Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is one of six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination this year. Bennett is a former Arizona Senate president and Prescott City Council member. The Weekly recently talked with him about why he's running for governor. Here are some edited excerpts from that conversation.
You've said that when you were Senate President, you worked with both sides of the aisle to try to get things done and that's something you'd like to continue to do if you were in the governor's office.
I think it's exciting to work with people who might have different ideas about how to get to the same place and find ways to take the best of what they want to do and what you want to do and still get to the same place. I think the most distinguishing factor about me, in regards to the others running in the Republican primary, is that legislative experience, where you have to learn how to work with the Legislature. I was president of the Senate when Janet Napolitano was governor and it was a Republican legislature but a Democrat in the governor's house, but we did some things that we thought were pretty awesome and she got some things that she wanted. It was kind of my responsibility to give the Republicans together as much as possible, but we had budgets passed not only with the majority of the Republicans together, but also majority of the Democrats. I think it's important to have leadership that can bring people together and find common-sense solutions. Neither of us had to compromise our principles. We got some tax cuts. But we also put more money into K-12 education during those four years that I was president done during any other time.
That was when the state also invested money to widen I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix?
We put $345 million into a fund to accelerate transportation funding around the state. We eliminated all of the accounting tricks and gimmicks, the sweeping money from the cities and towns for the HURF funds. That's a huge thing. Tucson needs every dollar it can get for the roads and the state should not be balancing its budget by taking money that the cities and towns need.
Do you think our current transportation funding system with gas taxes and vehicle registration fees provides enough money to fund our transportation system?
The current tax on transportation doesn't generate enough for our long-term needs. But if we can go to the economy generally, if we could grow at 6 percent or 8 percent a year over six or eight years, the almost $8.5 or $9 billion that's coming into the general fund turns into $13 billion, $14 billion, $15 billion. What I hear from transportation folks is that we need about $1.5 billion a year for the next 20 years to really get our infrastructure back into place and provide for the future. But I think we can look at whether the funding mechanisms for transportation need to be adjusted. I think the so-many-cents-per-gallon on gasoline and diesel fuel is going to eventually be insufficient, as you got electric vehicles and all kinds of other things, like more fuel efficiency. So I think we always have to keep our mind open for how we structure our tax policy so that it provides the reasonable needs of government without killing the citizens by being too high.
How important is the state education system in attracting new businesses?
There are four things in economic development: One is the cost of doing business and that's our tax system. Number two is talent and that's our education system, and that is so close to number one that I consider those tied for first. You don't get the one without the other. The third is time, which is all the bureaucracy and red tape and how many permits do I have to go out, and get and how many sales-tax reports do I have to file every month, and so on. And the fourth is image. And every so often we kind of stub our toe on that, it seems.