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The successful gubernatorial candidate who promised to balance the budget without tax hikes or borrowing won't be presenting a truly balanced spending plan to lawmakers in January.
Arizona's statewide races reflect the national campaigns — an almost complete Republican victory, and an almost complete rejection of Barack Obama. Six years ago, who'd a thunk it? The guy was on top of the world. Now, he might slink off the world stage in a couple of years, as an afterthought. A conflation of events, opposition, and, frankly, incompetence, seem to have ruined his second term.
A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters have given Republicans another four years to lead the state, rejecting Democratic efforts to win statewide offices for the first time this decade.
Republican state treasurer Doug Ducey won the governor's office by a wide margin, beating Fred DuVal after a campaign that saw the Democrat fail to gain traction as he was hammered by nearly $8 million in negative ads paid for by outside groups.
Ducey takes over from retiring Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in January, but he will be faced with an immediate budget crisis as the state expects a budget deficit exceeding $1 billion.
Republican state Sen. Michele Reagan was elected secretary of state, making her the state's top elections official and the first in line to become governor if Ducey is unable to continue in the job. Mark Brnovich won the attorney general's race, Republican Jeff DeWit becomes the new state treasurer after an uncontested race, and two Republicans beat their Democratic opponents for the regulatory body known as the Corporation Commission to the secure the near GOP sweep of top statewide offices.
The lone statewide office that remained too close to call Wednesday — superintendent of public instruction — was being led by Republican Diane Douglas over Democrat David Garcia.
That left Democrats who had looked at the midterm elections as a way to grab a statewide constitutional office considering how they came up short.
Democratic Party spokesman Frank Camacho said the party's grassroots organizing efforts mainly fell short and its candidates lacked the fire to inspire young people. The exceptions were Ruben Gallego, who won the 7th Congressional District seat of retiring Rep. Ed Pastor, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's win in the 9th District.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick won her sprawling rural 1st District as well. Democratic Rep. Ron Barber was locked in a tight race with retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally in southern Arizona's 2nd District.
But statewide elected offices were nearly out of reach for Democrats, who last held one before the 2010 general election.
"You see how they can inspire young folks," Camacho said. "We just have to go out there, identify them and get them ready for state, local or national office. We have to give voters a reason to vote for Democrats."
Ducey's easy win came as Republicans gained across the nation, taking control of the U.S. Senate and solidifying their control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ducey, the 50-year-old former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, portrayed himself as the inevitable winner in the final weeks of the campaign, buoyed by heavy spending on his behalf by outside groups and strong Republican turnout in early voting. He emerged from a bruising six-way primary in August in the race to replace Gov. Jan Brewer and went on to outspend DuVal in the general election by a hefty margin.
He'll take office in January and face a fiscal crisis caused by lower-than-expected tax revenue and a court order that could put Arizona on the hook for up to $2.5 billion in new education spending. The state faces a projected deficit of $1.5 billion in the current and next budget years amid promises from both candidates to cut taxes.
"I'm grateful for the privilege you have given me, for the trust you have placed in me, and I pledge my best efforts as the governor of this great state," Ducey said in a victory speech. "Whether you voted for me or you voted for someone else, I intend to be governor for all and work to create opportunities for every single Arizonan."
Ducey thanked his campaign staff, his wife, Angela, his three sons, and his opponent, Fred DuVal, calling him "a good man."
DuVal, in a concession speech at the Democrats' election-night headquarters in Phoenix, also thanked his supporters, and he said he had called Ducey to offer his congratulations.
"A registration disadvantage and clearly a bad national environment were hard enough to overcome. But we were also reminded that unlimited money is a powerful thing in politics — and is not a healthy thing," DuVal said.
He took a swipe at the massive amounts of outside spending used to attack him in the race from outside groups. Ducey and Duval each spent about $2.2 million in their general election campaigns, but Ducey has benefited from $7.9 million in outside spending compared with about $1 million for DuVal.
