Getting Arizona vaccinated, bringing students back up to speed academically and keeping the economy open were key tenets of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s message during his 2021 State of the State address Monday.
The governor called on citizens to continue guarding against the spread of the virus and to work together with “unity, integrity and compassion.”
“In so many ways, 2020 was an extremely tough year that brought out the best in us, and yet, sometimes, despite all, our best wasn’t enough,” the governor said on opening day of the state Legislature. “It’s a vicious virus taking some 10,000 lives in our state alone and it’s left nothing but grief in its path.
“With the vaccine, however, we aim to cut off that path as quickly as possible.”
Ducey said that healthcare workers, teachers and police officers were being vaccinated as he spoke. He announced that State Farm Stadium in Glendale opened Monday as a vaccine site and will continue to be open 24/7 to administer vaccines as they are rolled out in phases according to patient risk. Above all, everyone must continue to take precautions to stop the spread of the deadly virus so the state can return to normal.
“As for our work here, all agree the pandemic remains the most significant threat we face, and it will require vigilant attention for months to come. The risk is still serious, and so is the pressure on our hospitals and medical personnel.”
During the 22-minute speech, Ducey touched on several issues he is focused on for 2021.
Keep economy open
Arizona already is doing better than the rest of the nation, in part because he didn’t enforce widespread lockdowns, Ducey said.
“For Americans tired of living in states with high taxes, heavy regulation, low-growth, and fading opportunity, Arizona has become the destination,” Ducey said. “And they’re still coming to Arizona in 2021 because during the pandemic, we never took our small businesses or their workers for granted.
“As bad as things got, we’re recovering fast. New businesses and residents have been added by the thousands. At this time last year, we were ahead of 45 other states in job creation and personal income growth. Today, we’re still top-five. But some Arizonans are struggling. And it’s got to be our priority to help them with a growing economy and more jobs.”
Proponents of severe lockdowns may be well intentioned but they fail to acknowledge other troubles that come into play with such drastic action, he said.
“People still have bills to pay. Children in need of schooling. Businesses to run and employees who depend on them. There are lots of men and women who don’t have the option of remote work and don’t receive uninterrupted direct deposits. To make a living they have to show up somewhere.
“If we’re really all in this together, then we have to appreciate that for many families, lockdown spells catastrophe. Zero income. Inability to make a payment. Eviction. Foreclosure. And real personal anguish.”
More resources for education
Ducey emphasized the need to ensure students haven’t fallen behind academically, particularly those of lower socioeconomic means.
The governor said he will advocate for more resources in the state budget for items like expanded broadband infrastructure and access, more educational choices for parents, longer school days, summer school, one-on-one targeted instruction and tutoring.
He will bring students back into classrooms as teachers are vaccinated.
“With every public-health professional, from Dr. Fauci and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on down, saying that the safest place for kids to be is in school, we will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure. Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.”
Lower taxes for all
Tax reform is needed to find ways to lower taxes on businesses and individuals, the governor said.
“Every year I’ve been governor, we’ve improved income taxes in the taxpayer’s favor. We’ve simplified the code, lowered all rates, protected them against inflation, and eliminated an entire tax bracket. In all of this, we’ve proven that our government can fulfill every obligation, and answer the unexpected needs of a growing state, without raising taxes.”
Having come this far, Ducey said he has no interest in Arizona following the “depressing example” of other states losing opportunity because they have raised the tax burden
Other issues: Covid liability protection, gaming, smaller state government
In the coming weeks, the governor said he will work with legislators on a variety of goals: protections for businesses and organizations from frivolous lawsuits related to Covid-19, a modernized gaming compact to bring more revenues to tribes and the state, and greater access to telemedicine.
Other goals mentioned were better roads and bridges, continued leadership on water innovation, better training for law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and wildfire prevention.
Ducey said shrinking the “footprint of government” also offers cost savings.
“With remote working by many state employees, we also have the chance to further limit the size, cost and footprint of government,” he said. “Let’s truly shrink government, by eliminating unnecessary state buildings and saving taxpayer dollars, so we can prioritize areas of need, like educating our kids, taking care of our sick, and keeping our neighborhoods safe.”
“Plenty of reasons to cheer”
Business community leaders hailed Ducey’s agenda.
“Today’s speech gave us plenty of reasons to cheer,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer said. “The agenda laid out by Gov. Ducey was full of items the Chamber and job creators look forward to working on with him and legislators from both parties. We share his desire to close academic achievement gaps, to protect parents’ right to choose the best educational environment for their kids, to continue the economic recovery by reforming our tax code to encourage job growth, to prevent plaintiffs attorneys from leveraging the pandemic for financial gain, and to expand broadband, which is essential for our continued economic development and our students and schools.”
Working together with compassion and integrity
Moving forward in a bipartisan manner with unity, integrity and compassion is extremely important right now, the governor said.
So many Arizonans have been true heroes this past year, he said. Everyone must follow their lead.
“Despite everything 2020 threw at us, in the face of a global pandemic, everyday Arizonans have demonstrated the true state of our state– from our frontline medical workers; teachers, moms and dads; public safety and first responders; small business people; Election Day workers; grocery store employees, and National Guard – we’ve seen heroism, sacrifice, service and acts of kindness, large and small. The state of our state is not only strong – it’s resilient.”
In closing, the governor called on the public to do it’s part: wear a mask, practice personal responsibility.
“With resilience and compassion, we move forward, allowing nothing to get in our way, and showing in the end the best kind of unity there is – the unity of caring about one another.”
For information about how vaccinations are being administered, go to: Arizona vaccinations.