Democratic Perspective spoke with Chad Campbell, House Minority Leader in the vast wasteland otherwise known as the Arizona State Legislature.
We began by asking about the Republicans’ refusal to extend unemployment benefits to as many as 45,000 Arizonans who have been out of work for more than two years. Campbell said, “We knew about the problem in late March or early April. Democrats tried to get it fixed in the regular session. It was as simple as making a one word change to the law.”
“Every other state has made the change, including Wisconsin, where conservative Governor Scott Walker signed the measure,” said Campbell. “But our Republican-controlled legislature and Governor Brewer refused to do it during the regular session. They were more concerned with naming an official state firearm. When Brewer finally called a special session,” he said, “Republicans didn’t show up ready to work. There was no bill. Not even all of the Republicans were there.”
“State Senator Steve Pierce called the extension a stupid idea, Campbell continued. “ Pierce said we can’t afford it even though it didn’t involve Arizona money. He said this makes people lazier. They won’t go out and seek a job.”
Yet according to Campbell, the money is allocated by the federal government. It represents just $216 per week for the unemployed, but $3.5 million per week for the people of Arizona and Arizona businesses.
“The problem is compounded by the level of poverty in the state,” said Campbell. “Arizona ranks second in poverty to the state of Mississippi. The actions of the legislature over past year or two haven’t helped. They have just pushed more people into poverty. The massive tax cuts and the increase in sales taxes have made things worse. We are not fixing long-term problems. We’re making them worse,” said Campbell.
“The Republican majority is so out of touch with reality, we need a massive change,” said Campbell. “The most moderate Republicans got eliminated from the legislature four years ago and the current leadership controlling the legislature has put ideology ahead of common sense. They really won’t even have a conversation with Democrats. But I think things are going to change. We’ll soon have a new redistricting map. I think the new redistricting committee is doing a good job and I think they’ll create a map that’s fair and competitive. If Republicans want to keep nominating extreme candidates, then I think Democrats can win.”