"I would like to call and congratulate the other big winners tonight, but frankly the other big winners are undisclosed, unknown and out of state," DuVal said.
Republican Doug Ducey coasted to victory in the gubernatorial race Tuesday, fueled by unprecedented spending of outside dollars in attack ads on his Democrat foe.
Republican Doug Ducey coasted to victory in the gubernatorial race Tuesday, fueled by unprecedented spending of outside dollars in attack ads on his Democrat foe.
An attorney for state lawmakers made a last-ditch effort Friday to get a judge to reject a bid by schools for more than $1 billion in missed state aid, saying it's the only fair thing to do.
When the stock market crashed in 2008, most Americans, one way or another, were badly hurt. But not all. Barack Obama’s then chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, saw it as a golden opportunity to jump-start the new administration’s agenda.
PHOENIX -- Prosecutors in three Arizona counties are using new figures on where teens now get their marijuana to lobby against making the drug legal for all adults.
PHOENIX -- An attorney for state lawmakers made a last-ditch effort Friday to get a judge to reject a bid by schools for more than $1 billion in missed state aid, saying it's the only fair thing to do.
Prosecutors in three Arizona counties are using new figures on where teens now get their marijuana to lobby against making the drug legal for all adults. But the data may not be as clear-cut as it seems.
Supporters of the Mesa Public Schools override say the $31.8 million dollars at stake are vital to keep the school district afloat, but opponents say the district would use those funds inefficiently.
Calling it fiscally “impossible,” an attorney for lawmakers told a judge on Monday she should reject a bid by schools to get back the money the state illegally withheld from them for years.
As a very concerned Arizona resident and caring grandmother, I feel it is very important to inform Arizonans that their vote for superintendent of public instruction should be about qualifications, experience and expertise in the education field.
PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Fred DuVal lashed out at his Republican opponent in the Arizona governor's race over his education funding plans Friday, upping his rhetoric in the campaign as the race nears its final week.
DuVal called Republican Doug Ducey "the most anti-public education candidate for governor in my lifetime," and said Ducey's plans to cut income taxes will end up decimating school funding.
"He wants to do giant tax giveaways to the rich that would cause the largest funding cuts to education in our state — it is simple math," Duval said. "The fact that he won't admit that his plan doesn't add up shows that Doug Ducey isn't honest enough to be our governor."
The aggressive tone from DuVal comes two weeks after voters began casting early ballots and just 12 days before the general election and stands in stark contrast to the civil tone he took in five debates with Ducey. DuVal spoke at a news conference at the Phoenix headquarters of the Arizona Education Association and was joined by teachers who support his call to stop funding cuts.
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, now a Ducey supporter, deadpanned and called DuVal's statement about Ducey a "slight exaggeration."
"I think there's probably a slight exaggeration that Doug's the single-most antagonistic to public education in the history of his life," Jones said. "But I also think they have difference of opinion on how to fund things."
In a statement, Ducey's campaign called the attack "both dishonest and false."
"In just over one week, we are confident Arizona voters will elect Doug Ducey to lead on both education and the economy, and as governor, he will make certain there are no winners and losers in Arizona's schools."
DuVal has made education funding a centerpiece of his campaigning, vowing not to cut another penny from K-12 schools and to stop fighting a court order that inflation funding be restored.
Ducey wants to continue fighting the court order that the Legislature reset funding formulas to account for inflation, and he said if the state loses, he wants to review school funding formulas to make sure more money makes it into the classroom.
The courts have ordered Arizona to pay an additional $1.6 billion to schools over the coming five years and may order $1.3 billion in back payments. That order came in a lawsuit won by schools over the Legislature's failure to fund voter-mandated yearly inflation increases, and is being appealed.
In addition, the state is facing more than a billion dollars in deficits in the coming two years, a looming fiscal crisis the next governor will have to deal with as soon as he takes office in January.
Both candidates have given general ideas about how to handle the deficit, but dodge when pressed for specifics, as DuVal did Friday when asked by reporters to say what he would cut if schools got full funding.
