Here are the highlights from Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State speech
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey took to the stage for his fourth State of the State address on Monday, laying out what will be his legislative priorities for the upcoming session.
During the address, Ducey touted his commitment to increasing funds for K-12 public education, reducing the state’s recidivism rate and putting an end to the opioid crisis that has plagued the state and its residents.
Below are some excerpts from Ducey’s speech.
There are no lack of powerful and impressive women role models for the young people of our state, inside and outside of government – Moms and grandmothers. Judges and mayors. Congresswomen and CEOs. The first female NFL coach. A university president. The chancellor of the largest community college in the country. The police and fire chiefs of the fifth largest city in America.
We applaud your leadership, including that of Secretary Michele Reagan, Superintendent Diane Douglas, Justice Ann Timmer, and Leaders Rebecca Rios and Katie Hobbs.
This trail was blazed long ago. Icons like Rose Mofford and Sandra Day O’Connor fought with grit and determination for fair treatment, and achieved greatness. And they didn’t do it for women in the year 2018 to face
discrimination, misogyny or harassment. The reason, they did it, was so the women who followed them, would not only have their voices heard in our country – but so they would help lead and shape our great country.
It should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Every individual deservesto be treated with dignity and respect. Always. No exceptions. Private sector. Public sector. In my office. In state agencies. In this chamber. And everywhere else.
Since I last stood at this podium, we’ve lost more than 800 Arizonans to opioids. 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.
We’ve taken some important steps to date. Cracking down on doc shopping. Making Naloxone readily available to stop an overdose. Limits on first fills.
But this much is clear: This epidemic requires a more aggressive approach. When we have four doctors, in one small, rural county of 200,000 people, prescribing 6 million opioid pills in just one year – 6 million – something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. And we know that 75 percent of heroin addicts started on opioids. So last June, I declared a public health emergency to bring awareness and solutions to this crisis.
Out of that, Arizona’s top medical, addiction and public safety officials have presented thoughtful and serious policy proposals to stop the deaths. I’m grateful for their work. Of the proposals, some are aggressive, some may be controversial, and some frankly don’t go far enough.
For those of you who think this is not the role of government, you must have misread your Russell Kirk. Rules and regulations are there to protect public health and public safety. I intend to do both.
In the coming days and in partnership with legislative leadership, I will call for a special session, so we can focus on this, as one of our first orders of business, with the priority it deserves.
Our package will attack this issue from all angles, while protecting individuals who suffer from chronic pain, and maintaining compassion for those struggling with addiction. This much I commit: All bad actors will be held accountable – whether they are doctors, manufacturers or just plain drug dealers.
On the topic of public safety, we wake up too frequently these days to the report of another death on our highways. A wrong-way driver – and in many cases, it comes back to drugs or alcohol. You’d think it was obvious by now, but to anyone out there who hasn’t gotten the memo: Booze, drugs and driving don’t mix. Your actions are beyond foolish – they are lethal. And we will not tolerate it.
Let’s pass a bill: Those reckless enough to put lives on the line by driving the wrong-way on our highways, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, should face a felony conviction and prison time. No exceptions.
And if you break the law, our troopers will have their sights set on you, because we’re targeting even more efforts here: An enhanced “Wrong-Way Driver Night Watch,” with resources to match. We’re going to zero-in on these criminals, with the goal of stopping these accidents and saving lives.
Whether you’re wearing a uniform, or you’re a good Samaritan — everyone plays a part when it comes to public safety. We’ve all heard the mantra: See something, say something. Or, do something.
If someone has served their time, and paid their debt, and is lawfully released from prison after years, the last thing we want is for them to find themselves back in trouble with the law, and back behind bars, and our policy can play a role.
At second chance centers we launched last year at prisons outside Tucson and Phoenix, we’re teaching life and career skills to inmates who are scheduled to leave prison soon. Dozens of employers are participating, and of the hundreds of inmates who have graduated through these programs to date – many are leaving prison with multiple job prospects. So let’s expand these programs, with capacity for 975 more inmates to participate each year.
These efforts and others are paying off. We’ve seen a 10 percent drop in released inmates going back to prison on a technical violation, and Arizona is experiencing the largest drop in the number of inmates in our prisons since 1974.
So let’s keep going. One of the biggest impediments for released inmates to get back on their feet is the lack of a legal form of identification. I’ve instructed the Department of Transportation to work with the Department of Corrections, to do everything they can to start getting soon-to-be released inmates IDs before they walk out the doors.
Let’s get people off the streets; and in a job – with the goal of shutting down prisons, not building new ones.
For too many years, Arizona saw spending on prison facilities go up, and spending on K-12 education go down. Not any more. For the second year in a row, my budget will add no new prison beds. All of this while fighting crime and improving public safety. In addition, my cabinet continues to identify millions in wasteful spending, opportunities for consolidation and streamlined services.
Let’s spend these dollars – tens of millions of dollars combined – where they can go to better use: In our public schools and for our teachers. But before we talk dollars and cents – let’s address something. Some folks think the best argument for a greater investment in our public schools is to claim that our schools are failing. They are wrong.
