Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs touched on many subjects affecting Arizonans and the Grand Canyon State in her second State of the State Address.
Please view the Governor’s address below.
The topics the Governor addressed included border security, the state’s financial condition, Arizona’s Ascension in the high-tech industry, expanding post-secondary opportunities including apprenticeships, infrastructure such as high-speed internet, affordable housing, water security, funding K-12 education, regulating Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA,) going after scam senior care facilities, and protecting reproductive freedom.
Among the Governor’s opening remarks, she previewed the potential points of contention between her and the Republican Majority in the State Legislature, stating:
“As we embark on this new year – one that will be filled with highs and lows, tough choices and compromise – it is my sincere hope we never lose sight of why our fellow Arizonans bestowed on us the honor of representing them and why we must always strive for progress and for a better tomorrow.”
On border security, the Governor chastised both Republican and Democratic Administrations for not adopting policies that would better secure the boundaries with Mexico. She also highlighted what her administration has done to help border communities like the creation of Operation Secure, sending the Arizona National Guard to patrol the Lukeville Port of Entry, and $84 million in assistance.
Ms. Hobbs called for collaboration on border security, remarking:
“Together, let us continue to find real solutions, support law enforcement, first responders, and community leaders who are on the frontlines of this issue, and push Washington to do its job to secure our border.”
Turning to the State’s Financial Picture, the Governor called attention to the $850 million in red ink (over the next two fiscal years) in the Arizona fiscal ledger.
In her statement to the legislature, Ms. Hobbs, with her proposed budget coming out this coming Friday, spoke in generalities, offering:
“To all those who call this state home, let me share this message: we will not shirk our responsibilities and we will not kick the can down the road for our children and the next generation to solve. And we will not cut spending on vital services. To those in this chamber today, the people of Arizona are counting on us – and we will not let them down. Let us find common ground, focus on real solutions, and strengthen our state’s balance sheet.”
The Governor then praised the state’s rising high-tech sector, saying:
“Arizona leads the way in attracting the high-tech and advanced manufacturing businesses that are building our nation’s future. I’m proud to say these achievements were possible because of partnerships between the public and private sectors. We should applaud the chambers of commerce and economic development groups across the state, and most particularly, the Arizona Commerce Authority, for their tireless efforts to attract new, high-quality jobs – jobs that can be life-changing for families and transformational for communities. With this continued success, there’s no question we must pass continuation of the Arizona Commerce Authority.”
Ms. Hobbs further spoke about the infrastructure jobs of the future, citing two apprenticeship programs (Future48 workforce accelerators and Build It AZ Apprenticeship) that will prepare people in the fields of “semiconductors, renewable energy, and aerospace and defense.”
Later in her address, she spoke of the benefits of the AZ Healthy Tomorrow Initiative which is forecast to “produce over twenty-five hundred more healthcare professionals every year.”
She also called for investments in Tribal and Community Colleges across the state.
On the need to further expand high-speed Internet across Arizona, the Governor said:
“High-speed internet is crucial for businesses, healthcare, and education, particularly for our rural and tribal communities who are on the frontlines of our rapidly changing economy. We must build fast, reliable, and affordable broadband access for every Arizonan no matter where they live.”
Ms. Hobbs then addressed the need to expand on last year’s achievements in affordable housing, proposing:
“The Arizona Is Home Mortgage Assistance Program. This program will help working-class families throughout the state with down payment assistance and mortgage interest rate relief. That means a family of four living in Phoenix making up to seventy-five thousand dollars a year will have the opportunity to purchase a quality, affordable home.”
She also proposed lower-cost home loans for residents in rural communities.
Ms. Hobbs pivoted next to water security. Like affordable housing, the Governor discussed all the efforts her administration and the legislature took last year in this area including the conclusion of a water conservation agreement with California and Nevada and the creation of a bipartisan Water Policy Council.
She then advised that she had:
“…Directed the Arizona Department of Water Resources to finalize a new pathway for water providers and communities who have historically relied on groundwater resources. This new Alternative Designation of Water Resources program will provide an opportunity for these entities to achieve a one-hundred-year assured water supply by contributing new water sources and reducing groundwater pumping – which will help ensure our future growth is both smart and sustainable.”
“Let us remember that water and drought do not care about party registration or job titles or whether you live in an urban or rural community. We can only protect our water supply by working together. I stand ready to work with you to pass legislation that makes the changes we need today – all to safeguard Arizona’s water for tomorrow. And to those who have spent years refusing to act: if you don’t, I will.”
On education, the Governor spoke of a permanent solution to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) that has threatened to cut off school funding each of the last two years, sending to the voters a modernized and revamped Proposition 123 renewal. She also repeated her calls for new regulations over Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, commenting:
“It is our responsibility as stewards of this state to put in place guardrails to ensure taxpayer dollars dedicated to education are used properly. Without these guardrails, waste, fraud, and abuse take root and thrive.
That’s why we must take action to bring transparency and accountability on behalf of Arizona parents and all taxpayers.
We can deliver common sense solutions like ending the luxury spending, keeping our children safe by requiring background checks for educators, and expanding the authority of the Auditor General. Additionally, let’s require recipients to have attended a public school for at least one hundred days, a reasonable standard that would save our state a quarter billion dollars.
My message to parents across Arizona, whether your family takes part in this program or not: Now is the time to advocate for accountability and for transparency, not a blank check. If we fail to do so, the current projected price tag of one billion dollars is only the start.”
