Ducey, DuVal lay out visions in 1st debate

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX (AP) -- Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fred DuVal sparred over their different visions for the future of Arizona Wednesday evening in their first governor's race debate, with particular differences emerging over their views on how to deal with a looming budget deficit and a court order that school funding be increased.

Ducey wants the income tax system reformed and to lure businesses from other states to help grow the economy. He also said that if the courts issue a final order for school funding boosts he'll look for ways to restructure the current school funding formula to get more cash into the classroom.

"I'm not going to raise taxes. I'm going to go through the budget like a business person line by line and dollar by dollar," to deal with a shortfall, Ducey said. "Our state has assets and I'm going to look at the budget one fiscal year. I would say that everything's on the table except education."

DuVal said boosting trade with Mexico, avoiding divisive laws that turn off employers and restoring education funding were keys to economic development.

"We can't let these issues of intolerance define our state," he said.

DuVal also said Ducey's stated goal of cutting the income to tax to zero in a state that relies on it for 40 percent of its revenue won't work.

"The notion that on top of the budget deficit that you could withdraw 40 percent of the state's budget and still fund health care, corrections and education is tooth-fairy math," DuVal said. "I'd like to cure cancer and promise everyone balmy summers, but you've got to be candid about the choices that we face."

The state is facing more than a billion dollars in deficits in the coming two years, and the courts have ordered the state to pay an additional $1.6 billion to schools over the coming five years and may order $1.3 billion in back payments. That order came in a lawsuit won by schools over the Legislature's failure to fund voter-mandated yearly inflation increases, and is being appealed.

DuVal bristled at attacks he's faced over major university tuition increases he voted for a chairman of the Board of Regents during the early 2010s, but Ducey said they were fair.

"I think the record would show that under your leadership on the Arizona Board of Regents there were record high tuition increases, record high spending and record high borrowing," Ducey said. "If that's your governing philosophy the state would be in terrible trouble in a downturn."

DuVal said enrollment increased by one-third, and per student funding remained flat while universities campuses remained open.

"This was a crisis brought that was brought on by a 50 percent reduction in state investment in our students," DuVal said. "And we can't have a 21st century economy unless we've got strong universities and I fought to make sure they stayed open."

The pair also differed on gay marriage during the debate, with DuVal supporting "marriage equality" and Ducey backing "traditional marriage."

The candidates have committed to four more debates in the coming weeks.

DuVal, 60, served as a top aide and adviser to Bruce Babbitt both during Babbitt's terms as Arizona governor in the late 1970s and the 1980s, served in President Bill Clinton's administration and was appointed by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano to the Board of Regents. The Tucson native also worked in private business.

Ducey, 50, helped launch Cold Stone Creamery in Arizona and built it into a well-known chain before selling the company in 2007 and getting into politics. He was elected as state treasurer in 2010 and touts his opposition to a permanent sales tax increase voters rejected in 2012.

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