Gov. Ducey shares State of the State exclusive details

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey previewed his State of the State speech in an exclusive on-camera interview with 3TV Political Editor Dennis Welch.


Dennis: Has it really sunk in yet that you are Governor?

Gov. Ducey: It's sinking in, when you come into the state capitol and you're used to going to the first floor and now you go to the 9th floor especially when we're focused on the budget, focused on inauguration, focused on state of the state, we're excited, there's a lot of opportunity.

Dennis: During your inaugural speech, lots has been made about your statement, you took taxes completely off the table, help our viewers understand, help me understand, how do you balance a billion dollar budget shortfall, without new revenues, and without further deep cuts to K-12 education, higher education?

Gov. Ducey: Well we need to live within our means and I'm going to lead with what I call a classrooms first initiative and then we're going to find a way to balance this budget, we do have some time to do it, we do have some money in the bank. It's a different situation than what we went through in 2009. We have a billion dollars cash in our checking account for 154 million dollars in the rainy day accounts so I want to do the right thing so that we have a growing state, protects our taxpayers and allows our economy to continue to grow.

Dennis: You took taxes off the table, can you look at the people of Arizona and tell them that you're going to take cuts to K-12 education off the table?

Gov. Ducey: We are going to protect classroom spending and I'll share something with you that I'm going to share during the state of the state, we're going to put more money into the classroom next year.

Dennis: Can you be more specific on that? What kind of, for what?

Gov. Ducey: I'll give the budget release on Friday, but we want to see civics being taught and tested in the schools, we want to see our classrooms protected and we want to tighten our belts at the state government and we want to start with a hiring freeze. And those are things you'll hear more about on Monday at the State of the State and see the specific numbers on Friday during our budget release.

Dennis: This civics exam, is this similar to the citizenship test given here in the United States?

Gov. Ducey: Yeah, it's identical. It's something that studies show that 96 percent of our kids can't pass. This is basic civics, non-partisan, it's a fundamental thing that's going to bring people together in education so I'd like to start with it. I'd like to lead on it and I'd like it to be the first bill I sign.

Dennis: I understand there is a time table on this, you want to get it signed the first week?

Gov. Ducey: I'd love to get it signed, I'm going to work with the legislature, part of our civics exam, this is a separate and equal branch with that kind of respect but John Adams said that kids should be instructed in the lessons of liberty. Ronald Reagan said if we don't know who we are, that that would be deeply concerning and Sandra Day O'Connor said that this is a quiet crisis in education. So if our kids don't know who Sandra Day O'Connor, John Adams and Ronald Reagan are, that's an issue.

Dennis: Now a hiring freeze, isn't there already a moratorium on hiring at the state level?

Gov. Ducey: We are going to continue. Now we are going to have a hiring freeze. Now we are going to protect, let me qualify that, we're going to protect child safety, we're going to protect public safety, but we're going to have that freeze go across the rest of the government, like I said, tighten the belt and navigate through this fiscal crisis that we have. I think it's solvable.

Dennis: Now Medicaid expansion, another big issue, legislature is suing to undo Brewer's plan, where are you on this, now that you are sitting up here?

Governor Ducey: Well we're consulting legal counsel on what the next steps are on this, we have some time before this decision is due so let me do my study work on this.

Dennis: Okay I want to move onto immigration, what are we going to hear in the State of the State speech on border security? Top priority for you in the campaign.

Gov. Ducey: Well I ran on getting our economy growing, I ran on restoring our K-12 education system, what you're going to hear in the budget release, the focus we have on public safety, and that what's results on very much a state concern, as a border state and how we'll focus on that.

Dennis: There's some lawsuits moving forward on immigration in this state, a big supporter of yours, Arpaio is suing the President for his executive actions, is this something you would support, suing the government over those executive actions?

Gov. Ducey: Well it depends on what the government is trying to do. I want to be in charge of our state government and I want to be focused on what I ran on.

Dennis: And you were talking about getting enough technology down on the border during the campaign, is there enough money to do that?

Gov. Ducey: Well it's really purposing the budget right now, it's really give or take, about $300 million, so it's how we're spending those dollars and how we're spending it going forward. But I would like to see state government advance a bit in the technology sphere.

