Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons interviews Governor Doug Ducey about his plans for the upcoming legislative session.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a one-on-one conversation with governor Doug Ducey. We'll hear about the governor's plans and priorities regarding education, economic development, and child safety issues. Governor Doug Ducey next on "Arizona Horizon."
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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special edition of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Governor Ducey has been in office for a year. Earlier this week he delivered the state of the state address and later this week the governor will release his state budget. Tonight we visit with Governor Ducey here on the 9th floor of the executive tower. Good to see you.
Governor Doug Ducey: Good to see you.
Ted Simons: Lower taxes this year, next year and the year after, invest in education this year, next year, and year after, how are you going to do it?
Governor Doug Ducey: Great news. We have a growing economy finally. 52,000 new jobs. We have 100,000 new citizens over last year and Forbes says we're the state that is best in the country for future job = growth. So when you have a growing economy you can do things like = make the state a better place =to live from a lighter tax burden and additional dollars that you can invest in K-12 education.
Ted Simons: Can the state grow fast enough to get some of the additional dollars that were = taken away or lost I should say =during the recession. A lot of money loss and a lot of growth to --
Ted Simons: We are doing things to put money into K-12 education, prop 123, $3.5 billion additional dollars into K-12 education without raising taxes. Additional money in addition to that into K-12, but with growth and growth in our economy. We have a lot of different options.
Ted Simons: I want to get to education and 123 in a second. Tax argument and aspect of it. Obviously you are not going to raise taxes and you are going to cut taxes every year. That was your come -- campaign promise. For those who say we have been doing that and we are not seeing the results we should be seeing, what do you tell them?
Governor Doug Ducey: New jobs, new residents, economy is growing -- we were a state growing for decades before the great recession. It is time to grow again. Governors compete and states compete against each other and people and businesses decide. I go to the annual governor's meeting every year and I sit by the governor of Texas. Texas has zero income tax and they're talking about how they're going to improve their tax situation. So, we're in a competitive environment. It is dynamic. So, when you talk about having a great K-12 system, which is critical and it is important to me, but also a wonderful business environment where people can move and have predictability. That will be part of the state of Arizona as well.
Ted Simons: The tax scenario you are looking at and what you are considering, how much of a factor is predictability, because I think a lot of people see cut, cut, cut and wondering where the benefits are.
Governor Doug Ducey: Words are important. I want people to listen to what I'm saying. I'm talking about tax improvement. I'm talking about tax reform. Cuts are a part of that. But a better tax structure that allows business, industry, innovators, entrepreneurs to flock to a state and then to thrive and have success. We will work on things over the next three years. This is my first term, to improve the tax situation and also have a system that can weather downturns better and is better as we're growing as well for reinvestment in the state.
Ted Simons: And anything you can tell us right now, budget released on Friday, anything as far as tax reform you can talk to us about right now?
Governor Doug Ducey: You will see the full budget on Friday and we will work with the legislature on something that is responsible and puts the state in a --
Ted Simons: Prop 123, you called it a big first step as far as education and funding education. A big first step. What's the next step?
Governor Doug Ducey: Well, first let's talk about taking the first step. Because we have the opportunity with prop 123. But it's really up to the voters. It will go to the voters on May 17th. Think about this in terms of whether you want to say it is a big step or a huge step. It's $3.5 billion in additional money into K-12 education. But if we don't get the votes on May 17th, we're back at square one. So, to take this first step, I'm going to be putting a lot of my effort and energy to ensuring its success. We have bipartisan support. We have the business community. We have the education champions. But, Ted, you may have noticed, this has been a crazy election cycle. And people are certainly upset. There is a loss of trust in our Federal Government. We don't want to see that transferred on to the state government. This is $3.5 billion, yes, but it is no additional taxes. So, we're able to do this through a -- a better spending of our trust fund. This goes into the base formula and constitutionally protected. You will hear a lot of this. I imagine you and I will visit again on prop 123.
Ted Simons: People will argue that this money should have been there in the first place. They're worried once this happens -- 123 seems to have a lot of momentum to it. Obviously nothing is taken for granted I'm sure. But if it passes, when it passes, what is next? I mean you have talked about reform. You've talked about trying to get better financing for better performing schools and these things. What concrete aspects do you have?
Governor Doug Ducey: We will try to do much of this at the same time. It is not either or. It is not one or the other. We can put these additional resources in and we can also move reforms forward. We can also put dollars in the budget. You will see this on Friday to repair and rebuild existing schools. We can talk about the past all we want. The great recession, the downturn was very hard on the state of Arizona. I've been in office just one year. And to be able to bring this proposal of 3.5 additional billion dollars to the voters is that turning of the page. Is that step forward as to how we're going to prioritize K-12 education, and not just K-12 education. We talked a lot in the state of the state about our universities. You know, because we made the difficult decisions of last year and they were difficult. The state was out of money. There was a $1 billion deficit. Today we have a $322 million cash carry forward. So we're in a much different position in terms of the budget that we're talking about and we can talk not only about the K-12 system, but about the great universities here.
