- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday called for fewer regulations on emerging businesses like Uber, an enhanced effort to cut red tape and licensing, and a new state law to ban cities and town from boosting wages.

The priorities laid out by the Republican governor in his second State of the State address also included a promise to cut taxes this and each year he’s in office, but no details of how he plans to do so.

The governor also pledged to remain tight-fisted on spending, even as the state treasury swells with revenues as the economy rebounds and pressure mounts to restore cuts to government spending made following the Great Recession.

“Someone needs to be the voice of sobriety. So when they bring out the punch bowl, I will be here to say … once again… Not on our watch,” Ducey said. “On Friday, I will release my budget, and the big spenders and special interests aren’t going to like it.”

Still, the address was a stark contrast to Ducey’s 2015 speech, which came as the Republican governor faced a $1.5 billion budget shortfall in his first 18 months in office.



The state’s rainy day fund is maxed out at $460 million and by the time the new fiscal year begins on July 1 there is expected to be $555 million in general fund surplus. Only about $218 million is ongoing revenue, so one-time spending is likely. The state’s budget tops $9 billion.

Ducey did call for some increased spending, an effort to cut future prison population growth by shifting some parole violators to a new community correction facility in the Phoenix area. That plan copies a pilot program in Pima County that has cut costs and repeat prison stays by getting drug abuse treatment for convicts.

“Let’s give them a second chance so they stay clean and never end up back in prison,” Ducey said.

Ducey also called for making the state’s controlled substances database mandatory. Currently, doctors aren’t required to report prescriptions they write for opiate drugs and addicts can doctor-shop and get multiple prescriptions. That’s led to addictions.

Ducey also said he’s creating a team a team of substance abuse experts, recovering addicts and health care providers to find the best treatment and care options.

The governor also touted his plan for a state police border strike force. That plan was announced late last year but still lacks details.

Ducey also wants to revamp the Arizona Commerce Authority and wrap in powers currently given to other economic development agencies so the state is speaking with one voice.

On education, he is asking the Legislature to focus more state money on college preparation classes, especially in low income schools where such classes are rare. He wants more money for the state’s school building renewal fund and to use money in last year’s school achievement district budget to allow charter and public schools to lower the cost of borrowing money to expand.

The governor faced pushback last year by proposing that privately owned charter schools be allowed to tap the state’s credit to expand. But he’s moving ahead with the plan.

He also plans to boost funding cut last year from technical high schools known as JTEDs. Those schools took a hit in last year’s budget. He also hinted at increased spending for universities and community colleges, with details to come when his budget plan is released on Friday.

Ducey signed two executive orders Monday - one ordering a new task force to come up with ways to eliminate a backlog of more than 2,300 rape kits in the state and another creating a commission charged with developing ways to improve the legal and regulatory environment for emerging companies “shared economy” companies such as Uber.

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