PHOENIX, Arizona – Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs delivered her second annual state of the state address on Monday, vowing to address the accountability of the state’s school voucher program and update laws regarding groundwater use in rural areas. The Democratic governor also criticized the federal government for closing a port of entry along the Arizona-Mexico border due to an influx of immigrants, highlighting her decision to send National Guard members to assist with the situation.
Hobbs’s address comes as Arizona faces a $400 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year and an additional $450 million deficit in the coming year. These gaps in the budget are primarily attributed to the rising costs of the voucher program expansion and a previous tax cut that significantly reduced tax revenues. The shortfall is expected to worsen with the upcoming release of the state’s next revenue forecast.
In her speech, Hobbs outlined plans to rein in spending without compromising public safety and education. She also advocated for the creation of a new division in the state government to oversee the affordability of prescription drugs and proposed initiatives to address the housing crisis in Arizona. Additionally, water management was highlighted as a top priority, given the arid climate and concerns about future shortages from the Colorado River system.
Hobbs emphasized her commitment to protecting water resources, citing her actions against a Saudi-operated farm accused of depleting groundwater for agricultural purposes. She called for updates to the state’s groundwater management laws, stating that rural communities demanding protection for their groundwater have been ignored for too long.
The governor also addressed the school voucher program, which allows parents to use public money for private-school tuition and other education costs. Although Hobbs vowed to bring accountability to the program, she faced criticism from Democratic lawmakers for not including caps on the program’s expansion in previous budget proposals.
Hobbs’s proposed changes for the voucher program include requiring private schools to meet minimum education requirements for teachers and mandating that students attend public school for a certain period before becoming eligible for vouchers. Despite Republican opposition, Hobbs stressed the need for accountability and transparency in the program.
On the issue of border security, Hobbs criticized the federal government’s failure to secure the southern border. She specifically mentioned the recent monthlong closure of a border crossing in Lukeville, Arizona, which she claimed did not effectively address the immigration crisis and instead harmed businesses and families. Hobbs highlighted her efforts to support overwhelmed Border Patrol agents by deploying National Guard troops and seeking funding for a state office dedicated to coordinating the response to border issues.
The legislative session in Arizona aims to conclude within 100 days, but it often extends until May or June, especially when grappling with challenging problems such as budget deficits. Hobbs is expected to release her budget proposal later this week.
In conclusion, Governor Katie Hobbs addressed various challenges facing Arizona in her state of the state address. She pledged to bring accountability to the school voucher program, update groundwater laws, and tackle issues related to prescription drug affordability and the housing crisis. Hobbs also criticized the federal government’s handling of border security and outlined her efforts to address the immigration situation. As the legislative session continues, the budget shortfall remains a pressing concern for Arizona.