Governor Hobbs 2024 State of the State Address

Published by The Bee News

January 9, 2024

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Speaker Toma, President Petersen, members of the House and Senate, Attorney General Mayes, Secretary Fontes, Treasurer Yee, Superintendent Horne, State Mine Inspector Marsh, Corporation Commissioners, Chief Justice Brutinel and members of the judiciary, tribal leaders, Governor Brewer and honored guests, and all Arizonans:

It is my honor to stand before you today at the opening of the second regular session of the 56th Legislature, here on land that will always be connected to the O’Odham and the Piipaash of today’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and of the Gila River Indian Community.

What a year it has been.

We have worked together, debated each other, pushed one another, and – most importantly – put aside our differences when it mattered most to do what’s right for Arizona and the people who call it home.

Now, I think we can all agree it certainly hasn’t been easy. But, our constituents didn’t send us here to the Capitol to solve easy problems or take the easy way out.

They are relying on us to ensure Arizona’s economy works for middle-class families …

that we are taking action on securing the border where the federal government has so clearly failed …

that we continue creating good-paying jobs for working-class Arizonans …

that we help lower costs on everyday items …

that our water future is secure …

that our schools are safe and places of opportunity …

that healthcare is accessible for those who need it and when they need it …

and that our rights and freedoms are protected …

As a born-and-raised Arizonan, a social worker, a mom, and the sister of two public school teachers, these are the reasons I wake up every day to fight on behalf of Arizona.

As we embark on this new year – one that will be filled with highs and lows, tough choices and compromise – it is my sincere hope we never lose sight of why our fellow Arizonans bestowed on us the honor of representing them and why we must always strive for progress and for a better tomorrow.

With that, I am proud to share with you the progress we have made in the past year on many of these key issues. And, just as importantly, I look forward to outlining the work before us in the months ahead.

The foundation of what we do as elected officials here in this Capitol is rooted in keeping Arizona families safe.

That’s why we cannot go forward without first addressing Washington’s ongoing failure to secure our southern border – a failure decades in the making under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

When my fellow Arizonans gave me the honor of this office, I pledged to not play the same old political games that created this crisis and that have continually hurt communities, families, and our state.

No one understands the misguided efforts of the past more than our neighbors, sheriffs, small business owners, and local law enforcement near the border who work every day to offer solutions where the federal government has failed.

One needs to look no further than the decision to close the Lukeville port of entry, which did nothing to actually solve our immigration crisis but did hurt businesses and families. My administration worked tirelessly to reverse this short-sighted action by the federal government and took extraordinary steps – including sending the National Guard to the border – to bring security and common sense to this situation.

Day in and day out, I hear from leaders on the border who need support because they are stepping up where the federal government can’t, or won’t. This year, they asked for boots on the ground, improved communications systems, resources to combat human trafficking, and the latest technologies to keep communities on both sides of the border safe. And I delivered. By refusing to waste money on cheap political stunts, we awarded over eighty-four million dollars to help border communities manage the massive influx in migrants.

But we must do more.

That’s why I launched Operation SECURE, creating a Border Coordination Office within the Arizona Department of Homeland Security. This session, I’m seeking ongoing funding to better coordinate our border response and continue fighting this humanitarian, economic, and enforcement crisis.

This new funding will expand the Operation with critical investments in border security, as well as resources to intercept the flow of fentanyl. Every Arizonan should know we are taking significant and meaningful steps to keep them safe — even when the federal government refuses to. These investments will strengthen law enforcement efforts, raise awareness through an education campaign, and expand harm reduction and treatment services, particularly in rural areas.

Together, let us continue to find real solutions, support law enforcement, first responders, and community leaders who are on the frontlines of this issue, and push Washington to do its job to secure our border.

Just as I will continue to hold the federal government accountable for their responsibilities, we must also fulfill our fiscal duty to this state. We face an approximately eight hundred and fifty million dollar shortfall between this fiscal year and the next.

And make no mistake, it will take all of us working together to solve this gap without harming Arizonans.

