Arizona Governor Ducey highlights Tory successes in final speech

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday presented a program for his final year in office that is chock-full of conservative causes, focusing on schools, the economy and public safety.

The 51-minute state-of-state speech was heavy on the governor’s successes during his first seven years as chief executive of the state. And it has touched nearly every political lightning rod that Republicans say will mobilize voters in this year’s election, from border security and government spending to “critical race theory” and criticism of trade unions. ‘teachers.

The governor’s final program includes a billion dollar investment in water, the creation of a summer school program designed to catch up with students after months of learning through a computer screen and the strengthening of public security, with increases for some law enforcement officers and more efforts to crack down on illegal crossings. on the Arizona-Mexico border.

“As I go into the fourth and final quarter, I remember something my high school coach told me,” said Ducey, speaking from the Arizona House of Representatives podium. . “Come in and get the job done. And as I stand here today, the job is not done. … I intend to make the most of every moment and work hard throughout the process for my employers – the citizens of this state. “

The address included just three direct references to the COVID-19 pandemic and no acknowledgment of its toll – killing more Arizonas in 2021 than in 2020 and an increase in cases attributed to a new variant.

More than 24,770 Arizona residents have died from the virus and only 59% of eligible residents have received the vaccine. Downplaying the pandemic in his speech, Ducey signaled his addiction to voluntary vaccination because the state’s primary defense would remain unchanged.

Ducey criticized the Biden administration for a host of issues, including inaction at the border and letting inflation run wild. The national focus drew criticism from some Democrats in attendance.

“This is actually probably one of the most partisan speeches I have ever seen from Governor Ducey,” Democratic House Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, candidate for secretary of state said. “Is he still governor of Arizona or is he preparing for a national office?” “

Take a victory lap in the last 8 years

Ducey touted the state’s financial strength – with billions of dollars to spend this year compared to the deficit it inherited in 2015 – and efforts to downsize government, saying the rapid growth and strength of the state economy were the result.

He described his decision to cut supplementary employment benefits last year as a fight against “the government’s great socialism.”

In a budget plan due for release on Friday, Ducey teased another deposit in the state’s rainy day fund – an emergency bank account – and paid off more debt.

“Some have moaned, but growth is a good problem,” he said. “The alternative is to be a state in decline, in misery and decline. No state has ever charted the course of success with ‘Closed to Business’ signs. Our only request to our new citizens is this : Don’t forget why you came here in the first place. Freedom, opportunity and good government are important. “

But the downturn in government has also come with challenges, including raising questions about out-of-state financial investments and whether overly lax oversight has allowed underqualified professionals to work in the state.

“Today a lot is different in Arizona. We have lived within our means: we have more citizens, our budget is balanced, our economy is roaring and our government is smaller and more efficient than it has to be. never been, ”said the governor.

In other political goals, the governor has said he wants to:

  • Expand free community college and university programs to spouses of veterans.
  • Give raises to state soldiers, making them “the highest paid law enforcement professionals in the state.” In a statement, the governor’s office called for increases of 15%.
  • Increase funding for extended family members who are fostering children, increasing the allowance from $ 75 to $ 700 per month.
  • Invest more to accelerate the expansion of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.

Focus on the border, federal government

The governor spent several minutes criticizing the federal government for its inaction at the border, calling it a dereliction of duty on the part of the country’s top leaders.

“We will protect public safety,” he said. “We will not back down. We will fight this fight until Washington DC finally acts.

Ducey has pledged to spend more money on the Arizona Border Strike Force, boosting technology – like drones – to improve surveillance. He announced a multi-state plan working with Texas to patrol the border and said it would close gaps in the border fence where possible, while acknowledging the complex land ownership issues that would prevent a full wall.

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Governor Ducey Says Arizona Border in “National Crisis”

In his State of State Address in 2022, Governor Ducey called for more attention to the border patrol and called out to Sens. Sinema and Kelly to take action.

Republic of Arizona

The governor typically uses the speech as a call to action for state lawmakers, urging them to send legislation he loves to his office, but this year he has also set his sights on the federal delegation.

Governor urged Arizona’s Democratic Congressional majority delegation to oppose any measure unless it includes border security policies, like the wall, additional surveillance and funding for border communities .

Education a priority in speech

The governor said the choice of school has become a “lifeline for families” during the pandemic, and as it has done in years past, declared his support for “widening the choice of school” ‘school in every way possible “.

He focused on helping children catch up after months of distance learning, pledging to keep schools open and saying school leaders have allowed “signaling of policy and virtue ”to occupy center stage.

“There has been too much attention to masks and not enough to math, with an emphasis on restrictions rather than reading and writing,” the governor said. “And it is students of color and those living in poverty who have been most affected by the postures and politics of the COVID era of some school board bureaucrats.”

Ducey said the state would launch a summer program to help children catch up in math, reading and American civics, the latter being an issue the governor championed during his tenure. K-12 schools closed under a governor’s order in March 2020, with some remaining on a distance learning plan before the governor orders classrooms to open in most cases in March 2021.

He called for curriculum and school materials to be published online, so parents and citizens can get a better idea of ​​K-12 education, and urged lawmakers to send him a draft. law specifying: critical theory of race.

The governor’s education program was a nod to the off-year election in Virginia last year, in which Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governorship, overthrowing the state for the GOP. Youngkin’s Democratic challenger made a blunder that only helped the Republican by saying parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach.

Republican lawmakers watching from the floor of the House gave the governor a standing ovation for his commitments on school choice and curriculum.

Their Democratic peers, however, remained seated.

Check back with azcentral for updates to this report.

Republic reporter Ray Stern contributed to this article.

Contact reporter Stacey Barchenger at [email protected] or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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