Governor Doug Ducey’s State of the State Address

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Jaime Molera, partner with Molera Alvarez, and Mario E. Diaz, president of Mario E. Diaz and Associates, give their analysis of Governor Doug Ducey’s first State of the State address and the upcoming legislative session.

José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Governor Doug Ducey delivers his first state of the state address. We'll have analysis of the speech from political consultants. Plus, we'll hear about an organization helping parents of murdered children. And learn how Super Bowl organizers are getting the Hispanic community involved in the big event. That's all coming up next on "Horizonte."

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. Governor Doug Ducey gave his first state of the state address. The governor focused solving the state's budget shortfall and education funding. We'll hear from two political consultants in a moment, but first, here is some of what Governor Ducey had to say about the budget and education.

Doug Ducey: To balance the books, we're going to institute a state government hiring freeze with protections for vital areas, like public safety and child safety. However -- [ Applause ] However, when it comes to bureaucracy, we're cutting back. The government can't take on any new expenses when we can't afford the ones we already have. [ Applause ] Our budget does what budgets are supposed to do. It prioritizes vital commitments that Arizonans value the most: Public safety, justice, classrooms and aid to the needy and vulnerable. So here's the plan. Let's make open enrollment and parental choice a reality and not just a talking point. Let's open the doors and make those empty seats available to our best public schools by creating what I call the Arizona public school achievement district. We can give our state's best public schools.

José Cárdenas: Shortly after the governor's speech, legislative Democratic leaders gave their reaction.

Rep. Rebecca Rios: It was an interesting proposal and I don't think that he has committed to actually bringing new money in. What I heard was that he's proposing shifting money and shifting money from administration to the classrooms but I would argue that that's already been done and there's very little in terms of revenue that can be shifted into the classrooms. At the end of the day, we need to pay the money that we owe and I did not hear anything in terms of a commitment to paying the 300 plus million dollars that we owe this year to the schools but rather a commitment to fight in terms of the lawsuit.

José Cárdenas: Joining me now to discuss the governor's state of the state address is Jaime Molera, partner with Molera Alvarez. And Mario E. Diaz, president of Mario E. Diaz and Associates. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." Both of you have been in gubernatorial administrations, you were with governor hull and Mario you were with governor Napolitano. Bring back any memories? How would you compare their first state of the state addresses with governor Ducey's?

Jaime Molera: Governor hull, it was a lot of difference. Governor Ducey was the vision of what he wanted to do. Governor Hull threw in everything but the kitchen sink. We talked very specifically about programs. She recognized lawmakers that were running bills that were important to her, kind of an old-school type speech but this was a lot different. It was very brief. I was surprised by the brevity of it and again, it was a little bit of an expansion of his inaugural speech but it was more on the vision of what he wants to accomplish as governor.

José Cárdenas: And I take it in governor hull's case, that was a reflection of the fact that she had been in the legislature for so many years, knew all those people out there. She wanted to mention them.

Jaime Molera: Exactly, she was a former Speaker of the House and felt like a governor should reach out to those individuals that are running legislation that's important to that administration. And so I think she mentioned out of the 90 members, probably 72. The other ones she didn't like very much so she left them out.

José Cárdenas: So Mario, governor Napolitano her first state of the state and governor Ducey, what do you think?

Mario E. Diaz: Lots of comparisons here.

José Cárdenas: The governor would be surprised.

Mario E. Diaz: That's right, but new energy, so Napolitano comes in, new energy. Doug Ducey new energy, a sense of vision that we have with this governor. Both talked about efficiency review, Janet Napolitano talked about efficient review. Doug Ducey talks about an auditor. Doug Ducey talks about more money into the classroom. Janet Napolitano talks about I'm going to create a tax review committee. Doug Ducey talks about no more taxes. A lot of parallelism here. I found it interesting.

José Cárdenas: So on taxes, wouldn't that be one difference? Both are talking about reviewing them but governor Ducey really laid down a line in the sand and said there aren't going to be any new taxes, and he also said he's not going to do anything to halt tax cuts that are in the works.

Mario E. Diaz: This is true. Janet Napolitano vision with the committee was to look at every possible deduction and where can we eliminate? And Doug Ducey pretty much laid down the marker and said no taxes under my watch.

José Cárdenas: How wise is that given the fact that we are in pretty difficult financial circumstances?

Jaime Molera: Well remember that was his mantra during the campaign. He also talked about eliminating the income tax and scaling way back on the corporate income tax. I didn't see that as a surprise. I believe one of the things that he's going to do and Friday he releases the budget, it's going to be very conservative to the point where there's a lot of major areas in the budget that are going to get cut, there's concern from the universities that there's going to be significant cuts to their area. They're one of the few major budget units that are not protected by voter protections like k-12 is, like the Medicaid because of prop 204. I think he's said it, we're going to have a budget that's going to live within our means. That's going to be one of the few -- one of the first things that I think is going to be interesting about how people react and how they deal with the criticism of those kinds of cuts.

José Cárdenas: We don't have any specifics, Mario but we do know that one of the things the governor is proposing is a hiring freeze. How effective could that be?