To all those who call this state home, let me share this message: we will not shirk our responsibilities and we will not kick the can down the road for our children and the next generation to solve. And we will not cut spending on vital services.

To those in this chamber today, the people of Arizona are counting on us – and we will not let them down. Let us find common ground, focus on real solutions, and strengthen our state’s balance sheet.

You will see the details on how I plan to address this gap when  my budget is released later this week. We will rein in wasteful spending without sacrificing public safety and public education. We will establish guardrails on unaccountable programs without hurting hard-working families.

And we will tighten our collective belts through increased efficiencies and innovation without gutting programs that support small businesses, seniors, and those in need.

I look forward to working with leadership and members from both sides of the aisle in the months ahead to get the job done.

Despite our budget issues, we have much to be proud of in our amazing state. Nowhere is it more apparent that the State of Our State is ascending than in the unprecedented strength of Arizona’s job market and the record investment in our economy.

Let us celebrate that today, more Arizonans are employed than at any point in our state’s history.

This milestone is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our entrepreneurs and innovators, our community colleges, universities, tradespeople, and of so many who recognize the promise of Arizona.

Just as impressively, our state has attracted thirty-two billion dollars in foreign investment – more than California, Texas, or any other state in the nation. That thirty-two billion dollars means jobs, jobs, and more jobs for working people in Arizona.

We created over fifty-six thousand jobs in 2023. And we’re just getting started.

Arizona leads the way in attracting the high-tech and advanced manufacturing businesses that are building our nation’s future.

I’m proud to say these achievements were possible because of partnerships between the public and private sectors. We should applaud the chambers of commerce and economic development groups across the state, and most particularly, the Arizona Commerce Authority, for their tireless efforts to attract new, high-quality jobs – jobs that can be life-changing for families and transformational for communities. With this continued success, there’s no question we must pass continuation of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

As I said, we’re just getting started, so now is not the time to rest.

It is critical that all of us continue to work together – just as we did when a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate members came together to pass both last year’s budget and put a Prop 400 extension on the ballot.

Rather than letting partisan politics prevail, we stood together, helped ensure the continued success of our state, and enabled more Arizona families to prosper. That’s the power of finding common ground and doing what’s best for the people of this state.

And, make no mistake, I will always put the people of Arizona first. That’s why I have taken action to ensure our strengthening economy provides opportunities for any Arizonan who wants to succeed.

With our investments in Future48 workforce accelerators, we will prepare thousands of Arizonans every year for jobs building our nation’s future in industries like semiconductors, renewable energy, and aerospace and defense.

And my Build It AZ Apprenticeship Initiative aims to double the number of apprentices in construction and the trades to meet the needs of our 21st century economy.

It’s these programs, along with a strong higher education system and access to child care, that will ensure more Arizonans have the ability to get a good job that supports themselves and their families.

We will continue this success by building the infrastructure, and deploying the technology needed to expand high-speed internet to every community across our state with the nearly one billion dollars Arizona will receive.

High-speed internet is crucial for businesses, healthcare, and education, particularly for our rural and tribal communities who are on the frontlines of our rapidly changing economy. We must build fast, reliable, and affordable broadband access for every Arizonan no matter where they live.

As you can see, our state’s economy is strong and its opportunities are abundant. However, we cannot ignore the fact that for Arizonans across all age, color, and geographical boundaries, our housing affordability crisis has erased feelings of prosperity for too many.

I have personally felt the fear and uncertainty of not knowing how you’re going to make your next mortgage payment. That’s why I will always fight just as hard for your family as I fought for mine – and I will never stop working to find solutions to the housing affordability crisis.

This past year, I worked with many here at the Legislature to find new and effective ways to address this issue. We directed one hundred and fifty million dollars to keep more Arizonans housed through rental assistance programs; allocated money to provide access to legal aid for up to one million more Arizonans who are facing eviction or housing instability; and made a historic investment to create more housing that’s actually affordable for middle-class families.

Further, we accelerated the awarding of low-income housing tax credits that enabled the Arizona Department of Housing to maximize the building of affordable housing across this state. This particular effort directly led to fifteen new affordable developments, half of which are in rural communities – building more than one thousand housing units for working-class families who need them.