"You asked the right question, which is OK, fine, you're not going to cut any more in education, but there's a whole lot more to the budget than just that, and you know that," Jones said. "You got to tell me where you're going to get the money from, and I think that's what Doug's been focused on."
What would you buy with an extra $6 a week?
PHOENIX -- What would you buy with an extra $6 a week? Two gallons of milk? A Big Mac meal? A venti half-caf sugar-free latte?
That's how much more those at the bottom of the pay scale will be making come Jan. 1 when the minimum wage in Arizona goes to $8.05 an hour.
It's not that businesses necessarily want to pay their workers more. It's that Arizona voters in 2006 mandated that the state have its own minimum wage not tied to the federal figure.
More significant, that law requires annual automatic adjustments tied to inflation. The federal minimum wage goes up only when Congress approves, something that last happened in 2009.
It all goes back to that 2006 initiative. It established a state minimum wage of $6.75 an hour, $1.60 higher than what federal law required at the time.
But that law also requires the Industrial Commission to adjust the figure annually based on inflation, as measured as the change in the Consumer Price Index for all urban areas.
So the commission took the current $7.90 an hour minimum wage and multiplied it by the 1.7 percent increase in inflation.
That computes out to about 13.4 cents. But since the law requires rounding to the nearest nickel, the enacted change is 15 cents.
How many workers are affected is unclear, as the state does not maintain such data.
The most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 17,000 Arizonans working at the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage and another 51,000 paid less than that. But the agency cautions that includes those whose jobs are exempt and does not mean employers are violating federal law.
Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which unsuccessfully opposed the 2006 initiative, said his organization remains convinced that a state minimum wage higher than the federal figure is bad not only for business but for those looking for work.
"It's just another expense that makes it more difficult to hire workers,'' he said. Most hard hit, he said are small businesses, particularly in the food service industry.
It is only an 80-cent-an-hour difference from the federal figure. But Hamer said looking at it from an annual basis -- $312 a year -- multiplied by the number of minimum-wage workers ``clearly puts downward pressure on employment.'' All that, he said is these small businesses hire fewer workers.
Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said he has seen in his industry.
"It's hard to find bus boys anymore,'' he said, as restaurants, seeking to keep costs in line, make the wait staff more responsible to clear tables.
And for those establishments that can't cut staff more, particularly in the "quick-serve'' segment, the only alternative is higher prices.
He said the differences between what consumers pay in Arizona versus other states which have no comparable state minimum wage may be subtle and barely noticeable. But he said those differences exist.
Chucri said it becomes very visible where the gap is large, relating how a San Francisco restaurant where he was dining said it was adding 3 percent to all bills for employer mandates. That includes that city's $10.74-an-hour minimum wage, one that proponents hope to hike to $15 an hour by 2018 through a ballot measure.
Hamer said the really troubling part is that annual inflationary increase, with higher wages forced on employers who may not be able to afford it.
He acknowledged that the adjustment is based on the change in the cost of goods and services during the prior year. And Hamer, who said he does the shopping for his family, said he has seen prices go up.
But he said that $7.90 an hour is better than nothing, which is what he said a higher minimum wage may mean to some.
Chucri has a somewhat different take on the issue, saying the wages should be set by the free market. He said if restaurants, diners and fast-food joints can't find people at what they're offering, that will raise wages.
Anyway, he said, that minimum wage is really a "training wage,'' with most of those at that level in the 18-to-25 age group.
"We don't intend to have a single mother of three make the minimum wage and say it's fine,'' he said. Chucri said anyone with experience can demand more.
As it turns out, many Arizona restaurants won't even have to pay that $8.05 figure.
The Arizona law has a major exception: Firms whose workers earn tips get a $3 "credit'' toward the wages. That means even with the hike, those workers still could be paid as little as $5.05 an hour.
But state officials say that requires proof that the employees are, in fact, bringing in at least $3 an hour in tips.
