Mecham’s State of the State Address, 1988

Governor Mecham was a powerful public speaker with a stage presence that would be the envy of most actors. His second State of the State Address, delivered in January 1988 at the height of the political turmoil, was praised by even some of Mecham’s most severe critics. Mecham certainly understood the importance of this address at a time when he was facing impeachment, a recall, and felony indictments. He spent many hours with me discussing this speech, often late at night on the phone. Many staff members, department heads, and friendly legislators also reviewed drafts and made suggestions. Then, I wrote the State of the State address below.

This address was published in full in the afternoon newspaper, the Phoenix Gazette. To meet the afternoon paper’s deadline, this speech was transmitted directly to the computerized typesetting system of newspaper, which must have been a first of some sort. See “Governor’s speech sent  directly to Gazette’s computers”.

– Ken Smith



Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the 38th Legislature of Arizona, and honored guests:

While this has often been a year of noisy sensationalism, it has also been a year of quiet achievements for the State of Arizona.

It was not just an ordinary year in our state’s history:

When Arizona State University won the Rose Bowl in Pasadena;

When the University of Arizona climbed to the top of the national college basketball polls;

When young Phoenix golfer Billy Mayfair won the U.S. Amateur Golf Tournament;

When Arizona became the first state in the union to open a foreign trade office in Taiwan. An office which has already resulted in more than a $100 million increase in purchases of agricultural products by Free China;

When Arizona was selected to be on the short-list of states in competition for the $4.5 billion Super Collider; and,

When U.S. West chose to locate their Home and Personal Services Division in Arizona, and again, just two weeks ago, when U. S. West chose to locate its General Business Market Unit here.

Yes, this has not been just another ordinary year in our history. And, during recent troubled times, I have reminded myself of something Abraham Lincoln once said:

“If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks made upon me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

This Legislature is to be commended for the many hours spent by the members this past summer and fall attending interim study committee meetings on a wide range of issues. Your efforts have been noticed and appreciated.

I have had personal discussions with many of you to obtain your input on key issues. Together with the agency directors of this administration, we pledge to assist you in finding solutions to many of the problems you have identified.


I have submitted to the Legislature the Executive Budget. Our budget proposals reflect both fiscal and social responsibility. The needs of our people will be met.

This budget proposes a net increase in spending of approximately 5.5% over last year’s appropriation. It does not propose, and I will not support, any increase in taxes. While my budget does not provide all the money requested by the various agencies and departments of government, it does provide adequately for the necessary services and needs of our people.

On the revenue side, we are almost totally dependent on sales and income taxes for general fund revenues. Approximately half of our revenue is from sales tax and another 30-35% is from individual and corporate income tax. While our income tax rates are near the national average, our sales tax ranks among the top ten in the nation, and Arizona was 14th in the nation in state taxes as a percentage of personal income. To attract new industries and create new jobs for Arizonans, we must hold the line on taxes.

On the spending side, over 80% of our general revenue money goes for health, education and welfare, with education alone accounting for about 60% of our budget. Roughly 40% goes for aid to local school districts and 20% for colleges and universities. Of the remaining 20% of general revenue money, over half goes for corrections and public safety.

Therefore, any significant cuts in state spending must be accomplished through better, more efficient and cost effective management and administration. During the last period of your budget process, we expect to have the report from the Arizona Cost Reduction and Efficiency in State Government Commission. We expect their recommendations will enable us to maintain all needed services and to do so within our projected revenues.

Arizona continues to grow. Revenues for 1989 are projected to increase. Economic development is the reason for increased revenue and leads to a healthy and balanced economy.


The Arizona Office of Tourism has had a very productive year. Our tourism office has entered into a cooperative marketing program with selected western states to reach the tourist markets of the Pacific Basin as well as northern Europe. Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm for Arizona tourism occurred when Travel Check magazine, the leading European trade publication, named Arizona the world-wide destination of the year.

That would be good news in any year, but it is especially important for 1988 because of the devaluation of the American dollar in the European market. This will be a banner year for European visitors, and Arizona can expect to host many thousands of foreign tourists.

While Arizona cannot match the millions of dollars spent annually by many other states on promotion, we can have an effective advertising campaign. Also, we gain much from the continual increases by the host industries in their advertising budgets. I am urging the Legislature to increase our tourism advertising budget by $500,000 to further target states in the west and midwest. We can stretch those dollars by entering into cooperative advertising ventures with airlines, major resorts and hotels, and other national and regional advertisers.

Few of us truly take advantage of the magnificent sights found throughout our state, but I note that our tourism office has also developed an exciting in-state promotion, designed to encourage Arizonans to explore our state the year around.


The passage and implementation of House Bill 2202 has given Arizona one of the strongest and most complete sets of drug enforcement laws in the nation. The state drug enforcement strategy is recognized as one of the best plans in the country.

We have a comprehensive plan where we had no plan before. The money we have, while inadequate, is still a total addition. Because of the delay in getting matching federal funds, we are only now getting to the position of allocating the money from the state and federal funds. In order to maintain a level of funding so we don’t lose ground next year, I have included in my budget $7.5 million with the hope that matching federal funds will also be forthcoming.

