One conservative lawmaker joked during Governor Doug Ducey’s 2017 State of the State address that he was not rolling out a plan for prosperity; he was rolling out a spending plan. The theme of the speech was “Boundless Opportunity,” but many of Ducey’s fellow republicans said he should have called it “Boundless Taxation Opportunities.”
A press release from the Governor’s office noted: “At roughly 5,150 words, the address is significantly longer than it was in 2015, which ran 2,893 words, and in 2016, which ran 3,576 words. So we wanted to offer an outlined version of State of the State for your convenience.”
Short on details, but full of promises, the Governor’s speech left many lawmakers speechless. Only one thing was certain; the Governor will probably push for an increase in the sales tax, not the income tax.
Here are the highlights or lowlights depending on whether you believe him or not:
Boundless Opportunity –
“. . . now is not the time to be content, or complacent. Because the next generation of Arizonans – especially those facing challenges and hardships – are counting on us to rise to the occasion, and do everything in our power to create boundless opportunity in the state of Arizona.
“To do this, we need to begin at the beginning.
“Because we can’t claim Opportunity for All, unless every child, regardless of their background, neighborhood, county, or zip code, has access to a quality education.”
Increased Investments In Education –
“I want the teachers of our state to know: You make the difference. I value your work, and it’s time we return the favor. . . .
“. . . I have a commitment our educators can take to the bank: starting with the budget I release Friday, I will call for an increased investment in our public schools—above and beyond inflation—every single year I am governor.
“Now, I’m not promising a money tree. I can’t. There’s no pot of gold, or cash hiding under a seat cushion. And unlike Washington, we don’t print money, and we won’t raise taxes.
“But when we do have available resources, like we do this year—the bulk of those dollars will go to public education. And our proposals will be responsible—to make sure we can actually follow through on our word, and our educators can rely on it.”
Teacher Raises –
“Let’s take these new dollars and put them where they will have the greatest impact on students. The place where we know we will get the best return on investment. It’s time for a raise for Arizona’s teachers. My budget will outline a permanent, lasting salary increase to all of Arizona’s teachers. This will be above and beyond raises they may be receiving from Prop 123, or overrides, or from their districts.
“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible.”
Teacher Bonuses –
“The greatest need for high quality teachers is in our low-income schools, and it also happens to be the hardest place to attract them. So let’s do more for the teachers willing to make a commitment to these students and these neighborhoods: A $1,000 signing bonus, to attract the best and brightest, and continue to close the achievement gap.
“No one goes into teaching to get rich, but everyone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work. Together, we can show the teachers of our state that their profession is valued, respected and indispensable.”
All-Day Kindergarten –
“Without a doubt, schools in low-income areas are the ones that really need our focus—and that’s what my budget prioritizes.
“Right now, more than half of Arizona schools offer voluntary full-day kindergarten. Parents love it. Kids benefit from it. So I say—let’s expand it.
“My budget gives the lowest-income schools dollars to start or expand full-day kindergarten, and address an issue we know is critical to closing the achievement gap: The ability to read by third grade.”
Teacher Certification –
“Sandra Day O’Connor is one of our nation’s most honorable citizens. . . .
“. . . But after her retirement in 2005, if she had wanted to teach civics in an Arizona high school classroom, she would have been deemed unqualified, by the system.
“That’s crazy. I’m talking about the teacher certification process. And it’s time to fix it.”
Increasing Students’ Access To Broadband –
“Many Arizona public schools are leading the nation when it comes to science and technology—teaching students to code and developing skills to take with them through life.
“But too many students, specifically in our rural areas, and in our tribal nations are missing out. It’s 2017, but outside of our urban areas, broadband is still spotty.
“Let’s fix this, by connecting these rural schools to high-speed internet. And let’s couple it with a statewide computer science and coding initiative. This session, let’s break the firewall and get these kids connected.”
