Ducey delivers annual State of the State address

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

During his State of the State address Jan. 8, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called on state leaders to come together to advance common policy goals.

Whether it’s the opioid epidemic, increasing education funding, helping our most vulnerable citizens, protecting public safety, expanding economic opportunity, or securing Arizona’s water future – the governor invited legislators to join him in putting party labels aside and getting to work, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Emphasizing the theme, “Spirit of Service,” the governor highlighted the efforts of Arizonans like former Governor Rose Mofford and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in making Arizona what it is today, and called for continued unity and bipartisanship to move Arizona forward in the 21st century.

The full speech may be read on the governor’s website.

Below are a few highlights:

Recognizing Gov. Rose Mofford:

This April marks 30 years since one of our state’s most beloved and cherished leaders took to this podium – beehive and all – and in doing so shattered the glass ceiling, through all nine floors of the Executive Tower, right up to the Governor’s Office. 

What better way to honor and further Governor Rose Mofford’s legacy than with a new historic achievement reached this past August: The highest percentage of female legislators of any state in the nation.

Historic women leadership:

Think about it. Here are three additional milestones that only Arizona can claim: One: more women governors to date than any state in American history. Two: the home of the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice And three: the state that two decades ago voted women into every single statewide elected executive position.

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.

Respecting all individuals:

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 deserves to 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.

State of the State:

Ladies and gentlemen – we enter 2018 with confidence and conviction, promise and possibility. The state of our state is strong, and our future is without limits. By working together, with a spirit of service; with integrity, humility – by forgetting about who should get the credit – we can move Arizona forward, and in a way that will make our fellow citizens proud. So let’s get to work.

Combating the opioid crisis:

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 mis-prescribed, 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.

Calling for a special session:

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.

Protecting public safety:

When it comes to protecting public safety, we know who’s on the front lines: Our cops, firefighters, first responders and members of our Armed Forces. Talk about the ultimate demonstration of public service.

Their families, too. When mom or dad walks out the door, they are walking straight into danger. As the son of a cop, I know this first-hand. 

Last year – we faced an especially aggressive fire season. And because of the dedication and commitment of our fire professionals at the state and local level, combined with National Guard and first responders, these fires were contained, and homes, lives and pets were saved.

Border strike force:

Two years in, our Border Strike Force continues to stop the flow of illegal drugs, weapons and cash into our state. We made a decision: If Washington D.C. wasn’t going to secure our border; Arizona would.

So far, the stats are staggering. 238 guns. Seized. 167,745 rounds of ammunition. Seized. 47,842 pounds of marijuana. Seized. And 11 million – 11 million – hits of heroin. Seized. All by our brave and smart Troopers working alongside local, federal and Mexican authorities. This is without a doubt making Arizona – and America – a safer place, and it’s worthy of our continued investment.

Cindy McCain: 

Contributing to this effort: Cindy McCain’s tireless work to shine a light on human trafficking, and to end it. She’s here today. Cindy, you and Senator McCain have all of Arizona’s love, prayers and support.

Preventing wrong-way driving:

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.

Providing real second chances:

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.

Increased school funding:

So let’s get some facts straight: 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.

Continued investments in K-12 education:

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.

At the same time, we are maintaining our investments in targeted programs that are working, and making a difference for Arizona students:

All-day kindergarten.

Career and technical education.

Computer science and coding.

Reducing waitlists.

Closing the achievement gap.

High-speed internet to rural schools.

New school buses.

In fact, 80 percent of our new budget priorities you’ll see Friday will be for public education.

Tax Relief For Veterans: 

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.

Protecting children’s health care:

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 meantime, I’ve got a message for congress. Do. Your. Job.

Improved child’s services:

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.

Expanding Happy Babies:

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.

Slashing needless red tape:

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.

Ensuring our water future:

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. 

Growing economy:

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. The New York Times recently featured our success, labeling it a “tech boom.” When’s the last time the New York Times had anything positive to say about Arizona? Keep it up and who knows – the Daily Show might even have something nice to say about us.

Over 7 million residents:

Meanwhile, we’re used to attracting companies from California – that’s easy. But now we are even taking them from Texas. We’re doing something right. People vote with their feet, and today Arizona is at an all-time record-high 7 million plus residents.

Credit goes to our citizens, job creators, and their workers.

Economic ties with Mexico:

We want Arizona to be the entrepreneurial capital of the US – the place where new technologies come to flourish. And we are well on our way. 

Helping our advantage? Our proximity to our largest trading partner – times four: Mexico. The cooperative relationship we’ve forged is improving things at every level—trade, growth in the economy, jobs, and increased border security.  I want to acknowledge the leadership of the first female Governor in the history of our sister state of Sonora – here today as a guest of Angela and mine, Governor Claudia Pavlovich.  Governor, Sergio, Gracias Muchas for your friendship and partnership in creating a safer and more prosperous place for all our people.

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