Arizona’s Departments of Education and Health Services, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, have pursued an aggressive plan to put prevention programs in schools and communities.

A joint alliance interagency committee to foster cooperation among all state and local programs has been established. The level of funding for prevention, training, and direct assistance to school districts was increased.

The Alliance for a Drug-Free Arizona was established to assist communities in mobilizing to meet the illegal drug and substance abuse problem. To date, 40% of Arizona’s 82 incorporated cities and towns have joined the alliance.

We have launched a major, comprehensive program against illegal drug and substance abuse in record time. We have a long way to go, but the basis of a successful program is in place. We will pursue our goal for a drug-free Arizona until we achieve it.


We need to continue promoting economic development throughout all of Arizona. Much of our recent development and growth has bypassed the smaller communities in rural Arizona. I have made good my promise to instruct the Department of Commerce to redouble its efforts to promote development and growth in the less populated areas of our state. They have helped to encourage local groups to foster development and revitalization in our smaller communities.

Meetings and seminars have been held throughout the state to assist local groups. We have only scratched the surface, but I see a great deal more enthusiasm in our rural areas in putting together real efforts for economic development. I have included in the Executive Budget an additional $1 million to the Department of Commerce to be used specifically to help the rural counties attract jobs.

Last year, the Legislature responded to my suggestion and merged the Solar Energy Office into the Department of Commerce. A number of advancements have been made in that field. One key manufacturing company that was ready to leave our state was convinced to remain when they saw we were serious in our commitment to the future of solar energy. We have allocated, by loans and grants, the petroleum overcharge funds to assist in solar and energy saving projects. The Department of Administration is also working toward including solar energy for the heating and cooling of the state office buildings of the future.

A geothermal project for the production of electrical power by use of the hot rocks under the earth’s surface shows great promise. It is conceivable that Apache County may very well be a world pioneer in producing electrical energy by that method.

Our desire to convert Arizona from a dependency on fossil fuels to geothermal and solar energy will continue.


The new Department of Environmental Quality has strengthened our commitment to guard the quality of our environment. My instruction to the Department Director, Dr. Teletzke, was that air pollution in our urban centers of Phoenix and Tucson must have our immediate attention. And, I also stated it was mandatory that we work with the Legislature and draft a solution which would improve the quality of air without becoming an economic burden on our motorists and our business enterprises. A number of legislative proposals are being filed which mandate the use of oxygenated fuels. I strongly recommend mandating the use of cleaner burning “oxy” fuels in the winter months in our urban areas. By establishing the range of oxygenation from 1.8% to 3.7%, the marketplace will be allowed to choose the fuel types.

I further urge the Legislature to strengthen the regulations which have allowed some motorists to evade our emission testing program.

Our commitment to clean air, clean water, and freedom from toxic waste should be total and complete.


Some of our attention must always be turned to water in Arizona. The 50-year plan I ordered by the Water Resources Department is nearly complete. The plan is expected to lay the foundation for our needed actions to insure ample water for the future growth and prosperity that is destined for our State.

It is my view that conservation of water and development of all of our water resources can guarantee Arizona an ample supply of water to maintain our growth pattern without sacrificing any vital interests. Once our 50-year plan is completed, we will be sure that the Legislature receives full details of both the needs and the plans.


I appreciate the Legislature’s response during the last regular session to my request to have Weights and Measures moved from the Department of Administration. The increased enforcement authority has enabled the Department to protect consumers from short weights and measures, and shoddy merchandise. Already that has saved every Arizona family hundreds of dollars. I commend this Legislature for its actions.


The health and safety of our citizens are of paramount importance. We must be ever vigilant in seeking innovative ways to prevent infectious and chronic diseases in our population, as well as to improve care for the mentally ill and less advantaged persons.

During the summer I directed the Department of Health Services to develop a system for peer review to respond to the concerns of the west Phoenix citizens. In addition, I appointed a University of Arizona professor to review these activities and represent the public. The peer review panel is now finishing its task, and the study protocol can be finished and implemented.

A statewide AIDS prevention and control plan was written and a new updated version of the AIDS guidelines begun. In collaboration with counties, a new AIDS surveillance and reporting system has been inaugurated. Nearly 400 cases of AIDS have been reported in nine counties. I look forward to legislative proposals resulting from your studies and from the commission we have formed.

Another area of continuing challenge is mental health. We have implemented four chronically mentally ill pilot programs to ascertain how we can better deliver the needed services to these patients.


AHCCCS is now in its sixth year as a model program for providing health care for the poor. Cooperative efforts among the entire Congressional delegation, legislative leadership (both Republicans and Democrats), and the Governor’s Office led to the approval by the federal government to continue the program until at least September 30, 1989. This year AHCCCS will provide more service to more women and children and will begin serving long-term care needs of the elderly and developmentally disabled.


You have studied social issues facing many less fortunate Arizonans. The Department of Economic Security and my office join you in your concern. We are offering an important legislative package this year which addresses many of these issues. Among the proposals are further changes in our laws dealing with child support enforcement.

