Was Gov. Doug Ducey recently belted by gamma rays? Because Ducey has been hulking out a lot lately and smashing whatever efforts at COVID mitigation he can. The most reasonable explanation we can imagine is that our governor unleashes the savage monster inside him when he gets angry and leaves a trail of destruction behind him.
We first got an inkling of Ducey’s inner Hulk last week when he was surrounded by reporters and lashed out at the Biden administration for sending him a “weak and pathetic” letter regarding his use of federal COVID dollars. (Hulk is never weak—Hulk is the strongest one there is!) Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona advised Ducey that his strategy of giving away special state grants to schools that reduce COVID mitigation efforts doesn’t exactly jibe with the intended use of those dollars, since the funding is supposed to be used to make schools more safe, not less safe.
Maybe it was just our imagination, but we swear we could see Ducey turning just a little green as he spoke to the assembled press gang. And did you notice that press aide C.J. Karamargin hustled the governor out just a few moments later? Had Ducey fully transformed into a green rage machine, Karamargin would have had a lot of explaining to do.
The idea that Ducey has episodes when he turns into a mindless monster helps The Skinny better understand why the governor is making so many terrible decisions lately when it comes to COVID.
Take Ducey’s efforts to block school districts from requiring students to wear masks. He’s already lost in the courts, with a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruling that the ban on mask mandates doesn’t going into effect until the end of next month. Still, Ducey is ready to send hundreds of millions of dollars to school districts as long as they don’t require masks—a cruel approach to school funding that is incomprehensible to many people who don’t turn into green monsters on the regular.
Then there’s his push to block universities and community colleges from requiring the masks. Officials with the higher ed system have interpreted the poorly crafted law to mean that they can’t treat vaccinated and unvaccinated students differently, but they can require everyone to wear a mask. In last week’s press scrum, as he was fighting to remain in human form, Ducey made a not-so-veiled threat that the universities would see their budgets cut if they didn’t fall in line with Ducey’s push to spread COVID throughout the college campuses.
Then there’s his more recent decision to stop funding COVID testing in Pima County just as the Delta wave rises. Sure, Ducey could just be taking a page from Florida resident Donald Trump, who wanted to stop testing when he was still in the White House because he thought that meant there would be fewer COVID cases. (Trump was wrong about that, BTW.) But it’s equally possible that Ducey, who has made his general contempt for Pima County evident throughout his time as governor, just hulked out and said: “Hulk smash stupid test sites!”
Whatever Ducey’s motivation, it’s safe to say it doesn’t make sense to shut down testing while the third wave under this watch is resulting in thousands of new cases a day—unless, of course, you need that money to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest Arizonans.
Sure, it could be that Ducey wants the state to hit herd immunity as quickly as possible, even if that means infecting school children who are too young to receive the vaccine. But that explanation is so outrageous that we have to believe that when Ducey gets mad, he transforms into a dark and twisted version of himself and makes poor policy decisions.
Whatever the reason, we’d advise anyone interacting with Ducey to be careful. You’d wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Remember how education groups persuaded voters last year to tax Arizona’s wealthiest residents in order to spend more on schools?
Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state couldn’t spend the extra money because there’s a limit on how much Arizona can spend on schools. Yes, that’s right: Arizona has a limit on what it can spend on education, based on what we were spending in the 1980s.
Lawmakers could raise that cap, but fat chance of that happening. Just because voters said they want to see better schools doesn’t mean GOP lawmakers are going to go along with it.
The case has been remanded back to the lower courts to hash out the details, but in all likelihood, the effort to tax wealthy people to pay for better schools is dead.
But the richest people in Arizona should be quite glad education supporters went to all the effort to improve schools, since lawmakers did do something in reaction to the passage of the initiative: They instituted a flat tax that delivered massive tax breaks to Arizona’s highest earners while delivering peanuts to those of us on the lower rungs.
All in all, voters, it’s been a disaster. You might as well give up on improving schools in this state: The system—and our GOP leaders—will do anything to protect the wealthy and screw over schoolchildren.