quite high.
In the midst of this high octane, temper flaring, state shutdown mess, the Yellow Sheet reporter asks the APS Lobbyist--on the record--what he would advise the governor to do.
Instead of saying "Gosh, I don't think this has anything to do with utility issues..." He publicly advises the Governor to veto parts of the budget to maintain "leverage" on the House and Senate Leadership in order to increase her chances of getting a tax increase.
From Friday's Yellow Sheet.
Marty Shultz told our reporter he would advise Brewer to sign the equalization repeal, but not the rest of the budget - or at least not all of it - in order to maintain leverage to pursue the sales tax increase she has clearly demonstrated is of utmost importance to her. “I think the governor should continue to pursue [the referral], if possible. I do think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
I've actually left APS alone for a few years now and some of the company's higher ranking officials are actually speaking to me, which is very nice, but self immolation is hard to ignore.
Why wade into this fight? Why advise the brinkmanship/shutdown option? Why choose the Governor's position over the Legislature's position when four of your critical ACC votes are closely associated with the Legislative side? More specifically, why support a sales tax increase that has almost no support among Legislative Republicans and literally zero support among Legislative Democrats--when four of the five ACC Commissioners are former legislators, all are likely to have strong opinions on the sales tax and all are likely to oppose it.
Moreover, ACC Commissioners almost always come out of the legislature. Who will be on the ACC in 2012 or 2014? I have no idea, but there's a good chance that he or she either voted yes on the bill that Marty just advised Gov. Brewer to veto, or strongly opposes the sales tax increase that Marty thinks is "the right thing to do."
Why not simply smile and say "No Comment."
Sometimes I just shake my head in wonder.