Ted Simons: Quickly on the university, celebrated the university, each of the state universities. Cut $99 million last year. You didn't mention in your state of the state address if any of that money would be restored. Can we look forward to something -- I think they're looking for $24 million along those lines just for starters. Can we look forward to something like that on Friday.
Governor Doug Ducey: You can look forward in the change in the trend line of investment to the university. There will be positive news. But is better a position that we are in on the budget than we were at this time last year. We don't want to make the irresponsible decisions that were made in the past for ongoing spending that puts the state in a pickle if things slow down. Let's build on the foundation and success that we have in this first year and I talked about our universities because our universities are doing great. U of A, discovering water on Mars. Arizona state university, new American university and Barret honors college being called the gold standard by the "New York Times." Equivalent of an ivy league education here in the valley, accessible to all, envy of every other state in the country. These are things to be proud of. Michael Crow-- incredible leader at ASU. We want to partner with our university presidents and I wanted that to come across loud and clear inthe state of the state.
Ted Simons: Partner in strengthening higher education in Arizona. Can you give us a better definition, as a partner, does that mean a little more in the way of funding?
Governor Doug Ducey: Of course as a partner part of it is equity that you put inside the universities but also relationship and partnership. Policy around structure and how we work with these universities. These are large universities, very successful, NAU has got students from California that are attracted to it for higher education and as a teachers college. So, it is that idea that they will have an advocate in the governor's office and we can think long term. Part of the way this works is we do have to deal with the dollars that are available today. But then what's the plan going forward and we have talked about the insurance for the universities, how we handle the pensions, how we handle the risk management. How we best work with the board of Regents so that we can provide the universities the support and direction that they need. That is all part of this discussion.
Ted Simons: Another part of the education discussion is CTE, current technical education, J-Teds, these schools that had funding cut last go around and they're worried about getting some of that money back. What can you tell folks, look at career and technical education, and say we're giving the business community what it wants. They need better trained and educated folks. We're here for them but we keep getting cut.
Governor Doug Ducey: Part of what we had to do through balancing the budget -- decisions were made, we had to live within our means just like any other business does or enterprise outside of government. Because we have money in the bank, we are looking to invest in JTeds and career and technical education, and high employment sectors. We know not every kid is going to go to college. But the K-12 education should prepare them for life and a career and that is where the JTed shines.
Ted Simons: K-12 schools in general, critics who say your concentration is with charters, private schools, these sorts of things, traditional district, public schools seem to be getting lost in the mix. First of all, is that a valid criticism? And secondly what are you doing as far as -- 83% of Arizona parents, talk about choice, their choice is to send their kid to the neighborhood traditional district school. What can be done to improve those schools?
Governor Doug Ducey: Our focus is on public schools and always public schools. We never would have got prop 123 together with the legislature and education community if that wasn't where our heart was and where our focus is. And that is where the dollars will go. I look at these as all of our kids. Parental choice, whether the traditional K-12 or charter system -- I want to see opportunity, impact, options and improvement in all of these schools.
Ted Simons: But the idea of maybe a little more attention to the more successful schools, doing something right, you want to see that replicated -- but the poor performing schools seem like they would be the ones that immediate nor attention.
Governor Doug Ducey: You need attention for both. You want to take the schools that are doing well. You want to duplicate them, replicate them, when you can get more kids inside a school with great teachers and a terrific principal, that's good for everyone. The schools that aren't doing as well, yes, there is improvements we can make in management and also things we can do of providing dollars for more kids that take AP level college preparation classes. You know, we have far too many kids that are falling through the cracks that aren't going on to get that career and technical education or going on to higher learning. So, we're taking the best practices happening here in Arizona and gleaning from other places around the country and applying them to the Arizona schools so that we continue to improve and we have shown signs of improvement while other states are slipping.
Ted Simons: Infrastructure, helping with financing of infrastructure. How much can the state actually do that? Especially when dealing with charters and maybe some privately own facilities. How legally far can you go?
Governor Doug Ducey: First we have a responsibility to our public schools and their infrastructure. And then when we can do things legally, where we can allow to grow a K-12 public education system in a way that allows our best schools to grow and to expand, and to invest, we want to do that. I mean, this is a responsibility of the state. So, we want to be innovative in this pursuit. And where we can provide resources and take care of what's already existing in the care of the state, that's what we need to do.
Ted Simons: Last point on this. Again, critics will say there is a lot of attention toward one side of the education spectrum, K-12 we're talking here and just not another on the other side where the problems are, where the needs are, where the attention needs to be given. How do you respond to that?
