Gov. Doug Ducey gave his State of the State address to the West Valley at the Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Jan. 12, hosted by WESTMARC.
Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise welcomed the room filled with local dignitaries, business leaders and community members to the event. He referred to the West Valley as the “heartbeat of Arizona” and deemed the area the “economic driver for the state of Arizona” in the decades to come.
Ducey took the stage, marking his eighth and final State of the State address. It may be his last year, but he promised a busy 2022, focused on education and changes to the southern border.
“As I stand here today, the job is not done,” Ducey said. “The goodbyes are going to come later, much later. Today is not a farewell tour. I intend to make the most of every moment and work very hard every single day all along the way for my employers, the citizens of this state.”
To begin, Ducey assured the state is strong, touching on some of the highlights during his time as governor, including telemedicine and Arizona’s largest tax cut, which now stands as the lowest flat tax in the nation. Ducey said Arizona has changed during his seven-year tenure.
“Today, a lot is different in Arizona,” he said. “We have more citizens, our budget is balanced, our economy is roaring, and our government is smaller and more efficient than it’s ever been.”
Ducey focused on education in his speech, addressing the impact the pandemic has had on children. He added that schools will remain open.
“There’s been too much attention put on masks, and not nearly enough placed on math,” Ducey said. “A focus on restrictions rather than reading and writing. And it’s students of color and those in poverty who have been most impacted.”
To help students who fell behind due to the pandemic, Ducey said he will open free summer camps in June so they can catch up in math, reading and civics.
“We will lead the way to eliminate learning loss,” he said. “Arizona schools are open, and they will remain open.”
Ducey continued that students will not be taught critical race theory. The governor signed a bill six months ago banning state or local governments from requiring critical race theory training in the area.
“In Arizona schools, we will not divide people by race,” Ducey said in his address. “Arizona schools should be instructing our kids in the golden rule to treat one another with respect and judge people as Martin Luther King Jr. taught, on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. This session we’ll make it clear, students should be taught to think critically, not taught critical race theory.”
Ducey’s address also focused on the border, calling it a public safety, humanitarian and national crisis.
“Public safety will always be at the top of our list, and we are going to be leaning on our law enforcement more than ever,” Ducey said. “Our southern border has never been more deadly or more dangerous. Meanwhile, the White House and Congress have decided to turn a blind eye.”
Ducey said his team will launch a five-point plan to address the border and will seek stricter penalties and stronger support and action from federal leaders.
Part of his plan includes building a wall at the southern border. During a recent visit to Yuma, he said he witnessed a lack of security and people easily walking across the border.
“Where Arizona can add physical barriers, we will,” he said. “But if the entire southern border isn’t secure, neither is our nation.”
Ducey touched on water conservation and the work that needs to be done. He referred to the Drought Contingency Plan and the $200 million invested last year to water technology.
“Now, with resources available in our budget, along with a relationship with Mexico that we built and strengthened over the last seven years, what better place to invest more?” Ducey said. “We propose that we make a historic investment: $1 billion. Our goal, secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.”
Ducey lastly promised to invest more money to speed up the completion of the I-10, connecting the state north to south.
“It’s our turn, our moment to leave this state better than we found it, and I’m confident we will rise to the occasion.”