The Arizona Republic
Has Ducey kept promises?
4 years ago, the then-candidate issued a 10-point pledge
Four years ago, as then-state treasurer Doug Ducey was vying for the Governor’s Office, he issued a 10-point “pledge to the people of Arizona.” ❚ In it, he made a series of promises outlining what he would do if elected governor to cut taxes, protect gun rights and improve school choice, among other vows. ❚ As Ducey seeks re-election this fall, The Republic revisited that pledge to see whether — and how — the governor had followed through. ❚ We used state documents and our own reporting archives to assess each of the points contained in the pledge. ❚ Here we compare our findings to the text of the promises. We are letting readers decide how Ducey’s actions measure up to his pledges.
“To promote economic growth, if I am elected governor, I will: Submit legislation to reduce taxes every year, with the goal of eliminating personal and corporate income taxes in Arizona...”
Tax-related promises were a central part of Ducey’s 2014 campaign. Though he has not achieved major income-tax reform — he has long said such changes would require two terms and a thriving economy — he has pushed through a handful of cuts.
During his first year in office, he cemented a policy to adjust the state’s tax brackets for inflation. The move saved residents and businesses an estimated $31 million in income tax the following fiscal year.
In 2016, he signed a bill to cut corporate taxes by $8 million by allowing companies to accelerate the depreciation schedule on equipment.
This year, he successfully proposed a tax cut for veterans. Under his plan, the first $10,000 of military pensions are exempted from the state’s income tax.
“...and by executive action eliminate bureaucratic regulations that are unreasonable and unfair to business owners and employees.”
The governor’s first executive order was a moratorium on new regulations, which he has renewed each subsequent year.
His office also eliminated or changed 676 of the state’s roughly 11,000 regulations. Technological advances had made some rules obsolete; other regulations hadn’t been applied in years. The state Office of Economic Opportunity estimated the changes would save taxpayers $48 million a year in compliance costs.
Ducey has taken heat for lax regulations involving autonomous-vehicle testing. When Uber moved from California to Arizona, Ducey slammed California’s “burdensome regulations.” Uber later shut down its Arizona program after one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Tempe.
“I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
Some constituents felt Ducey broke this promise when he championed the extension of Prop. 301, a tax that generates about $600 million a year for teacher salaries and classroom expenses.
At the time, critics including Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist called the extension a de facto tax increase: “If you didn’t pass this law, taxes would be lower,” one analyst said. Others, including Ducey representatives, disagreed, saying people would be paying the same amount as before.
Ducey also has increased fees, including a new car-registration fee to fund road work.
“Send to our legislature a civil-justice reform bill designed to end frivolous litigation, harassment and excessive fee collection by trial lawyers.”
Ducey has signed a series of bills related to civil litigation, including:
❚ The 2016 Arizona Patent Troll Prevention Act, which prohibits “bad faith” claims of patent infringement.
❚ A 2016 measure that gave businesses additional time to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements in an effort to end “frivolous lawsuits.” Business owners applauded the new law, but disability-rights advocates contended Ducey and and state legislators chose business interests over civil rights.
❚ A 2018 bill that aimed to ensure people or businesses appealing decisions made by government agencies would get a a fair shake. Courts must treat the cases as they would any other, without deferring to an agency’s interpretation of the law.
“To restore spending discipline, I will: Hold state spending increases below the rates of inflation and population growth, except in real emergencies...”
It was not immediately clear if the budget increases were below inflation and population growth, but here’s a look at the governor’s budgets:
❚ In 2015, Ducey’s first year in office, he cut state spending after inheriting a budget shortfall upon taking office. That budget, coming in at $9.1 billion, included cuts to higher education, career and technical programs and social welfare.
❚ In 2016, the budget included modest increases, coming in at $9.5 billion.
❚ In 2017, the budget grew to $9.8 billion and included a 2 percent pay raise for teachers.
❚ This year’s budget was the largest dollar increase, year over year, in Ducey’s tenure. The state approved a $10.4 billion budget, including the first step of a plan to raise teacher pay 20 percent by 2020.
“...sign into law — without new taxes — a balanced budget every year that I serve as governor; and veto any bill that violates either of these commitments.”
The budgets have all been balanced, thanks in part to growth in state revenues as the economy recovered from the recession and as Arizona experienced population growth. There is some disagreement among budget analysts over the sustainability of these revenue increases.