Governor Doug Ducey: Well, I have gone out of my way to refer to all of these schools as public schools. I think in the past they have tried to pit one system against another. I have reached out to leaders across the spectrum and said I want to work with you. I want to be governor of all of the people. It is the same with our public schools and I am going to continue to do that.
Ted Simons: Child protective services is a continuing concern. You mentioned it during your state of the state address and you talk about it often. You talk about standing up for foster kids. There is increasing concern out there, over the department and the department's director. Do you have confidence in director McKay at the department of child safety?
Governor Doug Ducey: I have confidence in director McKay. I do have concern with what's happening in this department but let's remember, this agency has been broken for years. It was stripped out of the department of economic security just over a year ago in a special session. We did inherit something that was not working. We changed leadership and director McKay, we're making progress, but we need to make more progress more quickly. We have 18,927 kids in the care of the state. This is something that I'm focused on. It is something that my wife is helping me with. And it is something that we're making improvements on. We're never going to check the box and say we have got this covered. There will always be unfit parents. I don't know if there is more unfit parents today or when I was a child. And that part of it doesn't really matter. This is the responsibility of the state. These are the most vulnerable in our community and I want people to know that this administration is focused on it.
Ted Simons: But for those looking ago the department, seeing a lack of leadership there, leaving the department, as far as caseworkers are concerned. They are not seeing the kind of improvement that I think most folks hope for when the original change happened and when you came on as well. The progress -- is there another progress happening here?
Governor Doug Ducey: Well, like I said, I want to see more progress happen more quickly, but the fact that you have people leaving the department means that there may be a change in culture in terms of a focus on results and protection and safety and permanency for these kids. I am not so concerned about the people that are leaving the department. I'm concerned about the kids that are in the care of the department. That's what we're going to measure.
Ted Simons: As far as that measurement is concerned, will we be seeing more funding for DCS?
Governor Doug Ducey: We are going to be -- you are going to see the budget Friday. We have an incredible amount of resources going to DCS. I believe we need more resources, but I want to make certain that they will be effectively spent to protect these kids and where possible to keep these families together.
Ted Simons: A lot of folks when they look at DCS, and foster family, foster child situation, they see poverty as a major issue in this entire equation. Do you see that as an issue as well? If so, how do you address that aspect of what we're talking about?
Governor Doug Ducey: Well, the first thing is I think we all have an expectation that a parent should care in a loving way for their child. But there is really no getting away from the fact that poverty has been a part of this. When we can provide parents a situation, economy where the can get a job or pursue a fulfilling career, so many other things work out. That is why there is such a focus not only on the care and Metrix of DCS, but how do we grow a better state, a better place to live in. We know we have a terrific place to live. But we have more help wanted signs, more job creators, more entrepreneurs opening up more businesses. We have more opportunities for all of our citizens, and that's the best way to help people in that type of situation.
Ted Simons: Does the state have though more of a responsibility to help some of these folks in poverty, especially folks with children, the children themselves, whether it is kids care, health insurance for the poor, whether it is, you know, help for the needy families, these sorts of things. It seems like the state critics will say a little tight, little tight there, if you help on that end you could also help as far as some of the family situations, maybe not so many foster kids.
Governor Doug Ducey: First we talk about opportunity for all. How do we have a state where everyone has a chance? In many cases a second chance. But we also want to have a strong social safety net. This is why it was so important to me to balance the budget. When you balance the budget, you have programs where you can provide people in the most dire circumstances that helping hand, hand up. We will continue to do that. But I don't think that you can, again, look at that as an either/or. You want to have an economy that people can center, but sometimes people are down on their luck. They have lost their job. They need new training. They need education. That's what the department of economic security is doing. We have a great new director in Tim Jeffreys, been there nearly a year. Doing great things there. He has a true servant's heart and looks at this as a mission to get people back in the private sector.
Ted Simons: Can we see more attention in that when the budget is released Friday?
Governor Doug Ducey: More attention in the standpoint of how we're handling this. The -- we want to give that person a check, but provide them job opportunities, provide them training, provide them places in which to volunteer. Nobody wants to be on government assistance long-term. But they want to know that it is there when they need it.
Ted Simons: I think municipalities around the state want to know that their shared revenue is there when they need it. And your state of the state address Monday came out with a threat basically saying you mess around with certain things and we may mess around with shared revenue as far as cities and towns are concerned. Did you come on a little strong there did you think?