History of Arizona's Minimum Wage
Year / State / Federal
2006 / $5.15 / $5.15
2007 / $6.75 / $5.85
2008 / $6.90 / $6.55
2009 / $7.25 / $7.25
2010 / $7.25 / $7.25
2011 / $7.35 / $7.25
2012 / $7.65 / $7.25
2013 / $7.80 / $7.25
2014 / $7.90 / $7.25
2015 / $8.05 / $7.25
Sources: Industrial Commission of Arizona, U.S. Department of Labor
“Sen. John McCain says we need a czar to handle the Ebola response. As long as Congress continues to cut funding on public safety and disease research, we need a tax czar and get some of this offshore money to fight offshore diseases. This defunding strategy is getting old, and looks more like reckless endangerment as each day goes by.”
Democrat Fred DuVal used the last gubernatorial debate Tuesday to essentially accuse Doug Ducey of class warfare, robbing from schools to give tax breaks to the rich.
PARADISE VALLEY -- Democrat Fred DuVal used the last gubernatorial debate Tuesday to essentially accuse Doug Ducey of class warfare, robbing from schools to give tax breaks to the rich.
Ducey has centered his gubernatorial campaign on his theme of "kick-starting'' Arizona's moribund economy. Central to that is his promise to work to eliminate the state income tax. But DuVal told an audience of two different women's groups such a move would be irresponsible.
He cited the anticipated deficit of $500 million this fiscal year and more than $1 billion next year. That includes a court order to immediately boost school funding by $331 million, a decision DuVal said he will accede to and that Ducey wants to appeal.
"This is a choice you get to make,'' DuVal said.
"Doug's priority is to lower taxes for the wealthiest among us,'' he continued. "My priority is to assure that we adequately fund schools.''
But Ducey appears to be backing away -- or at least finessing -- his position on tax cuts.
During both the Republican primary and since then, Ducey has said he wants to move toward eliminating the tax, or at least making it "flatter and fairer.'' Tuesday, however, he had a different message.
"No one's ever talked about eliminating the income tax,'' he told the audience. Instead he said his goal is simply to drive it "as close to zero as possible.''
And he even added some conditions Tuesday to pursuing that goal which has been a cornerstone of his campaign.
"It's where I would like to take the state,'' he said.
"But I've got to deal with the financial situation of the state as I find it as governor,'' Ducey explained. "And I'll do what's responsible and in the best interest of all of our citizens.''
Ducey disputed that cutting income taxes necessarily means there will be less money for public schools. And Ducey said that he does not necessarily believe that restoring school funding to where it would have been had lawmakers not ignored a voter-approved mandate to adjust annually for inflation will lead to better schools.
The key, he said, is finding better ways to educate children.
"We are underperforming across the state,'' Ducey told the audience.
"But we have pockets of excellence in the state,'' he continued, citing reports that three of the Top 10 high schools in the nation as ranked by U.S. News and World Reports are located here: two Basis charter schools and University High School in Tucson.
Ducey said he would look at the "best practices'' of those schools "so more of our children have a better opportunity.''
Ducey also cited reports from the Auditor General's Office which for the past decade have shown that an ever-smaller percentage of tax dollars is actually winding up in the classroom.
The most recent report shows that less than 54 cents of every education dollar was put into things like teacher salaries. That compares with 58.6 cents a decade earlier, a trend Ducey said he wants to reverse.
But DuVal said the rest of the report found that administrative costs for things like superintendents, principals, business managers and clerical staff is below the national average. Instead, the report said what's making up the difference are fixed non-instructional costs like heating, cooling and running school buses.
And Auditor General Debra Davenport specifically said that's a direct function of less money overall for schools. She said the only place to cut was the classroom, citing figures that while the number of children attending Arizona public schools has dropped by 3 percent since 2009, the number of teachers dropped by 8.6 percent.
"The reason there isn't more money going into the classroom is there isn't enough money,'' DuVal said.
