PHOENIX — Accomplishment, optimism and strength: 2021 was a year of smart policies and lasting achievements.
Under the leadership of Governor Doug Ducey, the past year proved that Arizona is unstoppable. Families and businesses will get to keep more of their hard-earned money thanks to the largest tax cut in state history. Health officials worked diligently to get the vaccine to any Arizonan that wants it. Much needed resources were devoted to keeping our border safe and supporting law enforcement heroes. Creative approaches to fighting wildfires and delivering health care were adopted. Companies large and small moved to and expanded in the state, driven by Arizona’s land of opportunity.
Arizona didn’t lose focus in 2021. During a year of extraordinary challenges, Arizonans kept their bearings and found strength in our fellow citizens. And that, ultimately, is why the past year was such a success.
ECONOMIC MOMENTUM: Throughout 2021, Arizona continued to create an environment that promotes business growth and opportunities throughout the state. In July, Arizona passed historic tax reform which made Arizona the state with the lowest flat tax in the nation. The largest tax cut in state history also protected small businesses from a 77.7 percent tax increase. The 2.5 percent flat tax saves money for every Arizona taxpayer no matter their income.
The tax approach in Arizona, combined with a responsible, hands-off approach to government has spurred unparalleled economic growth. This year, Arizona had a wave of jobs announcements and economic growth. ElectraMeccanica broke ground on its first U.S.-based electric vehicle assembly facility which will create 500 jobs. KORE Power announced it would bring 3,000 jobs to Buckeye for its lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility. Arizona luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors opened its advanced manufacturing plant in Casa Grande, which will generate $32 billion in revenue and create 5,000 jobs. Intel broke ground on two new semiconductor fabrication facilities, a $20 billion investment that will create 3,000 new high-tech, high-wage jobs.
Arizona also opened new economies in 2021. Governor Ducey signed a historic tribal-state gaming compact amendment to modernize gaming in Arizona, marking a multi-year effort. The expanding industry provides millions of dollars in revenue for critical state needs. Officially, kicked off in September, gaming employs thousands of Arizonans and generates millions in tax revenue that benefits areas like K-12 education, conservation and treatment centers.
Further removing red tape and needless barriers for businesses, Governor Ducey signed bipartisan legislation in May to allow Arizonans to order mixed cocktails to-go. The bipartisan bill followed the positive impact selling liquor to-go had on businesses throughout the state during the pandemic.
NATIONAL FOREFRONT OF TELEHEALTH: Arizona dramatically expanded telehealth, providing greater opportunities for accessible medical services. The broadest telemedicine law in the nation, House Bill 2454 expanded access to telemedicine for patients, ensured doctors receive equal compensation from insurance companies for telemedicine services, and allowed out-of-state health care professionals to provide telemedicine in Arizona.
BORDER SECURITY: Arizona continued to prioritize public safety this year as border crossings rapidly increased. In April, Governor Ducey issued a Declaration of Emergency and deployed the Arizona National Guard to the southern border to support local law enforcement efforts as the nation experienced a rise in apprehensions and migrant children in federal custody. The National Guard’s border security mission was extended in August for another year.
On June 30, the Arizona Legislature passed and Governor Ducey signed the FY 2022 budget, which included $25 million in state funding for the National Guard border mission and $30 million to assist law enforcement with border security operations, in addition to existing funding for the Border Strike Force.
In July, Governor Ducey successfully lobbied the Biden administration to continue Title 42 border protections and called on Congress to protect Title 42 from future Biden interference. In December, following calls to the Biden administration for a plan to resolve the border crisis and increase federal assistance, Arizona took action, surging and repositioning public safety resources to the Yuma Sector of the Southern Border.
Leading the state’s public safety assets is Brigadier General Kerry L. Muehlenbeck, whom Governor Ducey appointed in April as Arizona’s Adjutant General and Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. General Muehlenbeck is the first woman to hold the position.
VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: Arizona also prioritized public health and safety, expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing, especially for underserved communities. The state has administered 10.3 million doses to date, with 4.11 million Arizonans fully vaccinated.
Former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, who left her position in August for another leadership role for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, was instrumental in the state’s COVID-19 response. As the longest-serving ADHS director, Dr. Christ implemented effective statewide testing and internationally recognized mass vaccination sites.
The success of Arizona’s mass vaccination sites was identified as a national model. In March, Arizona administered the 500,000th COVID-19 vaccination dose at State Farm Stadium, reaching 2.5 million doses across the state. The state’s vaccine response received an ‘A’ grade from researchers at the Belfer Center at Harvard University. The recognition included categories of vaccines per capita and time to vaccinate those eligible.
To further support Arizonans, Governor Ducey strengthened enforcement against vaccine mandates and ensured those employed by a local government could use earned sick leave due to COVID-19 exposure. The action was consistent with Senate Bill 1824, which was signed by the Governor in June.
WILDFIRE PROTECTION: Arizona applied its proactive approach to assisting small businesses and communities at the front lines of wildfires. Governor Ducey and the State Legislature held a special session in June to invest $100 million to ensure Arizona communities had the resources necessary for post-fire disasters such as flooding and reduce the risk from future wildfires. Under the legislation, the Department of Forest and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry partnered to remove fire-prone vegetation. Additional funds were allocated for fire suppression efforts, recovery efforts including post-fire floods, economic assistance for those displaced, and assistance to landowners for emergency repairs to infrastructure damaged by wildfires.
Arizona also took action to continue to help small businesses recover from the economic consequences of extreme weather conditions and the pandemic. Governor Ducey launched the first round of the Back to Work Small Business Rehiring and Retention Program to support small, locally owned businesses in August and opened a second round of funding in September.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY: Looking to the future, Arizona took action to pave new opportunities and create additional choices when it comes to education. In May, Governor Ducey signed legislation allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees, expanding opportunities for populations that are historically underrepresented in higher education.
Furthering the state’s civics education, Governor Ducey signed legislation in July strengthening instruction about the Holocaust and other genocides in Arizona’s schools. The legislation requires young Arizonans to learn the enduring lessons of the Holocaust and the tragic consequences of religious and racial intolerance. House Bill 2241 requires that all Arizona students receive education on the Holocaust and other genocides during their K-12 education at least twice between seventh and twelfth grade.
ELECTION INTEGRITY: Building on the state’s leadership in election integrity, Arizona streamlined the way elections are conducted. Continuing to improve and refine election laws, the Permanent Early Voting List was renamed to the Active Early Voting List (AEVL). With AEVL, voters who actively vote by mail will continue to receive an early ballot. If a vote does not return at least one early ballot over the course of four years, the voter will be notified and asked if they still want to receive an early ballot. Whether a voter opts to remain on the AEVL or not, they remain eligible to request an early ballot or vote in-person, ensuring no voter is ever disenfranchised.