Gov. Hobbs announces her first-year objectives in state of the state address
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A new legislative session began Monday at the Arizona Capitol, where Republicans have a slim majority but a Democrat now controls the highest office in the land. Gov. Katie Hobbs delivered her first state of the state address on around 2 p.m., immediately addressing the conspiracy election theories surrounding her win. “Chasing conspiracy theories, pushing agendas for special interests, attacking the rights of your fellow Arizonans or seeking to further undermine our democracy will lead nowhere,” she said.
“We must make this right. If we do not, this ticking time bomb will explode and force a $1.3 billion cut that would be one of the largest in our state’s history. And it will happen in the last two months at the school year,” she said in addressing the Aggregate Expenditure Limit. “Superintendents and education leaders are warning this will cause furloughs, layoffs, and possibly even school closures.”
Gov. Hobbs announced her plan for the Educator Retention Task Force, meant to investigate Arizona’s teacher retention crisis. “There are too many amazing professionals who’ve walked away from the career they love because of the uncompetitive salaries, onerous policies, and unfunded mandates this state has chosen to implement that rob educators of the joy of teaching,” the governor said. In terms of budgeting, the governor said she will redirect state funding to create a more balanced distribution cycle amongst state counties, hire more social workers, expand the Arizona Promise Scholarship Program to include 10,000 more students, and allocate $40 million for the Promise for Dreamers scholarship program.
In her budget, which will be released on Friday, Gov. Hobbs said she has allocated $150 million to the Housing Trust Fund and has set aside $50 million for a state-level child tax credit for families earning less than $40,000 a year. “We will also help lower costs for Arizona families by exempting diapers and feminine hygiene products from our state sales tax,” she said. “These everyday items add up and we can and should help provide this relief to individuals and families who too often must choose between paying their bills or paying for the things they need to be healthy.”
U.S. & Mexico Border
The governor said she plans to work directly with communities and their sheriffs, nonprofits, and hospitals while pressing Washington to pass comprehensive immigration reform. “I have invited Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to visit the border with me to meet with community leaders, sheriff’s nonprofit representatives and business executives in impacted communities who all want effective and humane solutions to this longtime challenge,” she said.
Shifting from national security, the governor turned her remarks toward the protection of reproductive health care. “I refuse to stand by and do nothing as my daughter or anyone else’s daughter now has fewer rights today than I did growing up,” Gov. Hobbs said. “I will use every power of the governor’s office to stop any legislation or action that attacks strips or delays the liberty or inherent rights of any individual to decide what’s best for themselves or their families.
The governor said she plans to reinstate the Expand Arizona Water Management Act to close the water poaching loophole. In an act of transparency, she said she had sent out a previously unreleased report by the Department of Water Resources that shows how Phoenix’s west valley has come short of the 100-year Assured Water Supply Program. “I don’t understand and do not in any way agree with my predecessor choosing to keep this report from the public and from members of this legislature,” Gov. Hobbs said. “However, my decision to release this report signals how I plan to tackle our water issues openly and directly.”
In concluding her address, Gov. Hobbs encouraged legislators to work together to make bills to protect everyone so that they could succeed in Arizona. “We must find bipartisan solutions at a local, statewide and national level,” she said. “We will all thrive together in the future or face the catastrophic results of our failures. Our state leaders are at their best when they reach across the aisle for pragmatic solutions.”
Although Republicans only have a one-seat majority in both the state House and the Senate, some political experts say this group is different than the last one. “We did see a change in leadership in both chambers. We have a new speaker of the house. We have a new president of the senate. Both are widely considered more conservative,” Paul Bentz, Senior VP of Research and Strategy with HighGround, said. “We also saw several republican legislators who are conservative in their own right, replaced by even more conservative or more libertarian leaning replacements.”
Bentz said one of the first tests for Republicans and Democrats will be to lift the state’s spending cap on education which would allow schools to spend more than the billion dollars already approved and budgeted for them. “The previous legislature put this money in the school districts, they’ve planned for it and now they can’t spend it without the permission of exceeding the limit so this is a great opportunity for her [Governor Hobbs] to show some leadership and put an early win on the board,” Bentz said. “The question is, does the legislature see it that same way or are they going to try to make a fight out of it?”
When it comes to creating long-term water solutions, Bentz said he thinks some lawmakers might not be willing to find common ground. “What we’re going to see is a Republican caucus in both bodies that are much less interested in governing and more interested in making some of their points. We see some of the early bills that are being proposed when it comes to some of the classroom issues,” he said. “I think we will see a lot of election reform issues that I think probably are dead on arrival if they ever made it to the governor’s office.”
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