“To protect the health, privacy, and freedom of Arizonans, I will: Support all efforts by our congressional delegation to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
In late 2017, after reviewing the socalled “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, the governor tweeted that “the bill on the table clearly isn’t the right approach for Arizona.” He ultimately reversed course, giving the state’s U.S. senators the OK to vote “yes” on the repeal. Then-U.S. Sen. John McCain voted against the plan anyway.
Ducey later backed the Graham-Cassidy repeal-and-replace plan, which could have resulted in a loss of $10 billion in health-care funding from 20202026. That effort also failed.
“In addition, I will personally pursue every available means to negotiate a Medicaid waiver for Arizona, allowing us to take care of people who genuinely need help without turning it into a vast and unaffordable new entitlement.”
After taking office, the governor signed legislation directing Arizona to apply for an amendment to the state’s annual Medicaid waiver. His proposal included three controversial elements: premiums and out-of-pocket costs for people with little to no income, work or job-search requirements and a five-year lifetime enrollment limit. The Obama administration rejected the request.
Arizona tried again in 2017, expecting a more favorable response under the Trump administration. But after federal officials rejected Kansas’ effort to impose three-year lifetime limits on its Medicaid program, Arizona pulled back from its own lifetime-limit request and focused on work requirements.
The state, along with nine others, got federal approval earlier this year to proceed with proposals requiring “ablebodied” Medicaid recipients to either work or get involved in “community engagement activities.”
“To promote choice and excellence in public education, I will: Submit legislation to eliminate every waiting list for every excelling school...”
Ducey got $24 million in 2015 to fund wait lists at high-performing schools. For two years, the money sat unused as officials formulated a plan to implement the idea.
In 2017, Ducey’s office announced it would use the $24 million, along with an $80 million pool from the state treasurer’s office, to back $350 million in bonds for quality district and charter schools. Schools with waiting lists can apply through the “achievement district” program to seek the funds.
“... while advancing broad and bipartisan reforms to apply the best practices of charter and district schools to all of Arizona’s public schools.”
It’s unclear what type of reforms this passage refers to. But Ducey did express interest this year, after months of reporting on charter school accountability and finance by The Arizona Republic, in some changes to charter-school oversight. Those reforms would occur after the November election.
Ducey also pushed for changes to teacher certification. Those tweaks have allowed people without formal teacher training to lead classrooms, leaving hiring decisions to local school leaders. He also championed the results-based funding program in 2017, which gives more money to schools with high performance.
Critics have panned both moves, saying unqualified teachers shortchange students and awarding performance gives already-rich schools more money at the expense of all schools.
“Be a forceful advocate for higher standards in our schools, including basic civics knowledge regarding American history and what it means to be a U.S. citizen.”
In 2015, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring a civics test in order for high school students to graduate. Students appear to be handling the test well.
“I will resist over-reach from the federal government, including Common Core, and protect our schools from federal intrusion into the state and local responsibility of public education.”
Though Common Core was a major campaign issue in 2014, it has since fizzled. The issue of federal intrusion into state public education has not been a topic of much discussion by Ducey or the Legislature in the past few years.
In Ducey’s first year, he called on the State Board of Education to review standards based on Common Core, saying he was against them. The board eventually altered standards, though Common Core critics said they were basically the same standards with a different name.
“To safeguard our citizens, I will: Defend the constitutional right to keep and bear arms against any infringement...”
Ducey hasn’t signed any measures limiting firearms. But his school-safety plan, which ultimately didn’t pass, was initially seen by some Second Amendment advocates and conservative lawmakers as too restrictive because of its provisions to allow courts to keep guns out of the hands of people who threaten to harm themselves or others.
The National Rifle Association eventually endorsed Ducey’s plan. The student gun-control group March For Our Lives repeatedly protested Ducey over the inaction on school safety, holding “die-ins” at the Capitol.
“... fully enforce the rights of crime victims...”
Ducey campaign spokesman Daniel Scarpinato pointed to House Bill 2488, which the governor signed in 2016. Under that law, a person convicted of sexual assault loses parental rights to any child who may have been a victim of that assault.
“... and make the protection of Arizona children from criminal abuse and neglect the first priority of our laws.”
Child safety was a major topic when Ducey entered the Governor’s Office, as a massive backlog of child-welfare cases mounted. Ducey quickly fired the head of the Department of Child Safety.