Ms. Hobbs, in a nod to the efforts of Attorney General Kris Mayes, touched on the state government’s efforts to go after scam operations in senior care facilities, stating:
“The individuals behind these scandals will be held accountable, but it is also apparent we need to provide additional tools to go after bad actors who take advantage of those in need. That’s why I’m calling on the Legislature to strengthen our state’s standards for sober living homes and long-term care facilities, and significantly increase penalties for bad actors. I’m putting forward a package of bills that will: Ensure facilities cannot hide or erase their violation history, Increase fines, Standardize inspections, Empower Adult Protective Services to seek emergency protection orders, and establish standardized credentials for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory care.”
“Protecting Arizonans in long-term care and sober living facilities shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Let’s work together to support this legislation and continue to seek solutions so we can ensure every resident can live in safety, free from neglect and abuse.”
The Governor also called for a further expansion of KidsCare, the State Health Care Insurance Program for poor children, and measures that will help ensure lower prescription drug costs for Arizonans.
The last major policy issue Ms. Hobbs spoke to was reproductive freedom and the need to protect a woman’s right to it and her health care. In her address, she offered:
“I believe that fighting for Arizona families is the foundation of what we do as elected officials. And I truly believe that fighting for Arizona families means defending every individual’s right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions. I speak for millions of Arizonans with a clear message: These deeply personal decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor – not politicians and the government. I will always defend Arizonans’ freedoms, and I refuse to back down in the face of those who want to criminalize doctors and outlaw abortion. That’s not happening on my watch. Instead, there are commonsense bills we can pass right now that will expand access to reproductive healthcare. Arizonans across the political spectrum agree that we should:
Repeal the 1864 abortion ban once and for all
Pass the Right to Contraception Act
And stop government overreach that invades women’s privacy by collecting and publishing data on every abortion in Arizona.
As I have said before and will continue to say again and again, reproductive freedom is not a partisan issue. Women deserve to have access to the healthcare we need; we deserve to have our individual rights protected; and we deserve to make the personal decisions we deem best for ourselves and our families.”
At the end of her address, the Governor called again for cooperation, stating:
“As we go forward into this session, let us always remember why we are here and what binds us together as Arizonans. We are bound by our love for this state, from its beautiful forests and mountains, to its breathtaking vistas and stunning natural beauty. And we are bound by our responsibility to ensure every person who calls this place home has the opportunity to succeed today – as well as the generations who follow us. My promise to you is that I will never lose sight of why we are here, and I’m confident that what binds us together gives us the strength to overcome any challenge. Thank you for supporting your fellow Arizonans, and for working to make this the greatest state in our nation. God bless Arizona and let’s get to work.”
After the State of the State, the Governor and her team made a few posts to social media including:
Reaction to the Governor’s State of the State Address.
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who was at the State of the State Address, reacted by posting:
Arizona Legislative Democrats issued several media announcements, applauding the contents of the Governor’s address, had also issued their annual policy goals for the year at a joint press gathering at the Capitol Rose Garden, posting:
Marisol Garcia, the leader of the Arizona Education Association, issued a statement shortly after the Governor’s speech which read:
“Arizona educators are committed to helping all of our students succeed, no matter who they are or where they live. But in recent years, our jobs have been made much harder by severe shortages of classroom teachers, bus drivers, classroom aides, and more. Our state is continuing to lose thousands of educators every year to better-paying jobs in the private sector or in other states, and our educator retention crisis is only deepening.
Getting it right when it comes to the renewal of Proposition 123 is a central piece of addressing that crisis. In light of that, I was glad to see Governor Hobbs lay out a proposal for Proposition 123 that would include raises for all educators in our schools, from teachers and school counselors to bus drivers and classroom aides, as well as much-needed investments in school safety.
Educator retention shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and we sincerely believe it doesn’t have to be. Our union looks forward to reviewing the details of Governor Hobbs’ proposal, and to working with legislators of all parties to make sure that we replace Proposition 123 with something that includes every educator, from the person who opens the building in the morning to the person who locks up the building at night.
In addition, I was glad to see Governor Hobbs continuing to demand accountability and transparency measures for ESA vouchers. Common-sense policies like financial safeguards and audits and student safety protections are important initial moves toward addressing the damage created by this disastrous, out-of-control program.
Finally, it was good to see Governor Hobbs call for a long-term solution to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit, the spending cap that creates so much unnecessary uncertainty for educators and families.
There is so much more that needs to be done to fully invest in our public schools and deliver on the promise of public education. But in the face of the current political reality at the State Capitol, these proposals are an excellent place to start. We hope that legislators of both parties will recognize the need to act and get to work.”
Save Our Schools Arizona also issued a statement that relayed:
“In today’s State of the State, Governor Hobbs made it crystal clear she will continue to defend Arizona’s public schools and work to implement urgently needed reform for the runaway universal ESA voucher program. We are proud to support her commonsense proposals to add accountability and financial transparency to the snowballing universal ESA voucher program; find a permanent solution to the AEL school spending cap; send a new, strengthened Prop 123 to voters that includes investments in school safety as well as raises for teachers and support staff; and enact proposals to increase student safety.
We must acknowledge that the Governor is operating under a scarcity model created by her predecessor. Because of former Gov. Ducey’s failed policies, Arizona is facing serious economic anguish. Years of shortsighted tax giveaways and plummeting tax revenue caused by Ducey-era tax cuts for the wealthy have led to an estimated $400 million budget shortfall only 5 months into the fiscal year. On top of that, the rapidly rising costs of universal ESA vouchers are projected to reach nearly $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year.
This is a critical moment for the future of Arizona’s 1 million students. While we know voucher lobbyists will continue to back proposals that aim to discredit, defund, and dismantle public schools, Governor Hobbs has proven we can count on her to veto these deeply unpopular efforts.
We are proud to stand behind the Governor as she fights to protect public education in our great state for the 92% of families choosing their neighborhood public schools.”