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In Washington and Across the Nation
Interview with Governor Janet Napolitano

Governor Janet Napolitano (D-Arizona) was re-elected to her second term as governor earlier this month.  A champion of law-enforcement and border security, Governor Napolitano erased a billion dollar deficit she inherited when sworn into office in 2003.  She has also phased-in voluntary full-day kindergarten across the state, while introducing a state prescription drug plan saving seniors $100,000 a week.  Prior to becoming Arizona’s Governor, Napolitano served as Arizona Attorney General for one term and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.  A resident of Arizona since 1983, Governor Napolitano hails from New York City and was raised in New Mexico.  She graduated from Santa Clara University and the University of Virginia Law School.

William Daroff:  Warm congratulations to you on your re-election to serve the State of Arizona as Governor for a second term.  What are your plans for your second administration specifically regarding the agenda of the Faith and Community Initiatives Office?  

Governor Janet Napolitano:  With regards to Faith and Community Initiatives, my staff has been working very closely with faith and community network leaders throughout the State of Arizona, as well as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to form a more substantial partnership on several initiatives.  For example, we are currently planning for an Arizona Faith and Community Expo, in partnership with the White House office, to highlight federal, state, and local philanthropic dollars that may be available to faith and community groups who work with poor or vulnerable populations. We have specifically focused our efforts on increasing the capacity of faith-based groups through policy guidance, training, technical assistance and resource leveraging in the following areas:

  • Recruitment, retention and support of foster and adoptive families
  • Establishment and expansion of shelter beds for victims of domestic violence
  • Disaster preparedness, training and coordination of volunteers among faith-based groups, on behalf of poor and vulnerable populations
  • Comprehensive approaches to helping families move out of poverty
  • Outreach and engagement of small faith and community groups to promote service partnership with larger, longstanding state providers

Daroff:  Where do you see your Faith and Community Initiatives Office headed?

Governor Napolitano:  This office was established in 2005 with the goal of promoting partnerships and collaboration within Arizona’s diverse faith community on behalf of poor or vulnerable populations. It is my intention that this effort continue throughout my administration. Our experiences with the faith community to date have shown us they are integral to our ability to reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups in times of need.

Daroff:  How does the Arizona Faith and Community Initiatives work with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives? 

Governor Napolitano:  My staff speaks/meets with the White House staff on a regular basis and makes recommendations on how the White House can more effectively carry out the President’s initiative at the state and local levels. Because of our vast network of grassroots faith and community groups, my staff is in a unique position to share the reality of how the rubber meets the road with the people in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, my staff works diligently with city, county, and state agencies as well as philanthropic groups to enhance the idea of the initiative to include potential resources beyond those of the federal government. This aspect – local institutionalization - is critical to ensure the initiative has a lasting impact beyond any particular administration’s tenure.

Daroff:  What are your priorities for immigration reform on the state level and your recommendations to Congress?

Governor Napolitano:  Keeping our borders safe and secure should be a top priority at the Federal and State level.  I continue to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package focusing not only on securing our border, but creating a guest worker program and tough employer sanctions.  I will also continue to pressure Congress to pay their fair share and alleviate the burden placed on the State of Arizona.  Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) joined the “GIITEM” [Gang Immigration and Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission] Task Force, which focuses on gang activity and border-related crime.  This is welcome help, and as we continue to work together, I urge Congress to direct more resources through ICE to Arizona. 

At the state level, our focus is on border security while cutting down on immigration-related crime.  The Arizona National Guard is on our border assisting the U.S. Border Patrol in enforcing our laws.  Earlier this year, we increased the number of National Guard troops on our border.  The Arizona Fraudulent Identification Task Force finds and prosecutes the manufacturers and sellers of all fake IDs in Arizona, including fake green cards and social security cards.  Additionally, the Southern Arizona Auto Theft Task Force partners Arizona’s law enforcement with private sector insurance companies in a joint vehicle theft and border crimes enforcement operation.  We’re using Arizona financial crimes statutes to intercept the flow of money used to finance human smuggling operations.  These “Damming Warrants” are helping to prevent some of the cruelest border crimes.  Our efforts at the state level, combined with comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, are important steps to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

Daroff:  What are your thoughts about the Medicaid program and what changes would you recommend to the Arizona Congressional delegation and the rest of Congress?

Governor Napolitano:  I have been given the chance to talk to some members of the U.S. Senate about Medicaid and long-term care services.  My suggestion to them was to learn from Arizona.  We have created a program for our long-term care members, which provides quality care in a highly cost-effective way.  A comprehensive look at the Medicaid program would show it could be managed more effectively instead of simply reducing benefits and eligibility to control costs as some states are doing.  Arizona offers a model other states could look to as they work to reduce costs and serve members more efficiently.  Medicaid is a program that has to be sustainable for our most vulnerable populations, so let's manage it in a way that makes sense. 

The fact that I was invited to testify before members of the U.S. Senate, and that Tony Rodgers, the Director of our Medicaid Program, AHCCCS, was invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives, is proof that Arizona is on the right track. I firmly believe that what has been successful for Arizona can be successful for the nation.  As Congress looks to take an active role in coming to a workable solution for the problems with Medicaid, Arizona will be here to assist.

Thank you very much, Governor.  Please let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in the future.