Gov. Doug Ducey uses second State of the State to tout economy, education gains

Jan 11, 2016, 3:07 PM | Updated: 5:33 pm

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)...

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey used his second State of the State address Monday to tout economic and educational gains made in Arizona over the past year.

Ducey said Arizona added 56,000 jobs and 100,000 new citizens since his inaugural State of the State speech one year ago. He also touched on Forbes ranking Arizona as the best state in the nation for future job growth.

“We’ve unleashed innovation,” he said. “Our free enterprise system is flowing.”

While the economic news was positive, Ducey called on lawmakers to simplify regulations and license requirements placed on businesses that “stifle job creation and progress.”

“Unfortunately, the process to get rid of these unnecessary regulations isn’t nearly as easy as the process to create them,” he said.

Ducey asked lawmakers for legislation that would make it easier to remove regulations and promised to sign it. He also signed an executive order that created a special council to help remove regulations to increase opportunity.

“I want startups … to know: California may not want you, but Arizona does,” he said.

One of the license issues Ducey brought up was that of ride-service companies, such as Uber and Lyft, picking passengers up at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“You can’t order an Uber or Lyft because unelected bureaucrats at city hall are protecting special interests,” he said. “Sky Harbor may be a city airport, but it’s an Arizona vital resource used by citizens all over the state, and our economy is dependent on its success.”

Ducey does not have authority over the airport, but he called on city of Phoenix officials to remove “unnecessary regulations” placed on rideshare services.

He also touched on his budget, which is expected to be released Friday.

“It prioritizes vital commitments like education, child safety and public safety,” he said. “It eliminates waste. It’s balanced. And most importantly, it does not raise taxes.”

Ducey said that, while he intends to keep his promise to reduce taxes year-over-year, he still plans to pump more money into the state’s education system.

“A great economy requires great public schools,” he said.

Late last year, Ducey signed a deal that would send $3.5 billion to Arizona public schools to settle a long-running lawsuit stemming from the state’s decision to raid school spending during the Great Recession. Voters will get to decide on the deal.

“Please put politics and partisanship aside, and put our kids and teachers first,” he said.

In addition to the funding deal, Ducey said Arizona plans to pump some of the most money in the nation into schools but will not raise taxes.

“We are going to make it easier and more affordable for our best public schools to expand,” he said.

Ducey said his office has developed a structure that would allow the state’s public schools to expand at a lower cost. The money can be used for facility improvements, to reward schools for high test scores or help boost those with struggling students.

The governor also expressed his support for the state’s three public universities and their nationwide impact.

“Wherever your loyalties may lie, you have to admit: Our universities are literally out of this world,” he said. “A [University of Arizona] grad recently discovered water on Mars. Arizona State University was just named the most innovative university in the country. And [Northern Arizona University] is now a magnet for students ditching California in search of a high-quality, affordable higher education alternative.”

Ducey closed out his speech by announcing another executive order that would start clearing Maricopa County’s backlog of about 2,300 rape kits that have not been processed. He called it an “injustice” that the kits were not processed.

The governor also said his office plans to publicly shame fathers who have walked away from children on social media by posting the person’s name, photo and amount of money they owe using the hashtag #deadbeat.

“It’s simple. If you’re old enough to father a child, then you’re old enough to accept financial responsibility for that child,” he said. “If you don’t want your embarrassing, unlawful and irresponsible behavior going viral, man up and pay up.”

He also touched briefly on the state’s battle with drugs and addiction, including a mention of the recently-created border strike force. He said the group, which works in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and law enforcement along the Mexican border, seized 21 pounds of heroin in just four months.

That is more than DPS seized in all of 2014.

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Gov. Doug Ducey uses second State of the State to tout economy, education gains