Arizona governor vows to take commerce higher in 2020

Gov. Doug Ducey at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Legislative Forecast Luncheon on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (Graham Bosch/Chamber Business News)
Gov. Doug Ducey at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Legislative Forecast Luncheon on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (Graham Bosch/Chamber Business News)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey laid out a multitude of goals for 2020 that revolve around issues important to business and industry during his sixth State of the State address Monday.

Among his priorities? No new taxes. Stronger ties with Mexico. Innovation in water conservation and management. Broadband for rural areas. Workforce training. Highway expansion. And much more.

Ducey, whose tenure has centered around spurring economic growth and boosting the state’s “rainy day” reserves to a whopping $1 billion, stated that businesses and citizens can expect more of the same this year.

“We got here by doing things our way. The Arizona way. And I’m here to tell you, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” Ducey said as he addressed a crowd of lawmakers, civic leaders and others at the state Capitol to coincide with the opening day of the legislative session.

Building on state’s economic boom

The governor spoke for over an hour, laying out plans to increase funding for academic achievement for low-income children, pay raises for many state workers, increased mental health services and reduced government fees and “red tape.”

He also touted Arizona’s successes.

The state now outshines most of the country in almost every venue, he said: “The prime rate is dropping, school test scores are rising, and our debt is way down. Household incomes have hit a record high and our poverty rate has dropped faster than any other state in the nation.”

Arizona already outshines rest of nation

Arizona now is in the top ten when it comes to jobs in transportation, technology, science and healthcare, Ducey said.

He highlighted keystones of his administration: eliminating regulatory red tape, reducing government fees and making Arizona the first state to grant universal recognition of out-of-state occupational licenses.

It’s no surprise why 300 people are moving here every day, he said.

“Other states and Washington, D.C. politicians may be focused on growing government. Arizona grows opportunity,” Ducey said. “Our population is surging, but the size of our government is actually shrinking.”

Here are eight business takeaways from Ducey’s speech:

No new taxes

“Let me reiterate what I’ve said in five prior State of the State speeches and two inaugural addresses, because apparently it bears repeating. No new taxes. Not this session. Not next session. Not here in this chamber. Not at the ballot box. Not on my watch.”

Investment in teachers, students and schools

“In total, we’ve pumped $4.5 billion in new investments into Arizona schools. With our latest budget, that figure will rise to $6.6 billion. And we’ve done all of this without raising taxes.

“In addition, an even larger investment in school counselors, cops on campus and school safety. A stronger focus on CTE (Career and Technical Education) and the trades. More money for the Arizona Teachers Academy and Teach for America. And a full, complete and accelerated restoration of flexible funding two years ahead of schedule.”

Rural jobs

“There’s no shortage of new jobs in Arizona, but many vital jobs remain unfilled in our rural communities. So, we’ve got a plan — a Rural Jobs Initiative.

“First, tourism and state parks. There’s no place more beautiful to vacation than scenic Arizona, and with an infusion of new dollars, we’re going to work with Tourism Director Debbie Johnson to ensure the whole world knows it.

“Next, workforce. Small business is the backbone of our economy. So, we’re launching a partnership with Local First Arizona to strengthen small businesses, get rural Arizonans back to work and bolster our local economies.”

Long term water planning

“We will continue to protect Lake Mead, the Colorado River, groundwater and our [agriculture] jobs. But we shouldn’t be dealing with this issue one generation at a time. We need a strategic ongoing effort to turn Arizona into the international capital for water technology.

“Look at all that Israel has done. Why not Arizona? We’ve been a leader on water, and with this approach, we will continue to be an even stronger leader far into the future.”

Improving infrastructure with I-10’s widening

“The Phoenix-Tucson corridor is an economic artery for our state, and it needs expanding. It’s time to accelerate completion of I-10’s widening — in both directions — between our two largest cities.

“Our budget puts the pedal to the metal with the construction of a new six-lane bridge over the Gila River. This replaces a 56-year-old bridge. 62,000 people drive over it every day. That’s 23 million a year. So, let’s break ground ASAP.”

Connecting rural Arizona to high-speed internet

“Rural areas still lack high-speed internet. Let’s triple our investment in Rural Broadband Grants and also invest $50 million in Smart Highway Corridors to install broadband along our rural interstates.

“This will make our highways safer and smarter than ever before and pave the way to get all of rural Arizona logged on.”

Filling labor gaps

“ASU, U of A and NAU have also stepped up to fuel our economy, and we’re about to pour on the gas. [Arizona Board of] Regents Chair Larry Penley has proposed what he calls ‘The New Economy Initiative.’

“It’s an innovative approach that enhances our capacity to graduate more students for the critical jobs of today and tomorrow. It’s just the latest effort by our universities to solve problems and do it the Arizona way.”

Eliminating government red tape

“I’ve issued a new Executive Order, with a new reform: If the government ever deems a new regulation absolutely necessary, it must first identify three others to eliminate. The result: New regulations will naturally mean less regulations.”

Business community cheers

The Arizona business community leaders cheered the governor’s message of continued economic momentum.

“Small-business owners are thrilled to hear that despite record state revenues, our governor will not be going on a spending spree with our taxpayer dollars,” said Chad Heinrich, the Arizona state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “While states like our neighbor California and others like Illinois and New York continue to lose residents, Arizona is the No. 1 inbound state for a reason: Low taxes, reasonable regulations and a government that is open to small-business entrepreneurs.”

Arizona Chamber of Commerce of Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer was equally enthusiastic about the governor’s message and his pledge to hold the line on efforts to overspend.

“The governor made clear that he is going to work to improve our state’s tax climate, while removing regulatory barriers to growth. Competitive tax and regulatory environments have been central to our economic growth,” Hamer said. “We share his commitment to strongly resisting measures that will reverse our economic progress.”

Victoria Harker

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