February 6, 2016

Arizona Governor Ducey Starts Administration with Kept Promises

Doug Ducey has not wasted any time accomplishing the goals he set forth when he was elected as Arizona’s 23rd governor in the fall of 2014.  Priorities such as reducing government regulations, enhancing the economy and lowering taxes dominated the platform during his inaugural speech in January of 2015.  With the help of leadership in the state Senate and House in the shortest legislative session in nearly 50 years, Governor Ducey checked numerous items off of his to-do list.
Immediately upon taking office, Governor Ducey re-issued the standing moratorium on new rules set forth by his predecessor, Jan Brewer.  He didn’t stop there.  He further ordered all state agencies to review their existing rules and regulations in an effort to eliminate overly burdensome, antiquated, redundant and nonessential rules.  State agencies were also required to reduce the regulatory burden, administrative delay and legal uncertainty associated with the function of government.
In line with his mission to “ensure government operates at the speed of business,” he also signed into law H.B. 2297.  This legislation prohibits state agencies from adopting rules that would increase existing regulations on property rights or businesses.  The bill was seen as a preemptive measure to prohibit state agencies from overstepping their authority and creating new laws within the framework of existing regulations.  While we have yet to see the results of this massive undertaking, one thing is clear: this governor believes that government should facilitate business and he has sent that message to his agencies.
Fortunately, Governor Ducey did not have to manage the extreme budget deficits of years past.  However, the cuts that were implemented in previous years did take a toll on state services and there wasn’t a surplus to turn to.  This led many to wonder how he would make good on his promise to cut taxes in his first year at the helm.  Less than four months into office, he signed H.B. 2001 into law, which permanently indexed Arizona’s income tax to inflation by requiring the Department of Revenue to increase the dollar amount of the income tax brackets each year by adjusting for the Metropolitan Phoenix Consumer Price Index.  Hailing it as the elimination of a hidden tax, Ducey declared it a victory in his “open for business agenda.”
The governor also inherited a Department of Agriculture (ADA) that had been void of a director for more than a year.  An exhaustive search for the next leader—led by an industry panel statutorily required to make recommendations to the executive—had finalized its works during Brewer’s last year in office.  Gov. Ducey had the option to act on the existing recommendations or appoint another group to start the process over again.  Several months passed without action on the ADA.  In the meantime, Ducey was working on a plan to merge state agencies in his quest to further reduce government.
Late in the legislative session, a bill surfaced to disband the Department of Weights and Measures (DWM) and divide it among several existing agencies that serve similar industries.  Western Growers worked with the sponsor of the bill to move a few key functions that relate to the agriculture industry into ADA.  The bill placed most of the DWM functions under the purview of ADA.  In most other states, including California, weights and measures are already a function of the ag department.  However, this further highlighted the need to put a permanent director atop ADA.  Not long after, Governor Ducey acted on the recommendation of WG and several other ag organizations by appointing former Speaker of the House Mark Killian to lead the state agency.  Director Killian has hit the ground running and he is an amazing advocate for the ag industry.  WG looks forward to working with him and Governor Ducey to ensure a vibrant ag industry in Arizona for years to come.
During his 2016 State of the State Address, Governor Ducey reiterated his commitment to reducing government and lowering taxes.  He called upon the Arizona Legislature to pass a bill to give agencies the ability to repeal unnecessary regulations more quickly.  He also vowed to reduce regulations on small business by eliminating licensing requirements to operate in Arizona.  He reminded legislators that he intends to keep his campaign promise to lower taxes every year he holds office.  Additionally, he addressed a hot button issue for WG members: water.  The governor made it clear that Arizona has managed its water resources incredibly well.  He highlighted his recent creation of a Water Task Force composed of water users, providers and experts to identify new, long-term sources for water in Arizona, explore additional conservation opportunities and identify future infrastructure needs.  He also authorized the Department of Water Resources to hire new staff to implement the plan.  However, he believes that Arizona has already made significant progress in securing its water future, and he will not succumb to the scare tactics being employed by environmental activists who want to use the drought to impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations on water users.
There are still a lot of unknowns within the Ducey Administration and he has a lot to learn about the fresh produce industry, but his commitment to keep Arizona’s reputation for being business friendly intact is comforting.