Ducey's State-Of-State Address Receives Mixed Reaction
Governor Doug Ducey is challenging state lawmakers to wipe out the state’s massive budget deficit and fix the education system with limited funds. The newly elected Republican gave his first State-of-the-State address to a joint session Monday promising to tackle some of Arizona’s most pressing fiscal challenges.
Ducey said lawmakers can’t sidestep the state’s problems and he urged them to get moving right away. He said despite the projected $1.6-billion deficit, Arizona can move forward.
"And the state of our state will be confident…strong and on the rise,” Ducey said to applause.
He vowed to balance the budget by streamlining government, reducing spending and he further outlined his order for a state hiring freeze to make ends meet.
“In real life when families or businesses take stock of how they’re doing the answer has a lot to do with the state of their finances. Well, it works the same in government,” Ducey said.
He wants to increase education spending despite the state’s fiscal problems. He is also pushing the state to work with the courts to come up with a way to pay public schools the hundreds of millions of dollars they were denied during the recession.
“The courts have given us a choice…between a fiscal crisis or a constitutional crisis. So, I say to you the legislature, settle this lawsuit," Ducey said.
He's referring to a court ruling that requires the state to initially pay more than $317 million in back payments to schools.
Democrats aren’t giving Governor Ducey high marks for proposals outlined in his speech.
"It was a lot of sound bytes but not a lot of substance,” said Eric Myer, the House Minority leader.
Senate Democrat Leader Katie Hobbs said as far as the deficit is concerned, Ducey and majority Republicans in both chambers should reconsider $200 million in tax incentives for corporations approved by a previous legislature.
“We should look at those, we should put a pause on that and look at implementing them a little down the road if its going to help us get out of this hole,” Hobbs said.
Democratic state Rep. Rebecca Rios said Ducey talks a lot about addressing Arizona’s fiscal crisis, but she said he’s not providing much leadership.
“While he is acknowledging we have a $1.6 billion deficit, I’m not hearing anything in terms of how we should address that,” Rios said.
But Ducey said he will provide more details in his budget proposal that will be released to lawmakers on Friday via a computer flash drive and not printed on paper — at least that’s one way to save some money.