These actions should only be the first of many we take to help ensure longtime residents, young professionals, and middle-class Arizonans are protected from being priced out of the communities and state they love.

I was born and raised in an Arizona where a middle-class family could buy their own home. That should be the reality for the next generation, too – but to make it so we must take action. That’s why today I am announcing the Arizona Is Home Mortgage Assistance Program.

This program will help working-class families throughout the state with down payment assistance and mortgage interest rate relief. That means a family of four living in Phoenix making up to seventy-five thousand dollars a year will have the opportunity to purchase a quality, affordable home.

And we will enhance homebuyer assistance for our state’s rural communities by providing access to less costly home loans for working-class households.

These are good, tangible steps to creating access to housing at affordable prices – but they alone will not solve the crisis across our state. I look forward to working with any member of this Legislature to find innovative and effective solutions to help Arizonans access the homes they and their loved ones need to thrive.

Of course, to discuss Arizona’s future, we must also talk about water – how to protect what we have today, how to navigate the challenges ahead, and how to maximize opportunities when mother nature offers them.

Thanks to the careful planning and bipartisanship of generations of leaders before us, Arizona is at the forefront of water conservation and innovation. Our state uses less water today than in the mid-1950s, even as our population has boomed.

However, just because we have been successful in the past does not mean we can relax about the future. We can reject the doomsayers, but we must always have open and honest conversations about our water resources – not shy away because they can be difficult.

As the first year of my administration has shown, I will take decisive action to protect Arizona’s water future. Before this chamber last year, I highlighted a corporation pumping groundwater in La Paz County with essentially no oversight.

After I sent investigators and found they were in violation of their lease, I ended it.

And as of next month, all Butler Valley leases held by this entity will be terminated – protecting water for nearby communities.

I will continue working with everybody – farmers and agricultural interests, urban and rural communities, local and regional entities – to find the solutions we need to ensure our water future is secure for tomorrow and for generations.

There is no better example of this than the agreement I negotiated earlier this year with our neighbors, Nevada and California, to conserve at least three million acre-feet of water – enough for nine million homes – by 2026.

With this historic agreement, we stood up to the federal government’s egregious plan to slash Arizona’s water and we safeguarded our natural resources.

But this is only a starting point. We have not put the decades-long drought in our rearview mirror yet. We must always strive to do more through expanding public-private partnerships, increasing conservation, exploring new technology, and maintaining a steadfast commitment to strengthening protections where needed.

The bipartisan Water Policy Council I created last year – comprised of water leaders from across the state with a wide range of experience – has embodied this spirit with a series of commonsense recommendations to secure our water future.

For decades, rural Arizonans who have begged, demanded, and fought to protect their groundwater have been ignored. Now, after forty years of waiting, it’s time we finally take action and update our groundwater management laws.

That’s why we must have the courage to take action where others haven’t and empower rural Arizonans to have a say in how their water is used.

And for too long, we have allowed development that skirted our smart and commonsense consumer protections for water availability. We must close the loopholes that allow build-to-rent and wildcat developments.

Our water rules give families and businesses confidence to invest in our state, and we cannot continue to let individuals and corporations exploit these loopholes and rob us of our water future.

We all recognize that our state is growing and we must continue to adapt while maintaining our long-held status as a national leader in water management. Our water standards are the key to our strong economy. I refuse to sacrifice them for unchecked growth. But I will continue in Arizona’s bipartisan tradition of growing our economy while protecting our state’s most precious resource.

In that vein, I have directed the Arizona Department of Water Resources to finalize a new pathway for water providers and communities who have historically relied on groundwater resources. This new Alternative Designation of Water Resources program will provide an opportunity for these entities to achieve a one hundred-year assured water supply by contributing new water sources and reducing groundwater pumping – which will help ensure our future growth is both smart and sustainable.

Let us remember that water and drought do not care about party registration or job titles or whether you live in an urban or rural community. We can only protect our water supply by working together. I stand ready to work with you to pass legislation that makes the changes we need today – all to safeguard Arizona’s water for tomorrow. And to those who have spent years refusing to act: if you don’t, I will.

