Only three months into his tenure, Arizona’s new governor Doug Ducey has already left his mark and established himself as a force not to be reckoned with.
Ducey’s first major task as governor was to pass a budget, which he wasted no time on. His budget was released in January just weeks after taking office, and its specifics took many by surprise.
Ducey and his administration drafted the budget largely without consulting other state lawmakers, with the notable exception of Senate President Andy Biggs, with whom Ducey has a close working relationship.
On the combination of spending cuts and budget reductions presented in the budget, Biggs said, “Everybody here wanted to get to that same bottom line. It was just a matter of how you spin the dials and knobs to get there.”
The budget, which was passed on party lines with few exceptions, balances the budget without raising taxes. This is a promise Ducey made to Arizonans during his campaign, and he is understandably proud of it.
The reality is that Ducey’s political opponents can’t accuse him of breaking his campaign promises because he didn’t actually make any. Throughout the entire election process, Ducey’s campaign rhetoric was vague without failure.
Ducey only offered three specifics about fiscal policy while he ran for office, and they were that he would not cut K-12 spending, he would propose a new tax cut each year, and he would balance the budget without raising taxes.
When he signed this budget into law, Ducey did in fact break one of his promises. The new budget provides K-12 schools with $200 million less in funding that the current budget, which is austere as is.
According to the National Education Association, Arizona ranks dead last in per-student spending on education.
With the budget out of his way, Ducey has been free to spend the past two months implementing other aspects of his agenda. He has asked the state legislature to dissolve the Department of Weights and Measures and grant him the authority to create an Inspector General’s Office.
The Department of Weights and Measures is responsible for ensuring that Arizonans get a gallon of gas when they pay for a gallon of gas, regulating weights at airports and grocery stores, and so on. Several members of the legislature were bewildered by Ducey’s request to dissolve the department given its reputation.
Unlike other departments marred by waste and inefficiency, the Department of Weights and Measures is known for doing its job promptly and effectively. Proposed legislation would divide the department’s responsibilities among others, including the Departments of Environmental Quality, Transportation, and Health Services.
Ducey is also pushing to create an Inspector General’s Office, which he says will be “a law enforcement agency that confers all investigative powers and privileges appurtenant to a law enforcement agency under state law.” Inspectors will have subpoena power and report directly to the Governor. And, their work and findings will be completely confidential. Within one day of Ducey’s proposal, it sailed through its one public hearing.
Members of both parties are skeptical of Ducey’s plan, as there is already an elected office tasked with these same responsibilities. A spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, “Arizona already has an independent law enforcement agency to investigate fraud and criminal activity; it’s the Attorney General’s Office.”
Secrecy seems to be a trend in Ducey’s administration, where the visitor’s log on the 8th floor of the Executive Tower suddenly disappeared. A Ducey spokesman said that removing the log, which documents who visits the governor, would make the office “more efficient.”
Most recently, Ducey gained national attention for signing a bill that would prevent women from buying insurance through the federal health care exchange if it covers the cost of abortion. Federal law already prevents taxpayer money from funding abortion in all cases except rape and when the life of the mother is in danger, so this statute is nothing if not redundant.
The most controversial part of this law requires Arizona doctors to tell patients that non-surgical abortions can be reversed, which the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls “junk science.”
These claims have not been approved by the FDA, and the hormone therapy that the bill refers to has been found to have severely adverse effects on women.
Despite pleas from doctors statewide, Ducey signed the bill into law, making Arizona the only state in the nation to have such a bill.
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