Even More On Education –
“Principal academies, to train school leaders. . . . Loan forgiveness for our STEM teachers. . . . Dollars for school construction and capital. . . . A per pupil boost for excelling schools . . . even more for high-quality low-income schools beating the odds. . . . Career and Technical Education. . . . College knowing and going programs, and . . . Achieve60AZ.”
Babies At Work –
“The bond between a newborn baby and its mother is uniquely special. Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, a mom, and an OBGYN, knows this well.
“She’s expanded a successful program, now deployed in two state agencies, that allows new moms and dads to bring their babies to work the first six months. The results have been impressive, and we plan to expand it even more.
“It’s a win-win-win—increased productivity, quality employees less likely to leave state service, and most important—happy babies.”
Licensing Requirements –
“Let’s help those most affected by these barriers: Arizonans who are struggling to get by and looking to start a new career. Maybe they’ve gone to night school, to learn a new trade or skill. Perhaps they want to be a barber, or general contractor, or X-Ray technician.
“Why stand in their way? With another tax, another fee—sometimes hundreds of dollars—before they can start earning a living. So for citizens who are living in poverty, I propose the state waive their licensing fee so they can build a better life.”
“All too often government incentivizes being out of a job – rather than getting a job.
“We’ve seen the effects of this at the federal level, and it’s been a disaster: Too many Americans on food stamps and living in poverty, because politicians in Washington have focused on policies that hold people down, instead of ones that lift people up.
“So why not reward those who are making an honest effort to get off unemployment, or food stamps, or welfare. Those who are looking for work, making sure the kids do their homework, and trying to stop the cycle of poverty.
“For Arizonans who are actively looking for a job, who are getting their kids to school—let’s extend them up to 12 additional months of cash assistance, known as TANF, as a bridge out of poverty and into a better life.”
“None of us can overcome challenges in life without a support system. Every day, we all rely on friends and family, mentors and advocates. But sadly, many who have served their time, don’t have a community of support when they leave prison—making it that much harder.
“Through efforts like our Community Corrections Centers, we’ve made strides to help bridge the gap. But more is needed.
“That’s why I’m announcing an effort of the Governor’s Office, to engage the faith and non-profit communities in being advocates for our citizens leaving prison and transitioning back into society.”
Testing Rape Kits –
“Public safety will always be our top priority.
“That’s why last year, we came together and addressed an injustice long ignored: The backlog of untested rape kits in our state.
“The problem was so bad, we didn’t even know how many existed. So we committed to fixing it, and already there have been two indictments as a result of this important work.
“Through the bipartisan efforts of leaders like Senators Katie Hobbs and Kate Brophy McGee and County Attorney Bill Montgomery—we now have a handle on it, and we are ready to act.
“My budget fully funds the testing of all remaining rape kits. And with the recommendations of our task force, we are ready to move forward with legislation requiring all future kits to be tested.
“And inside our prisons, we’ll be adding Employment Centers to help with things like building a resume and getting a job before the release date.”
Government At The Speed Of Business –
“The federal government makes a mess out of everything it touches. But here in Arizona, we’ve demonstrated: Government can work when it respects its limited role, and listens to the people.
Wait times at MVD are down an average of 20 minutes. Our state parks have enjoyed record visitors and record revenue. . . . And thanks to our efforts, contractors are getting licenses 76 percent faster. . . .
“. . . Our citizens invest $42.5 billion dollars a year in state government; they deserve value for their dollar. As we continue to make these reforms all across the board, with the help of our talented state employees and agency heads, the savings will result in lower taxes for hard-working Arizonans. This year, next year and every year I am governor.”
Independence From The Ninth Circuit –
“It’s also long past time for Arizona to have independence from something else: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit is by far the most overburdened court in the country, with a turnaround time that averages 14 months. Its pending cases are more than double the caseload of the next busiest court.
“Arizona—and other states in the 9th circuit—deserve better.
“Last year, I sent a letter to Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan detailing this burden on justice. With a new Congress, and a new President, it’s time for action.
