Ducey announces water investment plan in his final state of the state address | Arizona Politics

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) —Gov. Doug Ducey used his eighth and final state of the state address on Monday to announce a historic water investment plan. He said the goal is to “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” The investment would be $1 billion during the next three years, but Ducey didn’t go into specifics.

“Instead of just talking about desalination – the technology that made Israel the world’s water superpower – how about we pave the way to make it actually happen?” Ducey said in his nearly hourlong address. He didn’t say where he’d like to build a desalination plant, but water policy experts have long discussed the possibility of using water from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the nearest sea to Arizona.

Ducey state of the state

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, front, gives his state of the state address at the Arizona Capitol as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, right, R-Mesa, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, sit behind him Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Phoenix. 

Ducey enters his final year with the state seeing a big budget surplus. That’s a major turnaround from his first speech to lawmakers in 2015 when he faced a $1 billion deficit. Lawmakers also set aside $200 million last year for future water infrastructure.

The western United States is in the midst of a prolonged drought. Cutbacks in Arizona’s allocation of Colorado River water have already forced some farmers to let their fields go fallow, and more cuts are likely down the road absent a major weather turnaround. Ducey said he has been working on the plan with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann, both Republicans.

Border security

Ducey also continued his tough talk on the border during the speech, outlining different ways to secure it. He wants to create the “American Governors’ Border Strike Force,” which would be a partnership between border states to share intelligence information and increase cybersecurity.

Ducey called for state money for walls at the border and broadening penalties for human smuggling. “If the entire southern border isn’t secure, neither is our nation,” he said. He also wants money to expand the state police unit focused on the border.

Gov. Doug Ducey used his eighth and final state of the state address on Monday to announce a historic water investment plan. He said the goal is to “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.”

Ducey took aim at Democrats around the country, including President Joe Biden and his administration over border security and the tax policies in liberal states like California. He called on Arizona’s Democratic U.S. senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, to demand that his border priorities be passed at the federal level.

“Instead of being the voice of reason, he chose to take a partisan approach and that’s unfortunate for the state,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen.

Bolding said the governor’s water proposal “could be an area of promise” if he involves Democrats in discussions, but said it would be difficult to get Democrats on board if they’re not consulted.

Education in Arizona

He did not reveal any new plans to combat COVID-19 but repeated his warning that schools will not close. He has resisted mask or vaccine mandates and restrictions on public gatherings, saying vaccination is the key to getting past the pandemic.

He said the state will create a summer school to help children catch up on math, reading and civics. Ducey, already a supporter of school choice, wants to expand it even further with “greater open enrollment” and more charter schools. “Let’s think big and find more ways to get kids into the school of their parents’ choice,” Ducey said.

He said lawmakers should ban the teaching of critical race theory, a collegiate-level academic concept not widely taught in public schools. Lawmakers banned it last year in the budget, but the state Supreme Court found several budget bills unconstitutional, including the one with the ban. He said schools should be required to post “all curriculum and academic materials” online.

He also proposed increasing the stipend paid to grandparents or other relatives who are caring for children who would otherwise be placed with a stranger in foster care. The state has historically paid much less to relatives than to unrelated caregivers.

“These loving extended family members should have the same resources as any other foster family,” he said.

Ducey took office in 2015 with a pledge to cut taxes every year and get income taxes as close to zero as possible. He’s largely succeeded, culminating with his signing last year of a bill cutting taxes to 2.5% for everyone — a small cut for people with low incomes and a big boon for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That nearly $2 billion tax cut is on hold after critics collected enough signatures to give voters a chance to eliminate it later this year. To get around that, lawmakers are considering repealing it and replacing it with a new, potentially larger tax cut. Ducey has declined to weigh in on that proposal, but pledged Monday that “we will cut taxes.”

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