Between spirited bursts of applause from an audience of business and political leaders, Gov. Doug Ducey highlighted successes and mapped out priorities for 2016, which, if 2015 is any indication, should continue to bolster the state’s economy.
Ducey outlined his plan to several hundred attendees at the Chamber’s annual Legislative Kick-Off event Jan. 14 at the Phoenix Art Museum.
“Forbes called us the best state in the nation for job growth,” Ducey said. “We are on the rise as a state…I’m excited for what’s in store this year.”
Ducey said he will continue crafting a fiscally responsible state budget that does not raise taxes while prioritizing education, child safety and public safety. This year, he’s also looking to eliminate unnecessary regulations and reduce the number of professional licenses required by the state.
He is also focused on bolstering the “sharing economy” which is led by ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. He is also supporting several education initiaitves, not only with money via Proposition 123, but also by targeting high-need employment sectors with a new focus on career and technical education (CTE).
“I know there’s bipartisan support for this (CTE), so I’m looking forward to working with the Legislature to get that done,” he said.
He began his address by acknowledging how far the state has come, particularly with fixing the Arizona’s fiscal house. “At this time last year, our st
ate was a billion dollars in the red. Cries for higher spending and increased taxes threatened to push us further into the red,” he said.
He took a moment to recognize the leaders in the room who helped put the state on the path to budgetary order.
“What a difference a year makes. We stand here today because of the decisions made by people in the audience,” he said. “We have money in the bank. Our budget is on the path to structural balance…Our credit rating upgrades will save tax payers millions and most importantly, we’ve added 56,000 new jobs this past year and 100,000 new citizens.”
As Ducey concluded his remarks, lawmakers in attendance from both major parties provided their legislative hopes and priorities for 2016.
Democratic Sen. Catherine Miranda highlighted the need to improve the state’s education system.
“There’s so many areas in education that we need to focus on,” said Miranda, whose district includes south Phoenix, Guadalupe and parts of the Gila River Indian Community. “Unfortunately we don’t have much money, and I’m not saying that money is the answer to everything, but money put in the right places will help educate our workforce.”
Miranda also mentioned that she supports Proposition 123, which will pump much-needed money into the state’s K-12 education system.
Republican Rep. Jay Lawrence, whose district includes most of Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and the Fort McDowell-Yavapai Nation, doesn’t have any one particular priority, but does have a few bills in the works.
One of his bills, which he describes as a safety measure, would “deal with cities that are not obeying the law with regard to illegal immigration.” He added the bill “has nothing to do with SB1070.”
He is also sponsoring a resolution (HCR2019) that would place on the 2016 general election ballot the question of whether to restrict the ability to issue medical marijuana recommendations to medical doctors only.
Lawrence, who spent 26 years as a radio talk show host, added that being a legislator is his favorite profession. “I love it, it is the best job,” he said.
Republican Rep. Doug Coleman, whose district includes East Mesa, San Tan Valley, Apache Junction and Gold Canyon, mentioned a bill (HB2108) he’s running for the American Heart Association, which would require high schools to offer compression-only CPR as an optional class.
He added that the measure, which has been adopted by 26 states, has special significance.
“This bill is really close to my heart. My wife was saved a year and a half ago by CPR after collapsing at church,” said Coleman, who serves as chairman of the House County & Municipal Affairs Committee. “She came out of it with no brain damage and she’s doing really well.”
Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, whose district includes Central Phoenix & South Scottsdale, is keenly focused on child safety and advocating for some reforms at the Arizona Department of Child Safety. She is considering running a bill that would outline minimum qualifications for the director of the agency.
She also reiterated her party’s priorities for the session including education, public safety, protecting vulnerable communities, protecting the environment and helping grow the economy.
– Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. This article is part of the Chamber’s monthly newsletter, Arizona in Focus.