Ducey’s goals are fairly modest.
If there’s going to be heavy lifting in the 2018 legislative session, you wouldn’t know it from the governor’s State of the State address.
On Monday, Doug Ducey outlined his policy plan for the year and it can best be described as modest.
If there wasn’t much to feed the hungry beast, there also wasn’t much to serve challengers who might try to use it to take down the governor in the 2018 election.
This felt like a campaign-year speech. Rich in self-promotion. Poor in details.
Those Arizonans who waited patiently with ears perked to hear the words “education funding,” were surely disappointed by such little specificity.
“This week, I will release my budget,” said Ducey. “It will include a full commitment to accelerate the state’s K-12 investment, and restore long-standing cuts from the recession made before many of us were here.”
He explained that 80 percent of his “new budget priorities” will be for public education.
What that means in dollars remains to be seen. But with the governor explaining he has identified waste in other areas of state government that will be directed to public schools, advocates of more robust spending must be bracing for bread crumbs.
Missing was talk of extending Proposition 301, the 0.6 cent education sales tax that provides $600 million annually and is on the verge of sunset in mid-2021.
State leaders will need to move assertively in the coming years to prevent that funding from going off the cliff and creating a funding crisis in Arizona schools.
Education advocates were hoping the governor could get behind not only an extension of 301, but an increase that could begin to address the state’s serious teacher shortage.
At the top of Ducey’s agenda was a celebration of powerful women in Arizona. If ever you needed convincing that the Harvey Weinstein scandal is changing America, look at the words of the conservative GOP governor of the red state of Arizona:
Those powerful women “fought with grit and determination for fair treatment, and achieved greatness,” Ducey said. “And they didn’t do it for women in the year 2018 to face discrimination, misogyny or harassment.”
With sexual-harassment scandals brewing in virtually every state legislature in America, and with The Arizona
Republic reporting Sunday on a pervasive climate of sexism at our Capitol, Ducey spoke with power that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the wings of West Washington Street.
“It should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “Always. No exceptions. Private sector. Public sector. In my office. In state agencies. In this chamber. And everywhere else.”
But where the governor was forthright about conduct in the workplace, he was reserved on the topic of water — one of the most important issues facing the state.
He called on lawmakers to follow the lead of Arizona’s trailblazers in water policy from the last century to “put forward responsible policies that ensure Arizona speaks with one voice to secure the state’s water future for generations to come.”
Today, the state doesn’t speak with one voice, and a rupture in friendly relations has put the Arizona Department of Water Resources in conflict with board members and staff at the Central Arizona Project.
Some of Ducey’s best words, spoken in a general sense, might have been more aptly aimed at this impasse:
“By working together, with a spirit of service; with integrity, humility — by forgetting about who should get the credit — we can move Arizona forward, and in a way that will make our fellow citizens proud. So let’s get to work.”
The governor showed his commitment to public health with a call for special session on the opioid crisis.
“Since I last stood at this podium, we’ve lost more than 800 Arizonans to opioids,” Ducey said. “These are real lives and real people. Gone. Someone’s mom, their dad. Daughters and sons. All ages. All incomes. Families, marriages and lives torn apart, tragically and unexpectedly because of a potent drug misprescribed, overprescribed — and then, before you know it, it’s too late. There’s no turning back.”
Arizona has taken steps to stop the free flow of doctor-prescribed opioids that end up in the hands of addicts. But such action has recoil, with those same addicts turning to much more deadly and addictive street heroin to serve their habits.
The governor is right to put a spotlight on this health-care emergency.
Ducey is a governor in a tough spot. He oversees a state that is not sloshing in loose cash post-recession. He deserves credit for throwing a bridle around the structural deficit and for trying to fund education at the same time.
He wants to be known as the “education governor,” and that will not happen unless he finds the resources to push more money into public schools. It’s a hard task under challenging circumstances.
But he asked for the job.
And he’ll be asking us again later this year.
If there’s going to be heavy lifting in the 2018 legislative session, you wouldn’t know it from the governor’s State of the State address. On Monday, Doug Ducey outlined what was a mostly modest set of goals.