PHOENIX — The way Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tells it, if you like what he’s been doing for the past five years you’ll love what he will propose Monday in his sixth State of the State address.
What that means, the governor said, is he will propose yet another round of tax cuts — specifically aimed at individuals — and holding the line against what he called “the persistence of the spending lobby.”
“If you think these first five years have been transformative to the state, you should have the same expectation for what happens in these next three years,” he said Friday at the annual Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry's legislative forecast luncheon. “And that’s what we’re going to kick off on Monday afternoon.”
Put another way, it’s more of the same.
“I made a commitment five years ago that I was going to lower or simplify taxes every year I was in office,” he said in front of the crowd of roughly 1,500 people. “And I’m going to stay committed to that pledge.”
But Ducey may be parting ways with some of his Republican colleagues who want the tax relief aimed at business.
“I know our businesses are doing very well,” the governor said. “And I want them to continue to do well.”
Ducey, however, thinks that even lower business tax rates are not not the only way for Arizona to remain attractive. The governor said that Nevada, Texas and Florida, states that he considers competitors for growth and new business, have no individual income tax; Arizona has tax rates ranging from 2.59% for everything up to $26,500 a year for individuals to 4.5% on incomes above $318,000.
“I look to tax reform to the real people,” he said. And that, said Ducey, means cutting individual income taxes.
“This is how you affect real people in the state,” the governor continued, promising specifics during his Monday speech.
On the other side of the equation, Ducey said he will fight various ideas to boost taxes, for whatever reason.
“Folks out there still think that we need a tax increase even though we are sitting on a $1 billion surplus inside the general fund,” he said.
That’s aimed not just about various plans to have a new or expanded dedicated tax for education, one involving sales taxes and another looking at higher income taxes for the wealthy. The governor’s stance also is also bad news for proposals by Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, to hike gasoline taxes.
Campbell points out that the current 18-cent-a-gallon levy was set in 1991. With inflation since then, that has cut the effective tax rate to just 9 cents.
On top of that, vehicles are far more fuel efficient. That means owners have to buy fewer gallons — and pay less in gasoline taxes — to drive the same number of miles.
Ducey, for his part, appears content to use some of the current excess to make one-time expenditures for construction as the state did last year in approving the widening of I-17 north of Anthem to Black Canyon City. But that still leaves the question of funding maintenance which Campbell and other lawmakers contend is long overdue, particularly in rural areas.
One thing you won’t be hearing from Ducey is any musing about life beyond the governor’s office when the Arizona Constitution bars him from seeking a third time. The governor said he can’t think about that right now.
“I’ve got 1,085 days remaining in office the day I give the State of the State,” he said.
Not that he’s counting.