Arizona Governor Doug Ducey brought a local version of his State of the State address to Yuma on Thursday. The Governor highlighted the involvement of Yuma Ag leaders and legislators in drafting the Arizona Drought Contingency plan and delivered a positive assessment of state finances.
Hitting the road with his State of the State address requires tweaking the speech a bit. Ducey says Yuma County residents care about a lot of the same issues that resonate for residents in other parts of the state, but there are a few topics that should always be covered.
“Yuma is a community that thinks long term. They want to see investment in K-12 education, of course. The agricultural community is outspoken and something we are very proud of here in the state of Arizona, and feeds our entire nation. And the water situation is something that has been very timely all across the state, but, more importantly in Yuma,” he says.
In his address, Ducey detailed state spending he called “targeted” and “responsible”. From programs to raise teacher pay to directed funds aimed at combatting recidivism, Ducey says the state should continue to focus its efforts rather than simply spend because the state has a little money in the bank.
Ducey says the state is sitting on a $1 billion surplus, the complete opposite of what he faced when he first took office four years ago. Presenting budgets is easy, he says, when there is no money to spend. But with a surplus Ducey says the trick is to be specific, targeted, and responsible.
“There’s a lot of people that want that money. I know we need to invest some of that money. That’s why I’m talking about K-12 education, twenty percent pay raises for our teachers, keeping our school safe from someone who may bring a lethal threat, those types of items. But also adding to the rainy day fund, because we know the unexpected and the inevitable can happen. Right now we’re in a very positive cash position. We just need to be smart and responsible,” Ducey says.
Ducey says urban areas are booming in the state right now, but bringing those benefits to areas like Yuma and others outside the major metropolitan efforts is still a goal of his administration. He says he wants “to make sure that we’re not only focusing on the urban core, we’re focusing on our rural counties and counties outside of Maricopa and Pima.”
Just before the Governor’s remarks, Julie Engel, President of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation, invited about a dozen people to the stage for a ceremonial signing of the Arizona Drought Contingency Plan.
The plan addresses falling water levels in Lake Mead and codifies how cuts would be implemented in the event levels fall below critical. Local legislators were joined by Ag leaders and others who were part of the drafting process. Following the signing Ducey gave the ceremonial pen to local water rights attorney Wade Noble.
Noble says the Drought Plan is only a milepost in a long journey for water policy in Arizona and the southwest.
“This is certainly not the end but this is a long way down the road,” says Noble.
Ducey praised the bi-partisan effort that led to the Arizona Drought Plan. He says the topic is of interest across the state of Arizona.
“So this was something where we had to bring everyone to the table. And everyone had to give a little. And I want to say that my heart was warmed by people’s willingness to do that. You don’t hear a lot about compromise and collaboration in today’s political environment. Well in Arizona it’s a reality and the drought contingency plan is a testament to what’s possible,” Ducey says.
The Governor says he understands that concerns over water are on-going and long-term. He says the drought plan is significant and should be viewed with the same lens as other historical water initiative and projects in the region.
“Look at thinks like the Central Arizona Project, Roosevelt Dam, and Hoover Dam. These are things that people did before us, there will be generational projects after us. But the last time something this significant was done was the 1980 Groundwater Management Act,” he says.
Looking ahead, Ducey says he is excited to be in office for four more years. He says “to have come from a one billion dollar deficit to a one billion dollar surplus” is an opportunity.
“I want to build on it, I want to maximize it. I want to leave the state so much better than I found it. I want to make sure we’re securing Arizona’s future. Part of that is financially and economically, but it’s also in our education system and public safety,” Ducey says.