Remember that movie scene where the scarecrow stood before the great and powerful Wizard of Oz?
He tried to be brave but his wobbly knees, quavering voice and gnawed fingernails betrayed him.
That was our governor this week after a brief meeting with President Trump. In just a matter of minutes, Doug Ducey sold Arizona down the river. His integrity wasn’t far behind.
• • •
Ducey got duped, and there’s no better way to put it.
It doesn’t help that this is just one more high-profile screw-up in a yearlong string of the same for our governor. It also doesn’t help that the president of the state Senate, Karen Fann, is dismissing it as a non-issue.
On Monday, Ducey told reporters the border should remain open despite Trump’s threats to close it down over security concerns. Trump is often more smoke than fire, but Ducey rightly thought he should speak up — he’s the governor of a border state and Mexico is a strong partner with Arizona on several fronts.
But on Wednesday, all that changed. After a visit to the White House, Ducey announced he’d support a “short as possible” closure.
“I think our trade with Mexico is extremely important, but border security comes first,” he told reporters.
Closing the border, or anything remotely close to that, has never come up in Ducey’s eight years serving Arizona as governor and secretary of state. Why? Because the minute we lock the gate, Arizona starts losing, and fragile border communities would get the worst of it.
Not to mention, national security isn’t the hair-on-fire issue the president makes it out to be, evidenced by his backing off for a year on his border-closure idea.
What’s unfortunate is that Ducey knows all this; yet where’s the governor when you need him? Curled up in the fetal position in the Rose Garden.
Ducey’s staff has tried to put a spin on his sell-out, but nobody’s buying it. On Friday, I interviewed Sen. Fann on Bill Buckmaster’s radio program. (You can listen to The Buckmaster Show interview online at buckmastershow.com.)
Sen. Fann, a Republican out of Prescott, said she wouldn’t personally support closing the border but isn’t so sure Ducey actually reversed himself. Some of what he said might have been taken out of context, she said. And since she and nobody else were there to hear it, what do we know?
What we know, Sen. Fann, is that Ducey’s comments weren’t taken out of context. He caved and was prepared to let Arizona suffer billions of dollars in losses. It was the most pitiful display of leadership I’ve ever seen from a state official.
But Fann says none of it matters. She just wants to figure out how “to secure the border but also make sure we have the trade and legal people coming back and forth.”
Hint for the senator: You don’t do it by slamming the door.
I asked Sen. Fann if legislative leaders planned any closed-door discussions with Ducey, given the gravity of his comments.
“Oh, no, I doubt it... As far as I’m concerned it’s a dead issue,” she said.
It all piles up
It’s been a bad year for Doug Ducey, and his White House visit just adds to it. Among the hits:
•He’s currently fighting to keep a $32 vehicle license fee that surprised us all earlier this year. In 2018, the Legislature OK’d a fee to help pay for DPS officers but they failed to put a cap on it. They were told it would be around $18, and trusted the final number to John Halikowski, the head of ADOT, which oversees the Department of Motor Vehicles. Turns out, they needed a lot more money, and people are howling. It’s a fee, but a lot of people are likening it to a tax because it’s new and the Legislature didn’t set the number. The Legislature is in the process of trying to repeal the fee, but Ducey says he’ll veto any effort. The legislators clearly were sold a bill of goods and the public is paying for it. Ducey doesn’t care, he just wants the money.
•The state stands to rake in an estimated $195 million after President Trump’s federal tax created an inadvertent state tax increase for Arizonans. The hike comes because Arizona is not allowing the decoupling of some deductions allowed in the past. Ducey vetoed a bill in February that would have made things right and pretty much has the windfall spent already. In essence, he pushed through a huge tax increase once again with the approval of the Legislature. (Fann said they’d make it right in 2019... But isn’t that a bit like a crack addict promising to take only one hit?)
•Then there were the teacher raises. You remember the headlines last year: “Ducey gives teachers 20 percent raise!” The truth is that he gave them 1 percent in the budget. When they rallied outside the capitol for days, he suddenly decided he wanted to be the “education governor.” He vetoed 10 bills to send the Legislature a firm message that he demanded a budget with big teacher raises. “Our teachers have earned this raise. It’s time to get it done,” he told lawmakers. But it took teachers walking off the job for him to find the resolve to finally “get it done.”
•And how about March 2018. That’s when voters in Tempe approved a ballot measure that shined a light on who was giving to local campaigns. It would require independent expenditures over $1,000 to disclose their funding sources. The measure passed with 91 percent approval. When’s the last time you heard of anything close to that number? Tempe voters simply wanted to know who had a financial interest in their elections. Ducey, who has received millions of dollars in dark money over the years, didn’t like it. About two months after the Tempe vote, he signed legislation that prohibited any city, county or state entity from forcing disclosure of donors to nonprofit groups.
The governor, who was just re-elected, is struggling in the best economy of the past 12 years. He doesn’t have a firm grasp on who he’s serving or how to do the job. Wouldn’t it be just our luck that he was talking to Trump about a job in Washington?
Wait… maybe that’s not such a bad idea.
Reach Dan Shearer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 520-547-9770.