The most compelling argument for investing in our public schools is that they are improving and getting better. And it has the added benefit of actually being true.
You wouldn’t always know it from picking up the newspaper or turning on the TV, but Arizona public schools are showing real, measurable signs of progress, and they are leading the nation in some important areas: Four of the top five public high schools in America are right here in Arizona, Arizona students continue to lead the nation in improvements in reading and math, three Arizona school districts – Chandler, Peoria and Washington Elementary – placed in the top 20 nationwide for academic gains.
We know how to educate a child in the state of Arizona. We need to do it more often in more locations across our state.
Overall per student spending is up 10 percent since 2015 – that’s adjusted for inflation. Over the last three years, we’ve committed 1.7 billion new state dollars to K- 12 education.
Since fiscal year 2015, school districts have increased their investment in teacher salaries by nine percent. It is clear: principals, superintendents and school board members are directing these dollars where they should go, to our dedicated teachers.
I’ve pledged to increase spending on K-12 education, above and beyond inflation, every year I’m in office. I’ve also said, we’ll never check the box on public education. We can always do more for our kids and teachers.
This week, I will release my budget. 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.
In fact, 80 percent of our new budget priorities you’ll see Friday will be for public education.
Every day we say goodbye to members of our Greatest Generation, including our Navajo Code Talkers. And it’s important our kids – the next Greatest Generation – know their history, and know these stories. There’s also more we can do for those who have served so nobly and bravely.
Like letting our vets keep more of the benefits they have so courageously earned. It’s been nearly 30 years since Arizona created the tax exemption for military retirement pay. But it’s capped and not once, have we increased it.
Arizona has more than 600,000 veterans, and for the military retirees who quality for the exemption, inflation alone has chopped it in half. Their service has earned them a lifetime benefit from our nation. So please, send me a bill that increases the exemption and demonstrates to our vets that we value this service.
Children’s health insurance
There are so many issues we can find common ground on. Like protecting the lives of children in our state.
That’s why we acted to prevent 24,530 low-income children from getting health insurance cancellation notices days before Christmas, as Washington continues to dither on this issue. And while Members of Congress give meaningless floor speeches and drag their feet, we’ve got a plan to fund KidsCare through the spring. But in the mean time, I’ve got a message for Congress: Do. Your. Job.
Meanwhile, just two years ago, the problems at the state’s new Child Safety department seemed insurmountable. But because of the committed service of our state’s child safety workers, non-profit organizations and the faith-based community, combined with legislative support – the Casey Family Programs just named Arizona the best in the country for its foster care reduction.
The backlog that plagued the agency for so long, has been eliminated. The average caseload has dropped from 145 cases to 16. And since a year ago, we’ve found safety and permanency for nearly 11,000 children. So I’m proud to announce that our budget investment this year will be in adoption services, because we are finding kids loving homes again.
Last year, we expanded our Happy Babies initiative – letting new moms and dads bring their newborns to work in the early months. It’s been a huge success. Just ask Lucas, Ryker and Milena – three graduates of the program from my office. They’re here with us today.
Happy Babies is now deployed in nine state agencies, and more than 250 babies have graduated. We’ve got plans to continue expanding it. Even better? Private sector companies have reached out wanting to model their own programs after it, helping more Arizona parents avoid having to decide between work and family. After all, it’s these dedicated state employees who are driving results and efficiencies throughout our government. They are valued members of our team.
While bureaucrats in Washington target Arizona’s Salt River horses, we’re targeting needless state regulations. Last year we wiped out 676. Eliminated them. And our estimates show that these reforms have saved real people more than $48 million. That’s the equivalent of a $48 million tax cut, without costing the general fund one dollar. But we’re not stopping there. For decade, after decade, after decade, red tape has been added – and for too long, no one in government ever stopped to ask “why?”
Over the past 3 years we’ve worked hard to transform the culture of this government. Shutting down unnecessary state agencies. Waiving licensing fees for those in poverty. We’re cutting red tape, chipping away at regulations and opening up economic freedom.
A word of advice to those bureaucrats – and, yes, even some elected officials – who are resisting this effort: The train is leaving the station. Get on board, or you’re going to get left behind. The good news is, should you get left behind – you’ll re-enter a workforce with lots of new private sector jobs waiting.
Because in Arizona – we know the recipe for success. Lower taxes. Light regulation. Great public schools. Superior quality of life. And responsible water policies that will protect us from sharing in California’s water crisis.
Earning Arizona’s reputation as a national leader in water management was no easy feat and it didn’t happen by accident. It was the proactive nature of our predecessors, and our state’s willingness to take-on complex issues.
This session, we must follow their lead and put forward responsible policies that ensure Arizona speaks with one voice to secure the state’s water future for generations to come. Our economy is growing, so a plan is needed.
Look how far we’ve come. We went from a billion dollar budget shortfall three years ago, to discussion today over where to spend additional dollars. Since 2015, we’ve added more than 160,000 private sector jobs. The last time the unemployment rate was this low, we were all renting movies from Blockbuster. And now, Silicon Valley companies are flocking to Arizona.