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AZ Central: Arizona now has a recipe for gridlock. Here's how elected leaders can avoid it

Opinion: Arizona could grind to a halt if a Democratic governor and Republican Legislature refuse to work together. Here's how they can avoid gridlock.

Posted on January 04, 2023 • Category: Op-Ed
By Sybil Francis, President & CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona

azcentral.com

The votes have been counted. Arizona’s newly elected state leaders are taking their oaths of office. It’s time to start governing and getting things done for the people of this state.

This will be more challenging with a Democrat as governor and narrow Republican control of the Legislature. It could be a recipe for gridlock – if our leaders, abiding by election-year rhetoric of division, polarization and party politics, refuse to work with each other.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Arizona voters are clear on what they want

Three Center for the Future of Arizona surveys in the past two years have shown that Arizonans are more united than divided on the issues that matter most to them. They’re more interested in pragmatic solutions than dogmatic ideology. They prefer leaders who work across the aisle and compromise to those who refuse to budge. They want solutions that create the Arizona they want.

And they’ve been clear on the issues that matter most to them and where there is common ground on which to build.

  • Education. Nearly all Arizonans want to see more excellent and qualified teachers in classrooms, with strong principals providing strategic leadership. Almost nine of every 10 want to see teachers paid more. And eight in 10 want more funding for education and to close gaps in educational outcomes.
  • Water. Nearly three-fourths of likely voters don’t believe we have enough water for the long term. Yet they equally prioritize using water for agriculture, recreation/conservation and to support growth. They don’t want to do less; they want to do more with what we have. That’s a tough order for our elected leaders that can be accomplished only by working together.  
  • Jobs. Arizonans are hungry for opportunities to advance their careers through education and training, with just 47% of those earning less than $60,000 a year satisfied with their current prospects. As more companies bring their operations here, especially in the tech sector, we should make sure Arizonans can move into new, higher-paying positions.
  • Housing affordability. Too many Arizonans are feeling the effects of rising rents and housing prices, so it’s not surprising that increasing housing affordability is important to 79% of Arizonans. Nearly 80% want to see more workforce housing options for essential workers and think landlords should not be allowed to discriminate against people who use housing assistance.
  • Cleaner air. Four in five Arizonans support improving air quality while 3 in 4 support making the transition to clean energy, a key to creating new jobs and reducing pollution. Even more Arizonans, no matter where they live, say it’s important to reduce urban heat islands.
  • Taxes. Arizonans believe our tax system is fair. They are not clamoring for a tax cut, with 82% preferring instead to invest budget surpluses in education, infrastructure and other public services.
  • Immigration. This is more a federal responsibility than a state one, but it is instructive to know that Arizonans overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers.” Our survey found 81% support, which tracks with other polls on the subject. The passage of Proposition 308, guaranteeing in-state tuition for all Arizona high school graduates, validates these findings. In addition, Arizonans want a functioning border for commerce and immigration.

Tackling these issues – and finding solutions – will make for a full and productive legislative session. It is what Arizonans want, and government exists to serve their interests.

Will a Republican Legislature and Democratic governor find a way to deliver? Voters are counting on it.

Perhaps a lesson from November’s election results will help. Voters largely rejected candidates who were not aligned with the sentiments of most Arizonans. That’s a strong incentive for elected officials to heed the views of all voters – not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s a good way to remain in office.

 

Sybil Francis is president & CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.