Monday, January 09, 2006

State of the State Address

Governor Napolitano gave her state of the state address today.

And it reminded me of how lucky we are to have her as the Governor of this fine state.

The State of Arizona is strong and growing stronger. I stand before you today, proud of the ground we have covered together, proud of the work we are doing. I am determined to build on our work, not rest on it – to make Arizona stronger still.

She didn't come right out and say it, but I will-- Janet Napolitano is the primary reason for this remarkable story. Because we don't have to go very far back to realize what a change she has wrought.

Just remember three years ago, when she first took office, and we were staring into the face of a billion dollar budget hole? A hole that represented nearly one fifth of the entire state budget? A hole made worse by Republican corruption and incomptence behind former Gov. Jane Hull and Speaker Jeff Groscost (aptly named) who lost the state millions by buying speaker Jeff's friends cars via the 'alt-fuels' tax credit? Remember how Gov. Napolitano's opponent in the 2002 election, Matt Salmon, wanted to balance the budget by slashing spending for schools and other institutions across the state? Never mind how Arizona's K-12 teachers are just above being the lowest paid in the nation, Matt Salmon still figured he could spend less on schools.

And when Janet Napolitano did win, she faced a hostile legislature, one that would have been much more willing to come up with a budget like Matt Salmon wanted than one that she could sign onto. And they did try to give her a budget that looked like Salmon's.

So Janet Napolitano said no. And when Janet Napolitano says no, then 'no' is the answer. She vetoed that budget, and has vetoed every attempt since then by the legislature to steal funds from the poor, the children, the elderly, and every other person in the state who depends on those funds.

Together – to raise up children who are healthy and wise.

Together – to grow our economy and expand the circle of prosperity by pursuing breakthroughs in science and technology that will transform us into a nerve center of new ideas.


We have a Governor who not only talks about these things, but she does these things. Intel chose the Phoenix area for it's newest plant-- largely because of the Governor's leadership in innovation and supporting technology growth. And we will soon have a top tier medical school in Arizona. That's because Governor Napolitano held her ground with a legislature which tries to do everything as cheaply as possible. When they tried to cut funding for higher education and research, she said no and by that time they knew better than to ask twice.

One of the great joys that accompanies the privilege of being governor is the chance to travel across our state, to meet the people that make Arizona what it is, and to hear directly from you about what kind of future you want to build.

I have a nine year old daughter who has talked to the Governor three times. Because she does get around and talk to people. And she is as much interested in what a nine year old has to say as she is in what anyone who can vote for her has to say.

To make us safer, I will propose a comprehensive, $100 million border security package that provides state and local law enforcement with the resources they need to uphold the rule of law at our border.

Unfortunately, the Federal government has abrogated its responsibility. And armed gangs, mostly dealing in drugs, have run rampant in the area. We've also discussed immigration on this blog. Immigration reform will require a comprehensive plan, and no one understands that better than Janet Napolitano. But as long as we have coyotes who lead people into the desert on 120 degree days and then leave them alone to die out there, we need to patrol the border and try and stop them. And again, this is an example of a place where George W. Bush huffs, Russell Pierce, Randy Graf and the rest of the wacko anti-immigrant crowd puffs, and Janet Napolitano quietly goes about the job of making things work, even when it should be someone else's job and they aren't doing it.

In addition, I will propose tough but fair measures to help parents protect their children from sexual offenders and to help law enforcement crack down on methamphetamine manufacture and distribution. And I will propose a plan to begin to offer safe harbor – finally – to all those who suffer the effects of domestic violence.

Governor Napolitano has always made protecting children her priority. The Republican legislature didn't even 'discover' the issue of CPS reform until she made it a priority. And then, my own (worthless) state rep (now Senator), Jake Flake, whose idea of 'reforming' a state agency is to give them a budget cut, did everything in his power to frustrate her designs. But Janet Napolitano is a bit smarter than Jake Flake, so she got CPS reformed anyway (although there remains work to do).

Arizona already has pretty good sex offender laws (although there are always better ideas out there). But laws are only as good as far as they are enforced. And the Governor, since her days as Attorney General, has always done everything she could to give law enforcement the tools to do their jobs. What really strikes me about this line in her speech is her focus on meth labs. These labs are what amounts to toxic waste dumps spread out all over the state. Children are often exposed to the chemicals (both hazardous in the long term, due to exposure, and the short term, due to risk of explosions). So last year, the legislature tried to limit the sale of pseudoephedrine, a key precursor to meth, by requiring that it be sold in a locking cabinet by a pharmacist (you know, where they already sell stuff like stop smoking patches and pregnancy testing kits; so there is precedent for it). A similar program in Oklahoma has cut production of meth in that state by over 70%. And it looked like the bipartisan bill would pass. But then the pharmaceutical industry got their pointwoman in the legislature, Barbara Leff (R-Scottsdale) to kill it. So a number of cities around the state got disgusted with her obstructionism and began banning it themselves. So the bill will be reintroduced sometime this year. And I'm glad that the Governor sees it as important. Because it is (some of you may know that even though I don't use it, I've endorsed the legalization of marijuana, including its production, transport and sale; Methamphetamine is a completely different beast-- and a beast it is. Several years ago I was living in Moriarty, NM when a man driving through on the highway got high on meth, imagined his teenage son was the devil, and cut his son's head off and threw it out onto the highway. That told me everything I needed to know about meth.)