Mario E. Diaz: I don't know if we've even been hiring. I guess it's a hiring freeze plus. I'm concerned about what Jaime said. It's projected that by 2018, two thirds of the jobs that are going require some sort of higher education, be it community college or university. This is a vision that I hope that Doug Ducey and his administration take a look at after we fix this budget. There's no way out of the budget freeze this year and for next year. We're going to do what we have to do but continuing that process, there should be another process where we're thinking about the economy of our state, what are we going to do to move this state forward but in a real way? Not just as someone said a museum of ideas. But a museum of innovation, and I think that's what Doug Ducey can bring to this state. I have confidence in him, even though I'm on the other side of the political aisle.

José Cárdenas: One of the things he said, Jaime, in terms of how he will get the economy going, deregulation, which is kind of a standard argument, statement from Republican governors. What can actually be done there?

Jaime Molera: Well, in a lot of ways, I think he always talked about as his models of the kind of governor that he thinks were effective, Scott walker out of Wisconsin or Mitch Daniels, former governor out of Indiana. They were very aggressive about privatizing a lot of functions within government, about pension reform, of course, is a big issue, it's a hot topic, in this state it's something that because it failed and the city of Phoenix tried to do a pension reform light system and that failed, I think you're going to see those kinds of proposals. I think you're going to see areas where state governments right now that might be ripe for reform, D.E.S. comes to mind, there's a lot of folks that would like to see a lot of those functions maybe be privatized and maybe be done more efficiently. Those are the kinds of things you might be seeing out of this governor.

José Cárdenas: The other major point of emphasis was education. The governor at one point said he's going to put more money into the classroom. Rebecca Rio said he's shifting dollars. He's not generating more dollars.

Mario E. Diaz: The numbers are going to tell a story today on Friday, on where he's planning on shifting the money because I think that's what he's going to do. But let me go back to the vision thing. There are probably individuals in prison right now for marijuana use, you know. We have it to a certain extent legal in the state. This is $23,000 per year per prisoner. This is something that the senator, the governor should be looking at, which is reform in our justice system. There are issues like this, as an example, that we should be looking at for years to come so we're not constantly going back to the chopping block for higher education or public schools.

José Cárdenas: So continuing on that education theme, Jaime, the governor kind of opened that up by taking a shot at common core, what seemed to be a veiled shot there, he talked about the federal government and people on the other side of the state imposing their standards on us. Kind of continuing what I think most knowledgeable observers regard as a myth that this was forced on the states by the federal government when it wasn't. Is that just a political gimme to some of his more conservative supporters?

Jaime Molera: Possibly. But at the same time, his actions as governor to date when you look at the people that he's brought in to help with the transition, he brought in Lisa Keegan, who's been a very strong supporter, national supporter of standards and what happened with common core. Of course, she doesn't believe that the federal ideas that follow a lot of times with those kinds of processes should come into Arizona but she was a supporter nonetheless. Matt Ladner, very close with Jeb Bush, also was a supporter of common core, was a cochair of the transition. His policy advisory, Don Wallace, very well regarded in the education community, a lot of gravitas, but those are individuals that believe in high standards that we have to have an accountability system. His rhetoric might have been a little bit different, but the people that he's been working with and listening to I think are along those lines.

Mario E. Diaz: Sometimes, I find it ironic for my friends on the other side of the political aisle, there's a complaint about the federal government mandating a certain way to teach our children yet his first action for the governor is to mandate a civics, to pass a bill at the legislature to mandate a civics test for all seniors to pass before they graduate. I don't know the details but there's only a certain amount of time in the classroom to teach what we need to teach, and now the governor is encouraging the legislature to pass and he'll probably sign a new standard if you will for graduation.

José Cárdenas: Well, Mario, what about people on your side of the aisle, Democrats? Many of the specifics in the governor's relatively short state of the state speech not something that would make them happy probably? At the same time, he began by reaching out. It sounded like a very conciliatory statement about taking a fresh look and there's no reason why we have to be enemies on everything. How do you think he's going to get along with the democrat caucuses in the Senate and the house?

Mario E. Diaz: I'm encouraged that the governor will reach out to Democrats both in the Senate and the house. Now, the question's going to be is the leadership going to want to play? And to listen? They certainly don't want to be used by the governor and nothing occurs. Let me say this. I think that the Democrats of the house and the Senate, while they feel that they may be outside the process can play a major role for the future. They can call hearings on their own, informal hearings and start talking about laying a plan for the next year and contributing in this way as opposed to constantly, not this leadership but prior leaderships, just being the party of no. That's how we become irrelevant. We have to have a certain sense of self-determination here and put plans forward.

José Cárdenas: So last question to you, kind of on the same theme. What can we expect with this legislature and working with this governor?

Jaime Molera: Well, Mario's talking about democrats getting organized, and I think that's an oxymoron. I think there's going to be a lot of tension because remember the margins are still the same. You have 34-26 in the house and you have 17-13 in the Senate but you have enough Republicans on both sides that tend to be much more -- what would called the middle, the moderates. Those folks are still there, that could tip the balance. So if the Democrats do put forth strong proposals and reach out to those Republicans, reach out to some of those folks in the business community that don't want things like massive university cuts, I think there's going to be some interesting discussions at the legislature. And it will be interesting to see how the governor is able to maneuver that and bring those parties together. I would agree the Democrats are not going to be insignificant. They're going to have a big role.

José Cárdenas: We'll bring you both back to talk about that. Thank you so much for joining us this evening to talk about the governor's state of the state. There is a group helping parents cope with devastating loss. Producer Christina Estes tells us how this group is helping families. [Singing]

Jaime Molera:Partner, Molera Alvarez; Mario E. Diaz:President, Mario E. Diaz and Associates;

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