By Governor Doug Ducey
2019 was a banner year for Arizona. From breaking through 300,000 new jobs added since 2015, to earning the state’s highest-ever credit rating; coming together to sign historic water legislation; recognizing 60 years of partnership with Sonora, Mexico; blazing the trail as the first state in the nation to provide universal recognition of out-of-state occupational licenses; passing historic tax reform that benefits middle class families; boosting Arizona’s Rainy Day Fund to $1 billion while investing in teachers, students, infrastructure, public safety and more.
SECURING ARIZONA’S WATER FUTURE: Governor Ducey in January signed legislation ratifying Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), allowing Arizona to sign onto an inter-state water agreement that outlines ways the state will contribute to conserving more water from the Colorado River. Arizona joined six other states and Mexico in the signing. In April, President Trump signed legislation formalizing the DCP, Arizona’s most significant water reforms in four decades.
A FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE, BALANCED BUDGET: Arizona’s balanced budget added $542 million to Arizona’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to a record $1 billion and helping better protect Arizona’s investments during the next economic downturn.
PASSING REVENUE-NEUTRAL TAX REFORM: Arizona’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget built on the tax relief passed as part of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to make Arizona’s code simpler, flatter and more fair. The revenue neutral tax reforms—the most significant of the past 30 years—prioritized middle and low-income earners, increasing Arizona’s standard deductions to $12,000 for individual filers and $24,000 for married filers. For the first time in Arizona, the state standard deduction matches the federal standard deduction, representing a significant simplification of the tax code.
INVESTING IN STUDENTS AND TEACHERS: The FY 2020 budget added $660 million new dollars to K-12 public schools, bringing the total new dollars added to public education since 2015 to $4.5 billion.
GROWING CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION: Governor Ducey’s FY 2020 budget invested $10 million to expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings across Arizona. Through a grant program, high schools with CTE programs will receive up to $1,000 for each student who graduates with a certification in specific industries. The budget also invested $20 million to expand Pima Community College’s Aviation Technology Program and $5.8 million to expand Maricopa Community College’s healthcare offerings.
JOBS ON THE RISE: Arizona this year surpassed 300,000 new private-sector jobs added since 2015, with companies such as Infosys, Offerpad, Raytheon, Microsoft, Benchmark Electronics, Lucid Motors and more making major jobs announcements this year.
EXPANDING I-17, INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE: Governor Ducey announced that investments topping $300 million will widen I-17 to three lanes along 15 miles between Anthem and Black Canyon City and build an 8-mile system of flex lanes on the grade between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point. The project is set to begin by spring 2021, with completion of all improvements expected by 2023.
INVESTING IN HEALTHY FAMILIES: Arizona kicked off the year with a plan to invest $56 million to expand Arizona’s childcare subsidy programs, increasing access to childcare for low-income working families and foster parents.
SUPPORTING THOSE WHO KEEP ARIZONA SAFE: This year, Arizona added $74 million dollars to provide raises for over 14,400 public safety personnel employed by the state, totaling roughly 40 percent of the state workforce. Those receiving pay raises included State Troopers, personnel at the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Corrections and the Arizona State Hospital and caseworkers at the Department of Child Safety.
SAFER SCHOOLS: Governor Ducey’s executive budget included the first-ever dedicated funding for school counselors. With $20 million added to Arizona’s school safety grant program, in total, 383 school resource officers, counselors and social workers were funded through the program, with more on the way.
EXPANDING SUICIDE AWARENESS IN SCHOOLS: Governor Ducey in September signed the Mitch Warnock Act, expanding suicide prevention and awareness training throughout Arizona schools. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to provide training in suicide awareness and prevention to school guidance counselors, teachers, principals and other school personnel who work with students in grades 6 through 12.
NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR CYBERSECURITY: Recognizing Arizona’s bipartisan leadership in cybersecurity, the National Governors Association (NGA) selected Arizona along with five other states to participate in the NGA’s policy academy on election cybersecurity operations. Through the program, Arizona receives technical assistance from NGA staff to develop, implement and scale training and best practices throughout the state to improve coordination between election officials and reduce cyber-related risks ahead of the 2020 election.
All in all, 2019 was a year to remember – and we are looking forward to an equally successful 2020.