PHOENIX — In what was his last state of the state address, Governor Doug Ducey pushed an aggressive agenda: border security, water, education, and a tax cut.
“We will resist the cries from the spending lobby, and once again, we will allow the people to keep their hard-earned money. We will cut taxes," the governor said.
Arizona is flush with cash and the governor has plans to spend big. He is calling for a billion-dollar investment in state-of-the-art water desalinization technology to address Arizona’s growing need for water.
The governor has ideas of drawing water from the Sea of Cortez and pumping it to Arizona.
“With resources available in our budget, a relationship with Mexico that we’ve built and strengthened over the last seven years, and the need clear – what better place to invest more?” Ducey said.
State Representative Neal Carter from Pinal County, one of 12 new legislators this session, agrees. Farming is a $2-billion industry in Pinal County.
“I think the number one thing to know is he is committed to supporting traditional industries in our state, one of which is agriculture,” Carter, (R) San Tan Valley District 8, said.
The price tag may ultimately be a drop in the bucket, but democrats appear ready to work with the governor on the project.
"We know we have to do something we have to be aggressive and I can tell you Democrats will be there,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding.
The governor also has big plans for border security. It includes building a border wall in areas where the state can do it, forming a multi-state border strike force and making significant investments to outfit it.
“Our budget will make significant new investments to strengthen the border strike force, provide advanced equipment to aid in the pursuit of dangerous criminals, and deploy the latest drone technology to bolster surveillance and stop the cartels in their tracks,” Governor Ducey said.
The governor did not say how he would pay for his border security plan. That will be announced Friday when his 2022-23 budget proposal is released.
The governor also promised more investment in infrastructure and pay raises to DPS troopers.
On education, the governor never said the word "teachers" in his 51-minute speech. He did say he’ll support an expansion of the school voucher program and promised critical race theory will not be taught in public schools, which is not being taught now.
Governor Ducey says the state will fund summer school programs for students who are lagging behind after a year of remote learning.
“I’m very worried that he’s going to create more divisive rhetoric that makes it sound like our teachers aren’t heroes right not. And they’re heroes,” State Representative Kelly Butler, (D) Phoenix District 28, said.
The governor did not propose any new mitigation plan to stop the spread of COVID. Currently, COVID is on track to be the number one cause of death in Arizona, which did not sit well with Democrats.
“The governor is focused on attacking teachers instead of the virus and promoting vouchers instead of promoting a policy to slow down the pandemic,” said Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios.
In fact, it is back to business as usual at the legislature. On-site rapid testing for COVID is available to members. But if you want to defend your vote, lawmakers will have to do it from the floor. Remote attendance can only happen with a doctor’s note which will allow legislators to participate from their office only. No more voting from home.