Governor talks to real estate community about pandemic recovery, policy priorities

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey updated the real estate community Friday on the state’s strong economic recovery from the pandemic and his policy priorities for his two remaining years in office. 

Gov. Doug Ducey

A ”balanced approach” to reopening businesses and Arizonans doing their part to reduce spread of the disease helped the state recover more quickly than most of the nation, the governor said.

“After a year of turmoil and challenges, we are seeing our state return to normal,” he told about 250 attendees at a virtual “breakfast” meeting of the nonprofit Valley Partnership, which represents real estate developers in the Phoenix metro area. 

“All of our schools are fully reopening. We’ve lifted occupancy limits on our local businesses. We’ve recovered over 97 percent of the jobs we’ve lost since the start of the pandemic. We’re on pace to add over 300 new jobs by next spring.” 

Stayed on track despite attacks from far right and left 

After the initial shutdown of all but essential businesses last year, Ducey gradually brought the economy back in phases, which earned criticism from both the political right and left throughout. 

But the approach worked, he said. Infection rates have dropped significantly and Arizona ranks in the top five states for the strongest economic recovery. This month, Ducey lifted almost all restrictions on businesses while social distancing and safety protocols remain in place.

“Unlike other states, we never did a shutdown here in Arizona. We withstood the calls from the extremes on both sides, and we will continue to ignore them,” Ducey said. “We always knew that fighting this virus would be dependent on the personal responsibility of everyday Arizonans.”

At the front of the priority list 

Now that the Legislature is in session, progress is being made on a number of the policy agenda goals Ducey laid out in January. Bills that have passed or are expected to pass this session include expansion of telemedicine statewide, wildfire prevention and inmate firefighter training, a new gaming compact, and a law to protect businesses and others from frivolous Covid-19 lawsuits. 

In listing his priorities, Ducey emphasized a few at the front of the line: meet the demand for Covid-19 vaccines; open schools and catch up students who fell behind during the pandemic; and maintain Arizona’s growing status as a competitor for industry and high paying jobs. 

Meanwhile, Arizona can expect to continue to outpace the rest of the nation moving forward, he said.

Vaccine supply should exceed demand by May 

Arizona’s mass vaccinations efforts have become a role model for the nation, Ducey said. The state has now distributed more than 2.6 million doses with more on the way. 

Arizona was the first state to launch a 24/7 mass vaccination site at the State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. Last Monday, the total number of vaccinations distributed to the stadium hit the 500,000 mark, Ducey said. Other vaccination sites were also launched at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the University of Arizona and Chandler-Gilbert Community College. 

Ducey said the only remaining challenge is meeting demand. He is working with federal officials to increase the number of doses to Arizona in the coming weeks, and has been told that supply should exceed demand in May. 

Top priorities moving forward 

Looking ahead, the picture is also bright, Ducey said. New stimulus funding coming into the state, including $12.3 billion for state government, and a growing economy, Arizona will be able to achieve most of his policy priorities, he said. They include:

  • Infrastructure projects including expansion of broadband statewide
  • Mitigate the impact of Proposition 208 on small businesses 
  • Assistance for students who fell behind during the pandemic 
  • Planning and new technology to protect Arizona’s water supplies for the future 
  • A new state gaming pack with the tribes to expand casinos on reservations and approve sports betting statewide
  • Smart energy policy to ensure reliable and affordable energy  
  • Forest fire prevention and protection efforts including work training programs for inmates to learn firefighting skills 

In closing, Ducey stated his commitment to keep taxes low and regulations light. He said he wants private industry to know they are a priority for the state. 

“We realize it’s a competitive situation. We’ve been winning more of our fair share of businesses choosing Arizona as a headquarters site over places like California, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Utah, and Colorado. There’s no reason we can’t keep that going for decades in the future. Our economy is truly diversified with more on the way.” 

Victoria Harker

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