Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) gave his 2019 State of the State Address on Monday before a joint session of the state Legislature.
This is Ducey’s first address his first address to the legislature since re-election..
In his State of the State, Ducey addressed topics such as water, education, the state’s “booming” economy, prison reform, school safety, and putting money in the rainy-day fund.
Water is currently at the forefront of most state lawmakers’ mind with the deadline to ratify a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) approaching fast.
“The issues we need to tackle aren’t partisan ones, in some cases they’re not even political. At the top of that list [is] securing our water future,” Ducey said. “It’s one of the issues I was asked about most, by real people, especially in rural Arizona, which is why it’s first on my list.”
Arizona is one of seven states known as the “Colorado Basin states.” These states receive their water supply from the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
Lake Mead, located in Arizona and Nevada, is the Colorado River’s largest reservoir and is in threat of reaching critically low levels.
In response to the extended period of drought, the Colorado Basin states were told to develop a DCP to protect the lake from reaching critically low levels.
Arizona must ratify its DCP before Jan. 31.
“We’re in a 19-year drought. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Ducey said. “Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back. It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona. It’s time to ratify the Drought Contingency Plan and we have 17 days to do it.”
Education, a hot topic in the state was a main issue addressed by the governor.
Last year, the Red for Ed movement led hundreds of thousands of teachers to march to the Arizona state Capitol demanding increased public education funding.
Ducey has since made education a top priority, passing the 20×2020 bill that will raise average statewide teacher pay 20 percent by the year 2020.
“Because of teachers, [and] lots of them, we got that pay raise passed into teacher’s paychecks,” Ducey said. “These are raises teachers earned and they are raises we’re going to fulfill and protect.”
On top of teacher pay, Ducey has also created the Arizona Teacher Academy which “aims to lift the financial burden of student loan debt off of teachers’ shoulders” and make it easier for educators to pursue careers in Arizona public schools.
“If someone graduates from an Arizona university, is willing to stay in Arizona and teach in a public school, why not allow them to graduate debt-free by providing a scholarship?” Ducey asked during his address. “We turned it into a reality and launched the Arizona Teachers Academy. We are going to create a pipeline of talent and the next generation of Arizona teachers.”
Launched in Sept. 2017, 221 students have now started moving through the program.
And there’s more: Ducey is putting more money towards high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs because “education and the economy go hand in hand.”
“Our education leaders are creating the ‘shop’ classes of the 21st century – it’s called Career and Technical Education – CTE,” Ducey said.
According to the Office of the Governor, CTE classes expand the state’s competitive workforce and prepare students for “the jobs of tomorrow.”
“Today, students in these programs are training to become nurses, pilots, pharmacists, bankers, firefighters, and software developers – all before graduation,” he said. “These programs we plan to build, expand and align with the jobs of tomorrow. And my budget will do just that.”
According to Ducey, 99 percent of students in a CTE class graduate high school, which is much higher than the rate of their peers not enrolled in CTE classes. Additional details will be put in the governor’s budget.
The Rainy-Day Fund
Ducey announced in his speech that he will be doubling the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, or “Rainy-Day Fund,” to ensure the state is prepared for the future.
The governor said he will be proposing to bring the Rainy Day Fund to a “record breaking balance” of one billion dollars.
At the end of fiscal year 2018, the fund had approximately $457.8 million.
“If ever there were a way to protect public education, to protect the pay raises our teachers have earned and deserve, to prevent budget gimmicks, band-aids and massive cuts down the line; to avoid tax increases and budget standoffs, and government shutdowns – it’s through this thoughtful, prudent, and fiscally-conservative approach,” Ducey said.
Business and Economy
Ducey, former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, is known for helping Arizona’s economy boom. When he entered office four years ago the state had a billion-dollar deficit, which is now a surplus.
“Arizona’s economy is booming. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve added nearly 300,000 new jobs in the last four years,” Ducey said.
During Ducey’s time as governor, Arizona has strengthened its relationship with Mexico, which will increase trade and produce more jobs; it has seen historic unemployment; lowered taxes and increased wages.
“Arizona weathered the storm. Made tough decisions. Held the line on raising taxes and will continue to hold the line on raising taxes,” he said. “Government didn’t rebuild Arizona. People rebuilt their businesses. They hired and invested. Workers and families rolled up their sleeves. So, for their sake, let’s make sure we’re on strong footing today and into the future.”
Ducey will be releasing his full FY 2019-2020 budget Friday, Jan. 18.