PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey touted the state’s economic comeback Friday and promised more is on the way as he addressed business leaders in advance of the upcoming legislative session.
The Republican governor told about 1,500 people at the annual Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s legislative forecast luncheon that the state’s economy has recovered since he took office in 2015 and he expects that to continue in the last three years of his tenure.
“We’re in such a different spot they we were five years ago and now we have momentum,” Ducey said. “We want to pour the gas on it. If you think these first five years have been transformative for our state, you should have the same expectation for these next three years.”
Ducey gave vague promises to boost education spending in the coming budget, and he also promised to keep cutting or simplifying taxes, something the GOP-controlled Legislature fully backs but Democrats fear, since they say many levels of government remain underfunded.
“I heard the governor say that he wanted to cut or simplify,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader David Bradley said during a question and answer session with other legislative leaders. “I’m all for simplifying, governor; I’m not into the cuts. Because the needs of the state are so enormous.”
Bradley noted that the capital needs of K-12 education alone could eat up the state’s expected $750 million surplus for the 2021 budget year, and universities have similar needs.
Republican Senate President Karen Fann repeated her careful mantra to the crowd, warning that lawmakers can’t afford to overspend in case another recession hits.
“We know that investing in education is seen as very important,” she said. “But we cannot afford to be put in a position where we have too much ongoing funding and then that recession hits a little bit and we cannot sustain it.
“So we’re going to be very very careful how we spend that money,” Fann said.
The 2020 legislative session kicks off Monday with Ducey’s State of the State address, an opportunity for the governor to tout his accomplishments and lay out his plan for the coming year. The following Friday, he’s expected to release his executive budget proposal, a spending blueprint that acts as the starting point for negotiations with lawmakers.