As Arizona’s 23rd Governor, Doug Ducey is somewhat of a newcomer to politics. Although most recently he served a four-year term as State Treasurer, his path to the Ninth Floor is not a usual one.
Because of a string of deaths in office, resignations and an impeachment, Ducey is only the second Governor in 40 years to take office due to “normal” election circumstances. His background as a successful entrepreneur and businessman bucks the traditional model of climbing the political ladder. In fact, most of his opponents in the primary and general elections were life-long politicos. At this point, it is much too early to know what a Governor Ducey Administration means for our state. Here are some things we do know:
Governor Ducey has held on to the priorities he outlined during his campaign: opportunity for all, growing the economy and balancing the budget. As if finding a consensus on opportunity for all is not hard enough, his goal to balance the state budget in the midst of a potential billion dollar deficit is not how you want to start your first term as governor. However, Ducey seems up for the task with his office releasing its initial budget proposal, including various cuts to universities and municipalities, in addition to several hundred million dollars in fund transfers. His plan is also void of any new tax proposals, consistent with his pledge not to raise taxes as governor.
In terms of growing the economy, Ducey has authorized an Executive Order, similar to that of his predecessor Jan Brewer, extending a moratorium on rule making, which is intended to reduce the propagation of burdensome regulations. The order also stipulates that state agencies should strive to repeal any unnecessary laws and rules and become more customer-service oriented with the public and businesses they serve.
In terms of agriculture, Ducey has said he intends to make “sure leaders in every part of the state know that I want their communities to have a seat at the table in my administration.” He also has publicly remarked on the importance of the agriculture sector in a strong economy.
With the retirement of former Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) director Don Butler nearing the end of Governor Brewer’s last term, ADA has been operating with an interim director for almost a year and a half. One of the first things Governor Ducey will do to impact our industry is to appoint a new director for our flagship agency. There are two individuals who were recommended to Brewer. Governor Ducey has the option to appoint one of them, as recommended by various ag organizations, or to convene a committee of five ag producers, as defined in statute, to interview and recommend up to three names to him. Either way, we are hopeful that the new governor will act quickly in providing the department with a leader who can work with the industry to grow agriculture in Arizona.
In terms of his budget proposal, the governor maintained general fund revenues to ADA despite the looming budget deficit. Western Growers applauded the governor for recognizing the vital services provided through this agency and we are hopeful that the strength of the department can be maintained through this budget cycle. Along with ADA, the governor also did not propose cuts to the Department of Water Resources (DWR). DWR has experienced drastic cuts in recent years, and we are thankful Ducey acknowledges the importance of a strong water agency in ensuring the future of agriculture in Arizona.
Other than the priorities outlined, it is difficult to determine what a Ducey Administration will look like over the next four years. It’s clear he intends to make his own way, as evidenced by the ouster of several employees from the previous administration. His private-sector background will bring a fresh perspective to the office, but it will also require a lot of education on the part of industry to ensure that the services and government functions necessary to conduct business are maintained.
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