Governor Doug Ducey: Well, I wanted to speak clearly. I wanted people to know that the state's economy and reputation is important to me and I want them to know that we have an idea what makes a state an attractive place to live, what allows an economy to grow and I wanted to say we're in charge of that direction. I have talked to a lot of mayors and city council men and women across the state. A lot of them are applauding this. They want to see this happen. Because they don't think that we should have a different wage and employment law in Tempe versus Mesa where people don't always know where the dividing line is. That hurts businesses. That hurts jobs. And ultimately that hurts the citizens of Arizona.
Ted Simons: I would imagine the formula for shared revenue, if that were to be messed with, for lack of a better term, that might hurt some of the municipalities as well.
Governor Doug Ducey: We want to see everyone have the resources they need to provide the services important for the state. We don't want to see this patch work, what I call a California-style chaos that sheds jobs and shuts down businesses and hurts workers. We're not going to do that here.
Ted Simons: Unnecessary regulations, give me an example of unnecessary regulations. A lot of folks look at them and say they're there for a reason.
Governor Doug Ducey: Constant drum beat in government, drum beat for more taxes, more spending, more regulation, oftentimes it can be a culture of we need to justify our existence. We have tried to change that to make it, you know, why are we here and who do we serve? And that's the citizen, and that's the taxpayer, that's the small business owner. I think the best example I have of regulation is what we went through last year with UBer and LYFT. We had an overly aggressive state regulator who was taking the taxi cab regulations and applying them to a new ride sharing technology and -- we want to have regulations so that we protect people and consumers but we don't want to shut down new innovative ideas.
Ted Simons: When the new innovative ideas don't involve background checks for folks driving other people around. The other side will say hey, that is a regulation that seems to make sense and doesn't seem unnecessary.
Governor Doug Ducey: Let's let the free enterprise system -- this Uber, if that is what you are talking about, this is a terrific service that provides convenience for people all over the state. It is helpful in terms of public safety and reducing drunk driving and impaired people on the roads. And they're doing a wonderful job. So, we could get government involved and probably find a way to shut them down or slow them down, but just so you know, Ted, that is not my objective. It is to grow the economy here in the state of Arizona and this is something that is not only providing jobs to people that need additional income, it is providing convenience and services to our citizens and taxpayers. So, you've got the wrong governor if you are looking for me to get in the way of these good ideas.
Ted Simons: Last point on this though for those who say a background check for someone driving me around, just a fingerprint on file somewhere for someone driving me around doesn't seem onerous.
Governor Doug Ducey: Why don't we let the industry and insurance companies take care of this. If somebody wants to order a Uber or LYFT from their iPhone or Samsung phone, they're free to do it.
Ted Simons: Clint Bolick For supreme court, first appointment to the state supreme court --
Governor Doug Ducey: Have you ever heard such raucous applause for --
Ted Simons: I do know that he was an interesting and in some quarters a surprising choice. No judicial on the bench experience. Why did you choose him?
Governor Doug Ducey: No different than the current chief justice in terms of someone who was highly regarded in the legal profession. He was sent up to me along with six other names from the commission, and I think very highly of Clint. I think he will be a superior justice.
Ted Simons: Similar judicial philosophy? What was the final result here?
Governor Doug Ducey: I think -- I interviewed all seven of these people and they were all people of the highest integrity, all very qualified to be on the supreme court. Clint is a scholar and he is also outside the club of judges. And I think in many ways I'm outside of the club of politicians and electeds. I think of a different perspective when you come from the real world can be brought to the executive branch and I think Clint has been fighting on behalf of small business owners and protecting the rights of people that don't have much power. I would like to see some of that perspective in our judiciary.
Ted Simons: Would you like to see another speedy session as far as the legislature is concerned?
Governor Doug Ducey: I'm going to be here whether it is a speedy session or not. I talk a lot about working at the speed of business. That means we should be responsive to the taxpayer and to the citizen. I think we need to take the proper amount of time so that we debate the bills that are in front of us and we make responsible decisions on the budget. At the same time these are part-time legislative positions. Most of these folks put in full-time to do a good job, but their citizen legislators and I want to respect that spirit.
Ted Simons: Last question. There were those who said that the budget process was rushed last year to get that thing out the door before better numbers came in and show that there was a bit of a surplus or there was more money where there was not before. That was the reason for the rushed process. And it was pretty quick. How do you respond to that?
Governor Doug Ducey: I would like to think that the better numbers were because we're making better decisions. We're not going to rush anything. We are going to have full transparency. We will talk about the budget in the capital city. We will go to northern and southern Arizona with it, live streaming a lot of these discussions. I want to be sure that we don't have that same accusation. There will be full transparency. I think it took us seven or eight weeks last time, it will likely take us that much time or more but we are going to work very hard to get all of that information out so, of course, everyone here at the capital will know it but I want the citizens to be informed as well.
Ted Simons: Governor always a pleasure and good to see you.
Governor Doug Ducey: Thank you for having me, Ted.
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