“So I call on you, the Legislature: Just like you did last year. Pass a resolution, supporting Senator Flake’s bill, telling Congress to act. Let’s make sure Arizonans always get a fair day in court.”
Testing For SCID –
“Every year, babies across the country are born with Severe Combined Immuno Deficiency—SCID. It’s a rare genetic disorder that if not detected and treated early, is deadly. A baby born in Arizona today is automatically screened for a number of diseases – but not for SCID.
“Let’s change that, by adding SCID to the list. We have the power to save these precious human lives. So let’s act with urgency.”
Saving Children And Animals –
“If there’s one headline we all dread reading every year, it’s the one about the latest child, left in a hot car, dying of heat stroke.
In just minutes, temperatures escalate, and a tragedy occurs.
“There’s been a great amount of public education around this problem. Yet it still happens. Just one human life lost is one too many.
“All it takes is a Good Samaritan to save a life. To be on the lookout, see movement, take action, and stop another death. The last thing we’d want is any Arizonan worried about breaking into that car to save a life. Send me a bill protecting the Good Samaritans who save the lives of children and pets—and I’ll sign it.”
Expanding Arizona’s Economy –
“We know the best route to a better life for an individual and their family—A good paying and rewarding job.
“It’s why we’ve been so focused on job creation these first two years. And in that time, we’ve seen more than 100,000 private sector jobs land in our state.
“Raytheon expanding in Tucson. Lucid planning its base in Casa Grande. Orbital in Chandler. Corporate headquarters like Caterpillar, Carlisle, Rogers Corporation and the Kudelski Group. All here in Arizona. . . .
“. . . The word is out: Arizona is open for business.”
Cutting Burdensome Red Tape –
“Arizona will take the opposite approach. We will move forward by rolling up our sleeves and rolling back more regulations that are standing in the way of job growth.
“To do that, we need to hear directly from the people making the decisions—our job creators. So I’m calling on owners and operators of Arizona businesses—large and small—please, go to our new website, launched just seconds ago—RedTape.AZ.gov—and help us find these job-killing regulations hidden all throughout government.
“Our team will do the research, and if a rule or regulation is not protecting consumers, public safety or public health, it’s time for it to go.
Our goal: To wipe out 500 total regulations by the end of this year.”
Knocking Down Walls Of Bureaucracy –
“Turns out Washington, D.C. isn’t the only swamp that needs draining. The special interests and lobbyists descended on this building. Twisting arms. Turning up the heat. Clouding the facts. In a perverse irony, some were even funded with taxpayer dollars. So we fired those lobbyists.
“They got paid to build the walls of bureaucracy. Now, I’m asking for your help to knock them down.”
Foster Families: Our “Unsung Heroes” –
“We’ll never fully convince bad parents to be good parents. But we can save the lives of children, and that’s our goal, every day.
“Our foster families are the unsung heroes in this tragedy. Making real sacrifices, to provide love to a child who needs it. To them, we can never say it enough: Thank you.”
Supporting Families With A “Grandmother Stipend” –
“One way we can help is by recognizing those who take in children in their own extended family. Aunts, uncles. Grandfathers and grandmothers, who raise these children as their own. This is often a better option for a child than going to an unfamiliar family.
“But unlike other foster families, these family members receive little assistance for taking in their nephew or grandchild. So let’s change that, with a Grandmother Stipend’—providing these families with resources to raise these children.”
Educating Physicians About Addiction –
“Many of our citizens have found themselves struggling because of an epidemic plaguing our entire country – drug addiction. It’s a problem that knows no bounds. It effects men and women; young and old; rich and poor.
“We’ve started to address it in a serious way. Cracking down on doc shopping. Providing better treatment options. Limiting first fills on opioids.
“And this morning, I sent a letter to the Arizona Medical Board, to require that all doctors in Arizona complete Continuing Education in drug addiction.”
Giving Inmates A Real Second Chance –
“We also need to make sure a second chance actually is a second chance.