To make us stronger, we will take bold steps to give our children a world-class education, up to and including a university degree. We will take up the challenge of accessible and affordable health care. We will urge new initiatives to meet the demands of our current rate of growth including transportation and water.

My two nine year old twins have already decided where they want to go to college. Harvard Medical School for one, and Princeton for the other. But with the importance that Governor Napolitano is putting on higher education, maybe they will be able to stay in Arizona and learn everything they would learn there. Health care. Yeah, I've gotten to learn just a bit about it lately. We have the best healthcare system in the world if you can afford it. But if you can't-- it's like going to a car rental place and find out that all they have available are limousines. Most people are on a 'Chevrolet budget' and can't afford a 'Cadillac' health care system. The fact that any parent should have to be afraid to take their sick child to the doctor is an abomination. That we as a society even consider tolerating that is sadistic, cruel and wicked. (If that isn't blunt enough...)

I'm lucky. I live in a part of Arizona that has a low population (so no major traffic problems) and an adequate supply of water. But only about 10% of the state doesn't have problems with traffic or water supply and is unlikely to encounter them any time within the next few years. And our Governor realizes this, she realizes that we need plans for dealing with these issues, and she has some plans, or is willing to work with other people who have plans, but she knows that we need some.

We all know that the future of Arizona ultimately depends on the reach and grasp of our children – the reach of their imaginations and the grasp of their abilities.
Nothing is more important to a child’s future than his or her parents. But great schools can make an enormous difference.

Better-educated children dream bigger dreams and get better jobs. Better thinkers and more qualified workers attract better and more profitable businesses. The standard of living goes up across the state, our ability to offer the very best to our children grows, and the payoff continues for generations. Strong families, strong children, strong schools, strong state.

To make our education system the very best it can be, I call on the Legislature to do four things:
• Expand voluntary all-day kindergarten so it is available to every parent who wants it for his or her children;

• Increase teacher compensation, so that we begin to pay teachers at a competitive rate for the critical work we ask them to do;

• Provide professional development and ongoing training to keep our best teachers in the classroom; and

• Support increased funding for our community colleges and universities, including increased student aid, so that all Arizonans – young people and people already working who need new skills – have access to world-class higher education.

Parents have demanded voluntary full-day kindergarten. Two years ago, you approved it. This year – let’s complete it. Young minds are hungry for information and develop quickly – the more they learn, the more they can learn. Let’s offer voluntary full-day kindergarten to every parent who wants it, and let’s do it this year....

But we cannot expect the best from our teachers as long as we continue to pay them a paltry sum....

I offer you this challenge today: let’s give a pay raise to every teacher in Arizona.


YES! We have a legislature which (since our K-12 teacher pay is second from the bottom) still thinks there is room to cut education. The aforementioned Senator of mine has even said that he feels that teachers can 'spend the summer putting up ranch fences' if they want to earn any more money. But our governor realizes that it is a travesty that we expect to hire degreed professionals to teach our children and prepare them to go to college, and then we don't pay them enough to even send their own kids to college.

She goes on into a number of specific proposals. One that really jumps out at me is to index vehicle licensing taxes to the gas mileage that vehicles get. The better the mileage, the lower the tax. A vehicle that gets outstandingly good mileage to the gallon would have to pay nothing to get licensed. Save at the pump, save at the MVD. Innovative, creative, progressive and practical. Like Janet Napolitano.

7 comments:

Kralmajales said...

Excellent excellent commentary Eli!!! I agree so much about education in this state. The strangest thing is that I came here from the south thinking that this brand of Republican would be kind of progressive. I obviously knew nothing. States like Georgia, Virginia, and the like are far more supportive of education and higher education...because they know an educated workforce leads to economic growth.

shrimplate said...

Great post.

If only we could give Napolitano a cooperative and perhaps Democratic legislature to work with.

Anonymous said...

I really like that she's going to pay for my kids back-to-school clothes.

Barbi said...

I want you to know that I've helped convert a couple of AZ voters who will now vote for Janet's re-election.

Eli Blake said...

Great, Barbi. I didn't know you knew anybody here.

DRP said...

JN is an OK Clinton-style moderate dem, but really not that progressive. C'mon lefties, you need some higher standards for greatness, even if this is Arizona.

Eli Blake said...

DRP:

OK, so she isn't an Alfredo Gutierrez (a man who I very much admire and respect, but I didn't vote for him last time). And the entire body of Arizona Democrats had that choice in 2002, and we collectively chose Janet.

So what is wrong with that? I consider myself a progressive, but I don't have problems with giving a few tax breaks to businesses to get them to relocate here instead of someplace else-- that is just practical planning. Not all Democrats are hardcore liberals, but what I like about Janet is that she is very consistent. If she tells you where she stands on something, you can take that to the bank, because that is where she will continue to stand.