PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey delivers his sixth "State of the State" speech at 2 p.m.
WHAT: The governor will give the speech to a joint session of the Legislature, marking the official opening of the session. The Republican governor will tell us about his plans for the state this year.
On Friday, the governor will follow up by releasing his proposed budget, telling us how much he wants to spend this year and on what, fleshing out the details of many of the proposals in his State of the State.
The majority Republicans and minority Democrats will have their own ideas of what they want to do and how much of your money they will spend - or give back to you.
THE SCENE: The speech usually lasts 45 minutes. There will be special guests seated in front.
CONTEXT: This is a boom time for Arizona. The state is flush with cash. There’s a $1 billion ‘rainy day’ fund to cushion the state from a recession, as well as a projected $750 million surplus. It's a stark turnaround from the governor's first "State of the State" in 2015, when he warned of a projected billion-dollar deficit.
Just because there’s a surplus doesn’t mean it will be spent. The governor has warned what he calls "the spending lobby" not to expect wild expenditures. The rainy day fund is an untouchable. That doesn’t mean he won’t call for tax cuts (see below).
POLITICAL BACKGROUND: The political backdrop for the governor's speech and the new session is an election year in which Republican lawmakers are playing defense to hold on to their slim majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. That gives Republicans an incentive to pass legislation now that wouldn’t be approved by a future Democratic majority.
SO WHAT WILL THE GOVERNOR SAY?: His chief of staff told me on "Sunday Square Off” this weekend that the focus will be on public education, public safety, infrastructure and the needs of rural Arizona.
K-12: Don’t expect the governor to follow up on his expiring "20 by 2020" plan that is giving teachers 20% raises over three years. The final installment comes in June.
More likely, the governor will talk about improving achievement lagging districts and send more money to higher-performing districts.
SCHOOL SAFETY: The governor got money last year to expand the number of guidance counselors in Arizona. The funding is handed out in renewable grants that schools have to apply for. Will he provide a permanent funding sources this year?
SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Expect the governor to vow to expand state law to allow certain students to spend taxpayer money on private schools that are out of state. This was an issue for a few Navajo students last year; the Legislature amended the voucher law to apply only to their situation.
TAXES: The governor has revived his pledge from his first campaign, in 2014, to drive your income taxes to zero - or as close as possible. He’s cut taxes every year in office. But with state finances so healthy - and perhaps this session being his last opportunity for a big tax cut - the governor could go for broke, so to speak, with a personal income tax cut.
PRISONS: The Legislature has set aside money to fix prison locks. More likely, Ducey wants to fund raises for corrections officers.
SHOWDOWNS: K-12 schools are a target for GOP lawmakers. A battle over sex education has been simmering all summer. On Tuesday, the second day of the session, there’s a hearing with accompanying rally, on a bill that would ban sex-ed before 7th grade and give parents the right to sue over curriculum. Ducey has said he doesn’t see a reason to tinker.
That bill, from Sen. Sylvia Allen, included a ban on discussion of homosexuality, but it's since ben removed. Remember what I said above about this potentially being final year for a Republican majority? Social conservatives will likely be emboldened on issues like these.
OTHER HOT BUTTONS: Bills curbing vaping died last year. Republic State Sen Heather Carter vows to try again. Ducey has been cool to restrictions on vaping, as well as limits on Air BnB. He signed bill opening AZ to AirBnB. Republican lawmakers are hearing from constituents upset about AirBnB ruining neighborhoods in places like Paradise Valley (Ducey’s home) and Sedona.
ONE WILD CARD: We’ll find out this week what the attorney general thinks about the City of Phoenix’s new airport fees on Uber and Lyft. Ducey has a stake in their success. He doesn’t like the fees. I would expect him to say something about that in his speech (he tries to be on the news). If the AG doesn’t side with Uber and Lyft, I believe Ducey and the Legislature would step in.
LOOKING AHEAD: There’s been talk of the Legislature passing a bill to refer marijuana legalization to the ballot. Unclear where this stands. It would give Legislature and governor more control over legalization, which the governor opposes.
BET ON: A wise crack about California and the number of migrants from the Golden State to Arizona.
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