“Vivitrol has been called a ‘Miracle Drug’—blocking heroin and painkiller addictions, even alcoholism, and allowing millions of Americans to gain their lives back. This morning I signed an Executive Order so that, effective immediately, people leaving our prison system have the opportunity to be treated with this blocker, before they walk out the doors, to maximize their success of never ever going back. . . .
“. . . Last summer, I traveled to Navajo County to tour the damage caused by the Cedar Fire. Among the many brave firefighters I met, was a group of inmates, who enlisted in a program through the Department of Corrections. Every year select inmates fight fires throughout Arizona.
“One of these men looked me in the eye, and told me: ‘Governor—I felt like a zero. Now I feel like a hero.’”
Adding Employment Centers To Our Prisons –
“That’s why I’m announcing an effort of the Governor’s Office, to engage the faith and non-profit communities in being advocates for our citizens leaving prison and transitioning back into society.
“And inside our prisons, we’ll be adding Employment Centers to help with things like building a resume and getting a job before the release date.”
Investments To Improve Cyber Security –
“When it comes to protecting our state and our citizens, we are going to focus on another area of growing concern—cyber security.
“With hackers threatening our systems, the government has a responsibility to protect the personal information of our citizens.
“That is why my budget will include an investment in improved cyber security. If we are going to be entrusted with this information, we must invest in protecting it. Period.”
Paying Tribute To Arizona’s Police Officers –
“We couldn’t accomplish any of these achievements around public safety without the work of our law enforcement agencies throughout the state. And let me just say – we are truly indebted to the thousands of women and men who wake up every day and put on blue. Our cops.
“They keep our neighborhoods safe. They walk into danger. They risk their lives. I want all our cops to know, the state of Arizona values you. We value your work, and your lives, and your sacrifice. You have our back; and we will always have yours.
“And there is no better role model when it comes to character, integrity and leadership for our youth, and our cops, than Phoenix’s new police chief Jeri Williams. I’m pleased to have her here today as my guest. Chief—welcome home.
“And tonight, in honor of the service of all our cops, this Capitol dome will be lit blue.”
Border Strike Force –
“Some of our bravest officers have been part of a successful effort created last year: The Border Strike Force.
“This team is working 24/7 to keep Arizona safe, crack down on the cartels, stop the bad guys, and hunt down the criminals who are smuggling drugs and humans into our country.
“The numbers are staggering. We’ve had 1,332 arrests. We’ve seized more than 30,000 pounds of marijuana and 6.5 million hits of heroin. And our team has confiscated more than $7 million in cold hard cash.”
Honoring American Heroes In Uniform –
“We are blessed to live in not only a free country, but a secure one. And the credit for that goes to our brave men and women in the armed forces, and our vets.
“For me, there was no more vivid reminder of the sacrifices they make than last month: The 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Angela and I were honored to represent our state, and spend time with the survivors.
“This truly was the Greatest Generation, and there’s a lot we can still learn from them. But seeing our young soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines standing beside these heroes, it was clear: This new generation of Americans is the next Greatest Generation. And we are indebted to them and their families for the service and sacrifice they are making both here and abroad.”
Celebrating Arizona State Parks’ 60th Anniversary With Free Admission –
“If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s this: Arizona is, without a doubt, the most beautiful state in the country.
“This year marks the 60th anniversary of Arizona Parks. From the red rocks of Sedona to the cool caves of Kartchner Caverns, there is so much beauty for us to celebrate. To kick it off, I’m happy to announce – free admission for all Arizona residents at all state parks and trails over Martin Luther King Day weekend.
“So put down the iPhone. Get outside. Enjoy some fresh air with your family. And take pride in living here.”
Looking Forward To An Exciting Year In 2017 –
“Arizona is not without its challenges, but there’s no doubt about it: Life really is better here.
“We are home to some of the top ranked public schools in the nation; the most innovative university in the country; and in a few months, the NCAA Final Four will tip-off right here.
“By working with our citizens these last two years and across this aisle, with civility and respect—we’ve seen what’s possible for Arizona.”