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Ducey focuses on education, water, border in State of State

The Republican governor took office in 2015 with a pledge to cut taxes every year and get income taxes as close to zero as possible.

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he wants to focus on education, border security and water during his eighth and final legislative session, which kicked off Monday with his annual State of the State address. 

The Republican governor took office in 2015 with a pledge to cut taxes every year and get income taxes as close to zero as possible.

He’s largely succeeded, culminating with his signing last year of a bill cutting taxes to 2.5% for everyone.

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Ducey began the address proclaiming the state is in a prime position.

"Ladies and gentleman, at the risk of sounding repetitive, the State of our State is strong," Ducey said. "And we are poised to do what everyone in public service strives for: to leave it stronger than we found it."

Water

Ducey is taking on the existential threat of Arizona’s dwindling water supply. He wants to spend $1 billion to save water and find new sources. That would include a proposed water desalination plant in Mexico.

“Our goal: Secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years,” the governor said.  

Workforce

Ducey said is he is dedicated to expanding Arizona's workforce. 

The governor said he plans to establish six advanced manufacturing training centers facilitated by community colleges across the state. Ducey said advanced manufacturers will partner on the project, streamlining the student-to-skilled-labor pipeline and ensuring skills training aligns with in-demand jobs.  

Veterans

In an effort to help our veterans, Ducey plans to waive higher education tuition for veterans' spouses. 

Currently, veterans must meet certain eligibility requirements to receive the higher education tuition waiver program benefits. Certain criteria would apply to spouses under the newly proposed program as well. The requirements include: 

  • An honorable discharge or other proof of honorable termination of service of a veteran in the armed forces; and

  • The veteran and spouse must meet the in-state student status requirements as outlined in A.R.S. 15-1802

Summer learning camp 

Ducey also announced the launch of a statewide summer learning camp initiative aimed at helping Arizona kids get caught up in math, reading, and civics.

The Summer Learning Camp initiative will be at no cost to Arizona families—by providing students the support they need to get back on track ahead of the next school year.  

Family support

The governor said he will increase funding for grandparents and other close relatives who raise kids in foster care.

Ducey said he will prioritize raising compensation for kinship families who have devoted their time to helping vulnerable children. Under this plan, the kinship families will receive the same level of financial support as Arizona foster care families.

Law enforcement

Ducey strengthened his commitment to law enforcement with the announcement of a significant increase in salaries for troopers in the Department of Public Safety.  

The proposed raise would increase Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper salaries by 15 percent. The increase would place starting trooper pay at the top of Arizona law enforcement agencies.

Cybersecurity  

The governor also announced plans to fortify cybersecurity across the state. 

Ducey proposed a partnership across statewide government organizations to enhance cyber resiliency. 

His proposal includes:

  • Investments to fund a cyber grant program
  • Providing local governments and school districts across the state with the same cyber tools used by the State of Arizona Executive Branch. The tools would be at the same cost as the state, bolstering anti-phishing training, multi-factor authentication, firewalls and more.

Border security

Ducey has a long list of priorities for beefing up border security.

  •  Arizona should team up with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to form the “American Governor’s Border Strike Force” to patrol the border. Abbott has deployed National Guard troops. Ducey has done the same, but largely in support roles. 
  •  The governor referred to his trip to the border in Yuma last month, when migrants walked through a gap in the border fence while Ducey was leading a news conference.

“Where Arizona can add physical barriers to the border, we will,” he said.

COVID-19

The governor didn’t announce any new initiatives to deal with the covid surge. Ducey mentioned the word “vaccine” once in a 4,700-word speech. 

He blamed Washington for pandemic “mismanagement.” Arizona has the second-highest COVID death rate in the country.

Ducey’s chief of staff suggested to reporters that COVID was an issue that didn’t matter to Arizonans.

School budgets

The governor also didn’t touch on a looming financial cliff for Arizona’s schools. 

Budgets could be slashed by $1.2 billion statewide because of a spending cap that both parties have tried to remove in the past, without success.

If a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate doesn’t lift the cap, the budget cuts will hit on April 1. Lawmakers have warned of layoffs and possible school closings.

Assault Kits

Victims of sexual assault have been charged as much as $800 for a forensic nurse visit and the collection of evidence. Ducey is encouraging immediate prohibition of any county in Arizona passing to a sexual assault victim any of the costs associated with the medical visit and collection of evidence.

Infrastructure 

Ducey expressed urgency to accelerate the widening of I-10, announcing plans to fund 20 miles on I-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande. By connecting the state from Phoenix to Tucson, the investment will further ease congestion and enhance economic development in the state.  

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