On Monday, Republican Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona proposed a $1 billion desalination project.
Ducey revealed plans to extract salt from sea water for use in Arizona in her annual State of the Union address to a joint session of the state House and Senate, but the governor provided little information on the specifics of the project.
“Instead of just talking about desalination – the technology that made Israel the world’s water superpower – how do we pave the way for it to actually happen?” Ducey said.
Ducey said he worked with State House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate Speaker Karen Fan, both Republicans, on the plan. He did not mention where the desalination plant would be built. However, water policy experts have discussed the potential use of water from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the closest sea to Arizona.
Some environmentalists are against desalination due to its potential harm to marine organisms and the fact that it is energy intensive.
The western US is currently facing a drought. Arizona’s allocation of the Colorado River’s water has decreased, forcing some farmers to leave their fields uncultivated. More cuts are likely in the future.
“The plan is comprehensive and it is comprehensive, but a lot of work needs to be done to get all the details legally,” he said. “This year our focus will be on that.”
Ducey enters her final year with Arizona seeing a sizable budget surplus, a major change from her first speech to lawmakers in 2015 when she faced a $1 billion shortfall. Lawmakers set aside $200 million last year for future water infrastructure.
Even if lawmakers approved, the project would still take years to build, but Bowers said Ducey and legislator leaders want to start while the state has the money available.
Bowers is targeting an even bigger than a desalination plant, citing other potential out-of-state water sources such as capturing Midwestern flood waters and saying he would introduce a bill that would support spending “in the billions”. Can do.
Ducey nearly gave his speech last year as the state was amid spiking coronavirus infections. This year, they celebrated a return to traditional live delivery, even as the Omicron version is spreading rapidly.
He did not reveal any new plans to combat COVID-19, but reiterated his admonition that schools will not be closed. He has opposed mask or vaccine mandates and a ban on public gatherings, saying vaccination is the key to staving off the pandemic.
He said the state would build a summer school to help children get a grip on math, reading and civics.
“There’s been too much attention to the mask and not nearly enough attention to math – focusing on restrictions rather than reading and writing,” Ducey said.
Political division over using masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus was displayed in a packed House chamber, with some Republicans wearing one and many Democrats donning them.
The governor called on lawmakers to “expand school choice by any means” and said lawmakers should ban the teaching of critical race theory, a college-level educational concept that is not taught in public schools. Lawmakers banned it in the budget last year, but the state’s Supreme Court found several budget bills unconstitutional, including one with a ban. He said schools should be required to post “all curriculum and educational material” online.
Ducey took on Democrats across the country, including President Joe Biden and his administration, over border security and tax policies in liberal states like California. He demanded the Democratic U.S. senators from Arizona, Mark Kelly and Kirsten Cinema, have their border priorities passed at the federal level.
Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Boulding said the governor’s water proposal “could be an area of promise” if he included Democrats in the discussion, but added that it would be difficult to get Democrats on board if they were not consulted. Will happen.
At the state level, Ducey said he would seek funding to expand the state police unit focused on border and drug trafficking, along with state-funded border wall sections and stricter penalties for smugglers. He also said that Arizona law enforcement officers would work with counterparts in Texas on border security.
He also proposed increasing the stipend given to grandparents or other relatives who are caring for children who would otherwise be placed in foster care with a stranger. The state has historically paid far less to relatives than to unrelated caregivers.
Ducey took office in 2015 with a pledge to cut taxes every year and get income tax as close to zero as possible. He’s been largely successful, signing the bill last year to cut taxes for all to 2.5%, along with a small cut for low-income earners and a huge boon for the wealthiest taxpayers.
A nearly $2 billion tax cut has been withheld after critics gathered enough signatures to give voters a chance to scrap it later this year. To overcome this, lawmakers are considering repealing it and replacing it with a new, potentially bigger tax cut.
Ducey declined to accept that offer, but promised on Monday that “we will cut taxes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.