Gov. Doug Ducey delivered his sixth State of the State address Monday to mark the opening of the annual legislative session.
The governor's speech stuck to familiar terms: reducing regulations, education, business growth and infrastructure. He began by declaring the state of the state strong, and touted the state's economy, hitting on the fact that Phoenix is the fastest-growing city in the nation and highlighting the fact that Arizona has received national attention for recognizing out-of-state business licenses and doing away with many regulations.
"We believe government should do fewer things but do the things it does well. Let's continue hacking away at the permanent bureaucracy and the 'mother may I' state," Ducey said.
Ducey challenged the Legislature to do away with outdated laws.
"I've issued a new executive order, with a new reform. If the government ever deems a new regulation absolutely necessary it must first identify three others to eliminate," he said. "You get it. New regulations will naturally mean less regulations.
Democrats had mixed reactions to the speech.
"This was a very Republican speech, the past couple State of the States he was very, it was very appealing to the Democratic caucus as well," said Rep. Randy Friese, the House assistant minority leader.
The governor is a former business man and uses many of his speeches to push for business expansion in the state. The State of the State was no different. Ducey trumpeted the fact that Arizona now has $1 billion dollars in the so-called rainy-day fund. But he also issued a warning.
"For those of you who don't know me that well yet, spoiler alert, we're not going on a spending spree."
He also had a message on taxes.
"No new taxes. Not this session, not next session, not here in this chamber, not at the ballot box, not on my watch."
Ducey's speech came just hours after education activists held a news conference at the Capitol to announce a new ballot initiative called the Invest in Education Act, which would impose a 3.5% tax on individuals making more than $250,000.
The governor specifically asked the Legislature to remove the state income tax on military pensions. When it came to infrastructure, Ducey had one plan in particular that he highlighted.
"The Phoenix-Tucson is an economic artery for our state and it needs expanding. It is time to accelerate completion of I-10's widening in both directions between our two largest cities," Ducey said. "Our budget puts the pedal to the metal with the construction of a new six-lane bridge over the Gila River."
Ducey did not say how much he wants to the state to put into that plan…he will release his budget later this week which will have more details.
When it came to education, the governor called for an expansion of the teacher's academy but also helping low-income and struggling schools.
"Help struggling schools with tools, resources and expertise to produce better results for students. We call it Project Rocket. We're working with Rep. Michelle Udall to make it a reality. We owe it to the kids in these schools. They're waiting. Let's not let them down."
Friese said Ducey missed the mark on some education proposals. The Tucson Democrat said that is because he did not acknowledge history.
"We certainly have been making some small steps in not only K-12 but also higher education, but we are just now getting back to 2008 funding levels. ... He's very proud of the 20% raise that he's achieved over the last three years, and certainly that's a move in the right direction, but our teachers are still one of the worst-paid teachers in the country," Friese said.
Democrats expressed concern that Ducey did not address the shortage of school counselors in his proposals to help K-12.
"What our caucus would like to see is expanding the teachers academy by allowing our qualifying recipients to also be counselors," Friese explained.
The governor also called on state lawmakers to force insurance carriers to better cover mental health care. He also wants state lawmakers to fund an expansion of broadband in rural areas of Arizona.
Ducey ended his speech with a call for statesmanship and working together.
"Let's demonstrate we can get things done, the campaign can wait — that we can govern and we can do it together," Ducey said.
Friese said Democrats are ready.
"It will be up to the majority to choose to not only listen to our concerns but also compromise and give us something we can vote 'yes' on," he said.
Ducey will spend the rest of the week delivering similar versions of the speech across the state.