By James Kelley
SUSIE LEMONT/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Napolitano addresses the UA yesterday.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday October 18, 2002
Flanked by UA Young Democrats, gubernatorial hopeful Janet Napolitano spoke yesterday about brain drain, blamed the Legislature for the Arizona's budget woes and outlined her plans for the budget in front of the Old Main fountain.
The Democratic candidate for governor and current Arizona attorney general outlined how electing her would affect the state's universities, then greeted students.
"I wanted to come because there is no more important topic than the future of our universities and what we're going to do for the young people of this state," Napolitano said. "I believe the universities are the tools of Arizona and we must protect them."
Napolitano touched on brain drain and how it has been thrust into the minds of Arizonans. Last week, former UA professor Vernon Smith won the Nobel Prize after being lured away by George Mason University, which better funded his research.
"There is such cutting-edge research being done at the universities right now," Napolitano said. "Some people just are noticing and some of us have been noticing it for a while. It is really tragic because our universities are an investment in our youth, but is also an investment in our economic future and, quite frankly, to make life better for very many, many people as their science work gets developed."
Napolitano was elected attorney general for Arizona in 1998, and before that she served as the U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona, selected by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Napolitano made sure to clarify that "no one running for governor can promise universities will be spared from upcoming budget cuts," and that every state office is going to have to make cuts.
The cuts are a product of "12 years of shortsighted decisions" made by the Arizona Legislature, she said.
"They made bad choices. They didn't choose to invest in our universities as they should have."
It has been speculated Arizona's deficit could be $400 million in fiscal year 2003 and $1 billion in 2004.
Napolitano also outlined plans for the budget.
First, the structure the government uses to raise revenue has to be fixed, she said. The current tax code is full of "special interest corporate welfare tax loopholes," which doesn't distribute a thing to the economy, she said.
She also pitched a plan to make more of the research done at UA translate into dollars for the state.
Napolitano and the Republican candidate, Matt Salmon, both support an amendment that would allow Arizona universities to own shares of companies started by faculty and researchers in the universities.
"He took my plan," Napolitano said, after the speech. "I think both of us recognize the value of technology transfer, and I think the difference between us is my plan is very detailed on how we're going to, versus just saying that it's a good idea."
There has been debate over whether such an amendment would generate significant revenue for UA. Napolitano also said Arizona needs to ensure its youth can afford to enroll in state universities.
"We cannot allow our great young minds to be shut out of the 21st century economy simply because they cannot afford the price of admission," Napolitano said. "As governor, I will pursue the combination of integrating universities with a statewide economic strategy, looking for ways to raise the money going into the university, supporting a constitutional amendment for technology transfer and working with our schools to make sure all the bright minds have the opportunity to attend such great institutions like the University of Arizona," she said.
While she is not sure about the state universities' Changing Directions plan, Napolitano is interested in it.
"I'm intrigued by it. I'm not willing to say I'm all for it because we don't know the details and we don't know how we ensure students in Arizona still have access to quality university education with differentiating admissions among the universities; but nonetheless, I think that's the kind of thinking outside the box we need," Napolitano said.
About 15 students attended the rally, most of whom were Young Democrats, Pima County Democrats or those who tend to "affiliate with democratic" ideology ¸ which was a little unexpected, said Ricky Hernandez, Young Democrats executive vice president and emcee of the event.
"It wasn't what I was expecting with the magnitude of what she was talking about in a place that will be so affected," Hernandez said.
Education is a big issue in the election, said political science and sociology freshman Patrick Cummings.
Cummings is also a member of the Young Democrats.
"From what I've seen so far, she supports education," Cummings said. "I really have to watch the debates, but she's got my vote."
Monday's Rocky Mountain Poll, conducted by the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, showed Napolitano ahead of Salmon 40 percent to 36 percent, with a 3.8 percent margin of error. The poll took into consideration those most likely to vote.
The Young Democrats will have another rally at noon on Oct. 29 at Old Main that will include Napolitano.
Salmon is scheduled to visit Tucson today at the UA Science and Technology Park from noon to 1 p.m.