On Friday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey once again, threatened cities and counties that are looking to create their own minimum wages with a reduction in state-shared revenue.
Ducey was speaking at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce’s 9th annual Athena Awards and the annual Chamber meeting. The awards honor local women leaders.
Flagstaff is one of a handful of cities in the state that are considering laws that would allow them to set their own minimum wage within their city limits. The laws come after the state Supreme Court, citing a 2006 citizens initiative, upheld that right over the objections of the Legislature.
“All it will do is bring California-style chaos,” Ducey said, echoing a line from his State of State address in early January.
He promised to use the powers of his office to thwart local wage laws, including reducing the amount of state shared revenue a local community might get.
Flagstaff Councilmember Coral Evans, who attended the event, said she was “absolutely appalled at the governor’s remarks (about cities setting their own wages). I felt they were highly inappropriate.”
Evans is one of three members of the Flagstaff City Council who support the right of cities to set minimum wages. Vice Mayor Celia Barotz and Councilmember Eva Putzova, who were not at the event, also support local control of minimum wages.
Evans also pointed out that Ducey didn’t really mention women at all in his speech, except to say that he was setting aside money in his budget to make sure that extended family members, such as grandparents, adult siblings or uncles or aunts, who wanted to foster the child of a family member would be paid an equal amount to a complete stranger who fostered a child. He also talked about setting aside money to make sure that all of the state’s rape kits were tested and the perpetrators arrested.
While Ducey didn’t specifically mention women in business, he did speak about how small business owners are the lifeblood of the state. He pointed out that Forbes magazine listed Arizona as one of the best states in the union for creating new jobs. Business leaders, he said, are an integral part of how well the state runs.
He pledged to work with the Arizona Legislature to eliminate some of the 10,000 pages of state regulations that businesses have to deal with on a daily basis. As an example he pointed to the many jobs for which the state requires a license before a business can open its doors.
“The state requires licenses for too many jobs,” he said. “These licenses are designed to keep out the little guy.”
He also said he wanted to make Arizona a home for start-up businesses that take advantage of the sharing economy, such as ride-sharing programs Uber and Lyft.
“We should stop shackling innovation,” he said. “I want start-ups who are struggling in California to know that California may not want them, but Arizona does.”
The most recent jobless statistics show both states have unemployment rates of 5.8 percent. The median household income is California is $61,000 vs. $49,000 in Arizona.
Ducey pledged to put more of a focus on advertising the state as a place that welcomed businesses and helped them to succeed, especially in the rural areas outside of Maricopa County.
“I want to grow Arizona's total economy and better meet the needs of businesses that are already here,” he said.
Ducey also said his structurally balanced budget would finally “restore fiscal sanity to Arizona” in 2017 and would become a new tradition for the state. He said his budget was based on Arizona values of fiscal responsibility, education, economic innovation and public safety. And he was able to do it without raising taxes.
According to the Government Finance Officers Association, a structurally balanced budget “is one that supports financial sustainability for multiple years into the future.”
The governor’s budget includes additional funding between 2016 and 2017 for various projects such as K-12 education, drug patrols along the Arizona border with Mexico, Joint Technical Education Districts, an increase in funding for child safety and a 100-bed intensive drug treatment center for inmates in Maricopa County. He also plans to add to the state’s rainy day fund.
But critics of his budget say that the state is looking at a possible $620 million cash surplus at the end of fiscal year 2017 in addition to a rainy day fund topping $400 million. Ducey didn’t address that in his speech.
He did speak about the $106 million in additional funding his budget set aside for K-12 education. He also said he would boost funding to schools that provided college-ready advanced placement classes to students. He also pledged to put all of his energy into getting Proposition 123 passed.
If passed by voters, the proposition would add $3.5 billion for education funding over 10 years, an increase of about 8 percent. About $1.4 billion would come from the state’s general fund and the remaining $2 billion would come from increasing the amount money distributed to schools from the state land trust fund. The fund is designed to funnel the proceeds of the sale of state land into education. The proposition would raise that distribution level from 2.5 percent of the average value of the funds to 6.9 percent for the next 10 years.
Ducey also pointed out that his budget included an additional $8 million for state universities. Last year's budget cut university appropriations by $99 million.
He acknowledged some high school students were not interested in attending college. K through 12 education needs to prepare those students for finding a job after graduation, he said. He was willing to work with the Legislature on a plan to restore funding to the state’s JTEDs.
Ducey’s original budget called for the restoration of $30 million to JTEDs over three years with some strings attached. The money would only be offered to districts that had matching funding from local businesses.
State lawmakers recently introduced two bills, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, that would restore $28 million this year to the JTEDs. The districts would have to prove that the funding went to equipment that was necessary for classes that were designed to give students the skills they need to get a job after graduation. It couldn’t be used to support programs that would require students to get additional training at community colleges or universities.
He also said he had zero tolerance for fathers who failed to pay child support. His office has already started a program that puts the names, photos and the amount owed by delinquent fathers on the state’s social media pages.
“Positive things can happen,” he said. “We can aim high and think big.”