PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey promised more help for the state’s underfunded K-12 schools at a business group’s legislative forecast lunch, while also touting the amount of money he’s worked to inject into the system in the past three years.
The Republican governor also told about 1,200 business leaders and lawmakers at Friday’s Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry event that he plans to push the Legislature to act on the opioid crisis. He also wants legislation that will help cut inmate recidivism and the first overhaul of the state’s water policy in nearly 30 years.
The governor plans to lay out his plans in more detail at the Legislature’s opening day on Monday. He’ll present his fourth state of the state address as he heads into a re-election year that will see big pressure from education advocates for more funding. They held a rally at the Capitol on Thursday where they noted that school funding is still $1.1 billion below what it was when the Great recession forced massive state budget cuts.
Ducey says he’s helped pump $700 million into public schools in his first three years in office.
“I don’t want to make the case that our K-12 system here is perfect,” he said. “But I do think that we have real measurable signs of progress and we’re heading in the right direction.”
School funding will again be a major issue at the Legislature this year, which the governor acknowledged.
“But we also have some very urgent things around the opioid epidemic, which isn’t just an Arizona issue, it is an American issue,” he said. “But it is something that we will solve and deal with at the state level.”
The governor also touted a development at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport that he said would create more than 10,000 jobs. The project includes the first joint U.S.-Mexico customs facility to process international freight, along with new hotels, restaurants and industrial facilities. The development was announced in November but Ducey touted it as new.