That still leaves DuVal's contention that Ducey's plan to cut income taxes is designed to favor the wealthy.
"The income tax is paid disproportionately by wealthy,'' DuVal said, acknowledging that, by definition, people with more income pay more tax on that income. But he said all this comes as Arizona has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation -- 5.6 percent plus all local levies -- a tax he called "regressive.''
"Our tax structure is clobbering working Arizona families,'' he told reporters after the debate.
"They're paying significantly more of their income in taxes than upper-income Arizonans,'' DuVal said.
Ducey said what will help businesses come to and expand in Arizona are things he promises like lower taxes and less regulation. But DuVal said some business leaders have suggested otherwise.
He cited comments made in 2011 by the former chief executive of Intel.
"The educational system in the United States and in Arizona in particular is not particularly attractive,'' Craig Barrett told the Arizona Commerce Authority. In fact, Barrett said the situation is so bar that if Intel were looking for a site to build an entirely new operation, as to expanding its $10 billion Arizona presence, the state would not even be on the list of Top 10 choices.
He was not alone in his comments.
"The education system here is very weak,'' said Doug Pruitt, at the time the chief executive of Sundt Construction.
The next month promises to bring out lots of mud, baseless accusations and partisan attacks as we move toward the Nov. 4 election. Despite the polls, the campaign for governor should even not be close.
PHOENIX (AP) — A manufacturer of sapphire glass that Apple Inc. uses in iPhones told a bankruptcy court Friday that it wants to shut down a Mesa factory that was once touted as a big job creator for Arizona.
GT Advanced Technologies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. In a bankruptcy court filing Friday, the company outlined its plans to wind down operations at the Mesa factory by the end of the year along with a second facility in Salem, Massachusetts — a move that would leave hundreds of people out of work.
"This drastic step is necessitated by GTAT's liquidity crisis and the ongoing cash burn from its operations at these locations," the company said in a court filing.
The request to wind down operations at the locations is contingent on the court's approval. GT Advanced Technologies' stock was down about 35 percent Friday, trading at 84 cents. The stock's 52-week high is $20.54.
The bankruptcy and ensuing effort to shut down the factory mark surprising turn after state, local and business leaders previously bragged that the plant would be a major boost to the Arizona economy.
Gov. Jan Brewer had hailed Apple's decision to open the plant in Mesa, calling it a sign that the Arizona's efforts to provide a pro-business climate were paying off. The state has cut business taxes and created several incentives designed to lure new manufacturing businesses in the past several years.
At full production the companies expected 700 workers to run the plant.
Now, GT wants to begin winding down operations.
It is a complicated process that will involve keeping dozens of workers on staff to monitor furnaces where the sapphire grows into boules that can sell for $20,000.
Apple currently uses sapphire glass for camera lenses and its fingerprint-reading home button on many new iPhones, and has announced its use on two of three planned models of the iWatch. The Mesa plant fueled speculation that Apple might use sapphire glass in future iPhones, but the newly released iPhone 6 does not use sapphire for its main screen.
Apple has advanced GT $429 million to outfit the plant out of $578 million it agreed to pre-pay when it struck the deal with the company last November. The company also made a bankruptcy court filing Friday that seeks to end the agreements with Apple.
Apple and the city of Mesa did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment. The company said earlier in the week that it is "focused on preserving jobs in Arizona following GT's surprising decision and we will continue to work with state and local officials as we consider our next steps."
In a statement, GT said it realizes the difficulties caused by a plant closing but needs to make the right financial decisions following the bankruptcy action.
"While we continue to explore all options with regards to our Mesa and Salem facilities, we recognize and regret the impact that the actions outlined in our bankruptcy court filings of this morning may have on valued GT employees," the company said.
In the upcoming election, the governing board of the Mesa Public School District will ask voters to renew the override of the district’s budget. The extra 10 percent, taken from the local primary property tax, allows the district to make up for budget cuts in state aid, which funds two-thirds of the district’s budget.