Strengthening ties with Mexico. Increasing security on school campus. Career and technical training. Securing water supplies.
These are some of the top priorities Gov. Doug Ducey has inked onto his calendar for 2019, the governor said at the annual Arizona Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forecast luncheon Friday.
At the top of his list? Securing diminishing Colorado River water supplies for Arizona.
“We’re at a position now where we have a sense of urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” Ducey told the crowd. “It’s pretty simple. Arizona and our neighboring states take more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back.”
To protect the state’s future, Ducey said it is crucial that the state Legislature ratify Arizona’s piece of a multi-state drought contingency plan by January 31 or face federal intervention.
An estimated 1,200 people attended the event including to hear the governor and a panel of the fourstate House and Senate leaders give their forecasts for the state of Arizona for 2019.
Arizona’s newly elected and first female U.S. senator, KyrstenSinema and the recently appointed Sen. Martha McSally, also spoke. Sinema talked of bipartisanship. McSally emphasized security. Legislative panel members also talked bipartisanship. Every time it was mentioned, the crowd applauded.
The event was hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerceand Industry. The Chamber and the Arizona Manufacturers Council also released their 2019 Business Agenda at the event. It lays out policy recommendations, priorities and goals for a wide array of issues including ballot initiative reform, tax conformity, civil justice reform, education, environmental regulation, and economic and workforce development.
During a “fireside chat” with Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the chamber, Ducey answered questions about water shortages, education, trade and Mexico. Here’s a quick overview.
Ducey said that in 2019, he will continue to build on the progress the state made last year in forging stronger ties with Mexico, including working closely with Sononan Gov. Claudia Artemiza Pavlovich Arellano, the first female governor of the state.
“Arizona’s relationship right now is as good or better than it’s ever been,” Ducey said, adding that he was “overwhelmed” at the hospitality he received when he attended the inauguration of the Mexico’s new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador last month.
His hope it that the Arizona’s partnership will become a model for other trade relationships.
Pushing for the ratification of the new renegotiated NAFTA, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is another goal. After a year of tumultuous negotiation, the document was signed by the three presidents Nov. 30. Now, the draft agreement is going through the process of being approved by the top legislative bodies in each country.
A lot of work went into getting the treaty in place, Ducey said. Arizona and 34 other states count Mexico and Canada as one of their top three trading partners.
Arizona teachers have received half of a 20 percent raise that Ducey aggressively pushed for last year. This year, he wants to focus on finding ways to keep helping teachers and students without raising taxes, he said.
“We need a responsible budget in 2019 and 2020,” Ducey said. “The good thing we are seeing is the largest projected budget surplus in a decade, so we’re going to be get these dollars to our teachers.”
Enhancing school safety, increasing career and technical education to create a skilled workforce and promotingentrepreneurship are also on his list.
“We have more jobs in the state of Arizona than we have people to fill them,” he said.
In concluding the question and answer session, Ducey said his plan for 2019 is similar to last year:
low taxes, light regulation, and low liability and litigation to attract industry and remain competitive with other states.
“We are in a dynamic relationship with other states” he said. “In this game, the game of states, people vote with their feet and Arizona is winning. This is the fastest growing county in the country.”