By Phil Riske | Managing Editor
(STATE CAPITOL) – Arizona Governor Doug Ducey acknowledged on Monday the state has ‘serious’ money and education problems and he called on the Legislature to function in a bipartisan manner to solve them.
In his State of the State address, Ducey blamed some of the problems on the “old way of thinking “ about the role of government and urged lawmakers, especially first-time legislators, to not get trapped into previous mistakes.
“Conventional wisdom is not wisdom,” he said. “I will work with you in every way I can.”
Ducey’s speech focused on fiscal responsibility and education, pledging to reduce a projected $1B deficit over the next two years, while spending more on classroom education.
“I am not persuaded by appeals to raise taxes so we can spend more, said the new governor, who promised lawmakers his budget would be delivered to them on Friday.
Ducey says to be fair the Arizona tax rate should be tied to the inflation index, bemoaning past attempts at tax reform stalled.
“Let’s put this budget in balance and let’s keep it there,” he said.
The Ducey budget, he said, will include a hiring freeze, but will protect public safety, children and the needy. It also calls for establishment of an inspector general as “a watchdog for the taxpayer.”
The position would also hunt out corruption, Ducey said.
The governor said businesses are plagued by excessive federal and state regulations, which he said, must be eliminated, and business should move at a “business pace,” not a regulatory pace. In that regard, he called for reduced timeframes for business permits and licensing.
“Our goal is to be the best place in America to work and do business,” Ducey said.
The state Supreme Court has ruled the K-12 system was denied constitutionally guaranteed inflation increases for four years. How that money is to be distributed is tied up in a lower court.
“The court order is demanding money we don’t have,” the governor said, creating a “fiscal versus constitutional crisis.”
“I say to the Legislature, settle this lawsuit. It’s time to stop paying lawyers and start paying teachers.
Ducey proposes a Classrooms First Initiative “to improve outcomes for all children.”
He noted 96 percent of Arizona students have flunked a basic civics test and called on the Legislature to pass an “American Civics Bill,” which would require instruction on the principles of freedom.
Education must be affordable for all families, he said, announcing he has issued an executive order to empanel experts to find ways to get maximum bang for the education dollar.
Ducey said open enrollment and parental school choice would help bring new life to 400,000 empty classrooms in the state. He also called for the budget to include funds to help school district reduce their debt service and to rid the education system of bureaucrats.
The governor said he was tired of reading reports where Arizona is ranked low in various categories compared to other states, saying he wants the state to be known as “on the rise.”
“We can do better,” Ducey said.