I was born and raised in Arizona, and I chose to raise my family here. My kids attended public schools, and I’m the sister of two public school teachers. I know what having a high-quality public education can mean to millions of Arizonans. But sadly, we too often fall short. We must continue investing in our public schools to ensure Arizona truly is the best place to raise a family.

So, I applaud the bipartisan group of legislators who did the right thing to pass an override to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit, providing certainty that schools would stay open and kids would continue learning. And I stand ready to work with legislators to find a permanent solution going forward.

In addition to the AEL override, we also worked together to find bipartisan solutions to further support our public schools – including a three hundred million dollar infusion for K-12 schools.

Let’s build on that success and send an even stronger Prop 123 to the voters, one that will provide our public schools another decade of funding certainty.

Without question, we must give teachers a raise. But we must also hear the Arizonans asking us to do more.

Let’s take this opportunity to increase compensation for teachers and the support staff who are all critical for students’ success. And let’s take the necessary steps to invest in school safety. I look forward to collaborating with you to move these solutions forward.

By working together to strengthen Prop 123, we will prove to Arizona parents and students that we’re building the world-class public education system they deserve, and that our state needs for the future. We must not let this opportunity pass us by.

In this upcoming session, we must also address the long-term health of our K-12 schools – which means we must address the lack of accountability and transparency in Arizona’s ESA program.

We have seen a steady stream of news coverage around unacceptable and sometimes downright outrageous use of taxpayer money under this program, including water park admissions, ski passes, and luxury car driving lessons.

It is our responsibility as stewards of this state to put in place guardrails to ensure taxpayer dollars dedicated to education are used properly. Without these guardrails, waste, fraud, and abuse take root and thrive.

That’s why we must take action to bring transparency and accountability on behalf of Arizona parents and all taxpayers.

We can deliver common sense solutions like ending the luxury spending, keeping our children safe by requiring background checks for educators, and expanding the authority of the Auditor General. Additionally, let’s require recipients to have attended a public school for at least one hundred days, a reasonable standard that would save our state a quarter billion dollars.

My message to parents across Arizona, whether your family takes part in this program or not: Now is the time to advocate for accountability and for transparency, not a blank check. If we fail to do so, the current projected price tag of one billion dollars is only the start.

Turning our attention to higher education, our state universities continue to lead the way in innovation, pushing boundaries and helping more Arizona families achieve their dreams.

This can be seen in our AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative which will produce over twenty-five hundred more healthcare professionals every year.

Working together, we will create a new generation of doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, while offering communities across our state badly needed access to healthcare.

We are early in this journey, but we should be proud of our state universities for their steadfast efforts to build a better tomorrow for Arizona.

I am calling on this Legislature to work with me to begin a new engineering-focused medical school at Arizona State University; to double the size of University of Arizona medical schools; and to start a new medical school focused on serving rural and tribal communities at Northern Arizona University.

As someone who had to work my way through college and who wouldn’t be here today without the help of scholarships and financial aid, ensuring that higher education is attainable for any Arizonan who wants it is personal to me.

And I know many in this chamber today recognize we have a duty to make higher education as accessible as possible.

We should be proud of the progress we’ve made in this area through securing significant investments in Tribal colleges, as well as new funding for community colleges in rural Arizona.

However, we must also recognize many of our actions have been one-time investments. We must seize the opportunity as our budget outlook improves in future years to strengthen support for efforts such as scholarship programs for students from low-income households;

programs that provide students the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school;

and other initiatives that offer students the chance at a better future through education.

Supporting Arizona families also means protecting our loved ones throughout their time on this earth. No doubt there are many wonderful facilities providing high-quality care for our fellow Arizonans. However, I am saddened and infuriated that too many long-term care facilities are failing some of the most vulnerable with devastating effects.

Physical and mental abuse, neglect, exploitation, and poor quality of care have severely hurt, and in some tragic cases, led to the deaths of too many Arizonans.

And what’s the penalty in these cases?

