Monday, January 12, 2015

Details, Details: Gov. Ducey Delivers His State of the State Speech, but Policy Details Remain Sketchy

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 5:00 PM

In his State of the State address, Gov. Doug Ducey promised a new approach to government: “These next few weeks, we could all use the fresh outlook of newcomers, not trapped in the old ways of thinking about state spending, taxes, public education and the role of government in general. In government, just as in business, settled assumptions are not always correct assumptions. Conventional wisdom is not always wisdom.”

But he also stuck by a bedrock GOP article of faith: Taxes hikes are always bad. Ducey reiterated his opposition to new taxes or delaying planned corporate tax cuts that are projected to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars as a way to address the state’s projected billion-dollar shortfall in the upcoming budget year. He also called for an income-tax cut of sorts, by pegging Arizona’s tax brackets to inflation. (Lawmakers passed a bill to do that last year, but Jan Brewer vetoed it.)

Ducey said he would look to cut state government to deal with the red ink, with the details coming when he releases his budget this Friday, Jan. 16.

Ducey called for a few other hard-to-argue-with initiatives in his speech—chasing down more deadbeat dads, reviewing the state’s regulations, volunteering at soup kitchens—but he put most of the emphasis on education: He wants get more money into the classroom, settle the lawsuit between schools and the Legislature over school funding, and make sure kids to learn basic civics.

Ducey also offered the idea of an “Arizona Public School Achievement District.” Details on the proposal remained sketchy as of our deadline, but the general idea is to allow successful public schools to use classrooms or entire shuttered schools.

We’re intrigued by the idea, but wonder how it’s going work. Would charter schools be able to open in closed public schools? Would they have to pay rent? Who covers the cost of utilities? Are principals at traditional schools interested in opening up branch campuses in certain classrooms of underperforming schools? This could be an innovative idea, or it could be a giveaway to charter-school owners. We won’t know until we see the details.

The lack of details also struck state Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-Tucson), who said the speech was short on specifics.

“It was a pretty speech with no details,” said Wheeler, the Democrats’ assistant minority leader. “We’ll have the details on Friday and then we’ll see. … He wants to reach across and we’re willing to work with him where we can, but I don’t see how he’s going to accomplish what he wants without further cuts to education and the universities. What plans does he have for vouchers and how much of that will be at the expense of public schools?”

You can read Ducey's entire speech here.

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