In the past three years, the backlog has decreased, and adoptions have increased. An independent report in 2017 said the DCS had made significant process, but still had far to go to address all its problems.
“Exercise every authority of the office of governor to protect Arizona’s international border...”
The crown jewel of the governor’s border-security efforts is his multiagency Border Strike Force, which has received about $82 million in state funds since 2016.
Running tallies of results include the seizure of 58,200 pounds of marijuana; more than 8,200 prescription drug pills or capsules; 4,400 pounds of drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl; 280 firearms; and more than 173,000 rounds of ammunition.
The Republic has been unable to independently assess the effectiveness of the Strike Force, however, because neither the Governor’s Office nor the Department of Public Safety has released supporting documentation to explain those numbers. There has been no way to determine whether the amount of drugs seized by the Strike Force is larger than what DPS personnel would have seized in their regular duties. Records requests are pending.
“... hold the federal government accountable for its consistent failure to meet this urgent law-enforcement obligation; and commit significant new state resources to the prevention and prosecution of violent crimes by persons here illegally.”
A Ducey spokesman said via email that the governor in 2015 upped funding for border sheriffs to cover:
❚ “investigative intelligence from inmates in our prisons about illegal activities on the border”
❚ “sheriff ’s deputies and police officers investigating border-related crimes, such as drug trafficking and human smuggling”
❚ “enhanced border-security efforts for all 15 counties, such as staff, equipment and any expenses to further secure our border”
It was not immediately clear whether the governor had directly committed new resources to prosecution.
In 2015, a captain with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office said increased funding for border sheriffs would “go a long ways towards helping us to offset the costs that we have incurred by prosecuting illegal aliens who are smuggling drugs that the U.S. Attorney’s Office doesn’t prosecute.”
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office currently is requesting more funding to prosecute border cases. An AG’s Office spokesman told the Associated Press that the caseload for prosecutors in the office’s southern Arizona unit had gone up significantly.
“To promote a just and compassionate society, I will: Defend the rights and values of all our citizens, including the right of economic, political, and religious freedom. I will appoint highly-qualified and conservative judges who will respect the constitution and not legislate from the bench.”
Ducey — who has appointed three state Supreme Court justices, 10 appeals-court judges and about 40 superior-court judges — has long said he seeks jurists who want “to apply the law and not write the law.” Applicants face a multistep review process, and Ducey has said he bristles during interviews with would-be judges when he feels candidates are giving him the answers he wants to hear.
Still, the governor has taken heat for signing legislation expanding the state Supreme Court from five to seven justices and appointing three conservative members.
The court’s chief justice had asked Ducey to veto the legislation on the grounds that the expansion wasn’t “warranted,” spurring allegations of court-packing. Ducey said the additional justices put Arizona on par with states that had comparable or even smaller populations, yet more Supreme Court justices.
“Defend the most fundamental right of any person — the right to life...”
Ducey has signed at least one bill that could restrict access to abortion each year he has been in office.
In 2015, he signed a bill that would require doctors to tell women getting medication-induced abortions that they may be able to reverse those abortions.
In 2016, three bills regulating abortions passed, including one that banned research on aborted fetuses, another ending the ability for state employees to donate to Planned Parenthood through the payroll-deduction program and a third limiting medication-induced abortions.
In 2017, a new law signed by Ducey detailed how babies born alive during abortions needed to be treated.
This year, the governor approved a law regarding asking women seeking abortions why they are doing so.
“... and encourage across our state a culture of life in which the most vulnerable and needy are not viewed as a problem, but as a priority.”
Arizona is still among the strictest states when it comes to access to socialwelfare programs. For example, in 2016, the state limited access to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to very poor families, to one year of benefits from two.
In 2017, Ducey proposed reversing the cut, though with strings attached for recipients that many social welfare advocates called burdensome. The state now allows two years of TANF; the federal government’s limit is five years. The TANF reversal bill pushed by Ducey also included free professional licenses for people below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Scarpinato said there has been “real, measurable progress” on this issue, pointing to wage and job growth. Efforts by the Ducey administration to find jobs for people leaving prison as a way to reduce recidivism fit this goal as well, he said.
“The governor is a believer that building a strong and robust economy where jobs are available is the best way to lift people out of poverty,” Scarpinato said.