Dennis: Alright I want to stick with spending again, I was looking at some of budget numbers and I think there was another release by Children's Action Network Alliance, the state now spends more money on corrections than it does on junior colleges and universities combined. Is that where the state's priorities are? Is that where your priorities are going to be as Governor?

Gov. Ducey: The state's priority is on education which is where we'll spend most of our money on K-12 education. Like I said, we're also going to be focused on getting our economy going in the right direction and I think when you have that you're focused on the right opportunities for more people to get a job, build a fulfilling career and that's a way to navigate through some of the budget mess we have right now.

Dennis: But are we going to see that reverse itself during your administration? Are you going to start putting more money into higher education and so you're spending more money on that than incarceration?

Gov. Ducey: I look at higher education as an investment, that a state makes that a person makes in themselves, the results in terms of prosperity, higher earning power and quality of life that have really shown themselves the last several decades, we'll want to work with the universities to the best of our ability while we navigate what is a real difficult budget situation in this coming year.

Dennis: Now I understand that higher Ed could be seeing a lot more cuts this coming session?

Gov. Ducey: And you'll hear details on what's going to happen in the budget on the preview on Monday and all the specific status in the budget release.

Dennis: Are we going to hear in that speech that in higher education there will be more cuts?

Gov. Ducey: You're going to hear me say we're going to protect classrooms first and we're going to have an initiative in that and in K-12. We're a week away on some of that so we're working hard here, I’m reaching out to house and senate, to leadership on both sides to see what we can come to an agreement on.

Dennis: Also a lot has been made on the 317 million dollars that state leaders have been ordered to pay back K-12 education, are you going to continue fighting to hold up that lawsuit or are you going to fight to get that money into the classroom?

Gov. Ducey: I'll give you a little teaser here Dennis, I'm going to have a specific message for the legislature, the education establishment and the attorney general on Monday afternoon.

Dennis: Care to give us any more than that or just that teaser?

Gov. Ducey: As I've heard you say before Dennis, tune in then.

Dennis: I want to move on to social issues, a lot of people concerned about senate bill 1062, if something like that comes across your desk this year, it's been passed several times by the legislature, is Governor Ducey going to sign that bill?

Gov. Ducey: I've answered this question, all during the campaign, I've said what I'm going to do, I'm going to address the specific bills as they come forward, there's no bill on the table so that's a hypothetical.

Dennis: I know it's a hypothetical but it's been passed several times now and Cathi Herrod was praising you recently, thanking you for not wavering and she's a big supporter of yours.

Gov. Ducey: I'm grateful for support and I've talked about the agenda that I want to move forward, what my priorities are, we're going to start with fiscal responsibility, we're going to focus on education and restoring that and we're going to focus on our economy.

Dennis: What else are we to expect from your state of the state speech on Monday?

Gov. Ducey: I'll talk a bit about other ways that we can serve in state government and as citizens but in terms of fiscal responsibility, economic development and educational excellence, that's going to be what I focus on, that's what I ran on, that's what I touched on at the inauguration, that's what I intend to Governor on.

Dennis: A lot of businesses, speaking with that, education with economy, a lot of businesses, businesses don't want to come here because our education system is seen as so poorly.

Gov. Ducey: Oh we have a very good education system, we have in some places the best schools in the country, the problem is, in many areas we have kids that are trapped and can't get an education. We have 3 of the top ten high schools in the nation, Dennis, public schools, right here in Arizona, but we also have issues where kids are falling through the cracks, this is not an Arizona specific, this is happening across the country, K-12 education is going in the right direction, I want to improve and restore our education program in Arizona, this is a state responsibility and I want to take the lead on it.

Dennis: Wome people are interested in your meeting with President Obama, you ran a campaign really bashing that President, you said you were tired of lectures and lawsuits with the Obama administration. What was that meeting like? And in addition to that, do you think he should have stopped at the VA?

Gov. Ducey: Well the campaign is over. I welcomed the President to Arizona and I don't have any comment on what he should be doing, my plate is full with what I need to be doing as a Governor of the state and I'm looking forward to getting after it.

Dennis: Okay thank you very much.

Gov. Ducey: Thanks, Dennis.