A five hundred dollar fine.

This is unconscionable and as leaders in this state, we should be outraged.

We should also be outraged at the separate, but just as infuriating, sober living home scandal that ruined countless lives and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

I’m proud we have taken action to crack down on this fraud and I commend Attorney General Mayes for investigating those who are exploiting some of our most vulnerable residents.

The individuals behind these scandals will be held accountable, but it is also apparent we need to provide additional tools to go after bad actors who take advantage of those in need.

That’s why I’m calling on the Legislature to strengthen our state’s standards for sober living homes and long-term care facilities, and significantly increase penalties for bad actors.

I’m putting forward a package of bills that will:

Ensure facilities cannot hide or erase their violation history

Increase fines

Standardize inspections

Empower Adult Protective Services to seek emergency protection orders

And establish standardized credentials for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory care.

Protecting Arizonans in long-term care and sober living facilities shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Let’s work together to support this legislation and continue to seek solutions so we can ensure every resident can live in safety, free from neglect and abuse.

Now, supporting Arizona families also means ensuring our children have access to high-quality healthcare. Unfortunately, federal efforts that raised so many kids out of poverty just a few years ago are phasing out – but the needs and rising costs for parents are just as tough as ever.

No family should have to go bankrupt to care for a sick child. To combat this disturbing trend, we expanded KidsCare eligibility for thousands of Arizona children – enabling them to receive the care they need whether it’s routine check-ups or life-saving procedures without forcing their parents into mountains of debt or heartbreaking GoFundMe campaigns.

Let’s continue working together to find new and innovative ways to lower the costs of doctor visits, medical exams, and other quality of life measures that will provide relief for Arizona families today.

Another area where we can provide relief and make a huge difference in the lives of Arizona families and seniors is by driving down the price of prescription drugs.

That’s why I strongly urge you to support my forthcoming proposal that:

Stops price-gouging middle men in our healthcare system from overcharging for prescription drugs

Requires justifications for price increases so Arizonans aren’t hit with surprise costs

And establishes the new Prescription Drug Affordability Division, which will cap prices on commonly used drugs like insulin and prevent outrageous price hikes.

These measures will help every Arizonan and ensure no one ever has to choose between paying for rent or paying for lifesaving medication.

I believe that fighting for Arizona families is the foundation of what we do as elected officials. And I truly believe that fighting for Arizona families means defending every individual’s right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions.

I speak for millions of Arizonans with a clear message: These deeply personal decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor – not politicians and the government.

I will always defend Arizonans’ freedoms, and I refuse to back down in the face of those who want to criminalize doctors and outlaw abortion.

That’s not happening on my watch.

Instead, there are commonsense bills we can pass right now that will expand access to reproductive healthcare. Arizonans across the political spectrum agree that we should:

Repeal the 1864 abortion ban once and for all

Pass the Right to Contraception Act

And stop government overreach that invades women’s privacy by collecting and publishing data on every abortion in Arizona.

As I have said before and will continue to say again and again, reproductive freedom is not a partisan issue. Women deserve to have access to the healthcare we need; we deserve to have our individual rights protected; and we deserve to make the personal decisions we deem best for ourselves and our families.

Now is the time to do what’s right.

Now is the time to pass these critical policies.

Now is the time we stand up for Arizona families.

I have used this time today to highlight just a few of our successes from the past year, the incredible strengths of our state, and the steadfast resolve of its people.

And we have started what should always be an honest discussion about the significant issues, choices, and opportunities that stand before us.

As we go forward into this session, let us always remember why we are here and what binds us together as Arizonans.

We are bound by our love for this state, from its beautiful forests and mountains, to its breathtaking vistas and stunning natural beauty.

And we are bound by our responsibility to ensure every person who calls this place home has the opportunity to succeed today – as well as the generations who follow us.

My promise to you is that I will never lose sight of why we are here, and I’m confident that what binds us together gives us the strength to overcome any challenge.

Thank you for supporting your fellow Arizonans, and for working to make this the greatest state in our nation.

God bless Arizona and let’s get to work.

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