Throughout our history, common law has recognized the obligation of parents to provide for their children. This Legislature took a major step toward correcting the problem of child neglect by approving a new wage assignment law which went into effect this month. Legislation still needs to be addressed, however, on finding absent parents, and in many cases, determining paternity. Our Department of Economic Security proposals offer solutions to these special problems and to removing the burden of cost from the taxpayers.

An example of innovative state government can be found in the Volunteers Program of the Department of Economic Security. Over 1,700 volunteers are helping people work toward self-sufficiency. These volunteers save the State many thousands of dollars, and offer less fortunate people special assistance that would otherwise not be available.


Responding to my request for long-range transportation planning, our Department of Transportation has initiated the development of a 50-year transportation program planning process for Arizona. To initiate that process, the Department of Transportation held a Transportation Futures Symposium to hear from experts and the public on what they see as the demands for transportation’s future.

We must all be visionary. In doing so, I see a state that will have more than doubled its population. I see a state that will be a leader in transportation facilities.

One of the crown jewels of our transportation plan is the Regional International Jetport in central Arizona connected to Phoenix and Tucson by high-speed rail transportation. This has been a long-time dream of forward-thinking people. Our feasibility study by the Department of Transportation last year indicates that it is an idea whose time has come.

I have given the Department of Transportation the go-ahead to continue siting and planning. It promises to have a great impetus for growth in shipping and other transportation links with the Pacific Basin, as well as Central and South America and the western states. We will keep you posted relative to progress of plans.


Time does not permit every subject I would like to discuss. I will conclude with the largest and one of the most important, education. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the teachers who meet our children in the classroom each day.

I have reviewed the work accomplished by the special Legislative committees on school finance and education excellence. I am convinced, as many of you are, that we need to target more funding efforts at the primary grade levels, and especially at the K-3, “at risk”, population.

Intervention at this level of our public school system will return the best dividends in the long-run. It is during these tender years that our children establish a foundation for their educational future. Without this, they eventually leave school prematurely. Consequently, I propose that a special grant program be establish to fund K-3 educational improvement. I am recommending that $1.5 million be appropriated for this purpose. We must continue to fund, at adequate levels, all present school programs.

The potential for handling the problems of our youth is greatly enhanced when government, local school officials, social agencies, civic organizations and other volunteers work together on the problems. This effort has been very successful in states where cooperation has been carried out. I will invite the Superintendant of Public Instruction and the Chairpersons of the House and Senate Education Committees to join me in developing a program to encourage communities to carry out this important cooperative effort for the welfare of our children.

We must overcome the tragedy of illiteracy. It is reported to me that somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 people in our State are functionally illiterate. I do not have a program or sudden formula to wipe it out, and slogans certainly will not do it. I am encouraged by what volunteerism is doing at this time.

One such group is known as the “Literacy Volunteers of America”, who match up volunteers with over 1,500 adults throughout Arizona so that they may share the gift of reading.

Arizona is recognized nationwide for this unprecedented cooperation in the field of adult learning. But literacy for all will not happen through present actions alone. It is my plan to create an Arizona Literacy Commission charged with the responsibility of formulating and coordinating plans and programs which we will need to pursue to bring a level of acceptable literacy to all of our citizens.

I am sure key members of the Legislature will want to be involved in this activity. I invite your input, your cooperation, and your support in this very important objective. Illiterate citizens of our great State are depending on us to give them the blessings of literacy, a blessing that most of us take for granted.

In grades K-12, the State’s responsibility is to assist in providing proper funding for education. The local school boards and school administrators are responsible for the accountability and efficient use of public funds to produce quality education.

Finally, I must comment on higher education. Our universities and community colleges continue to be hallmarks of our educational achievement, and I urge your continued support of them.


With my capable staff and department heads in place, I assure you that the state government is functioning, and is functioning well. My present difficulties will not interfere in any way with the operation of the Executive Branch.

The accomplishments of the past year here in Arizona will provide significant benefits to our citizens in the very near future. Arizona remains the greatest place on Earth to live. It has a robust economy, a magnificent climate, and a vigorous and dynamic population.

Our state with its foundation of cattle, cotton, copper, climate and citrus has risen to a position of prominence in high-technology, manufacturing, research and tourism. Our challenge is to run the affairs of government in a manner which will enable us to retain and improve our place in the sun.

I read an amusing definition of the words “politician” and “statesman.” A politician is someone who gets along with people, while a statesman is someone who gets along with politicians. Well, my New Year’s resolution is to become better at both.

Let me take just a moment longer to say that I know that mistakes were made during my first year in office. If I had it to do over, I would have taken more time to consult with the legislative leaders on my appointments. If I had it to do over, I would have realized earlier that style is sometimes as important as substance. How things are said is as important as what is said.

Yes, I have made mistakes. But, as someone once said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

I want to close with a story told by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Dr. Peale explained that many of the world’s finest oriental rugs come from little villages in the Middle East. Each rug is hand-produced by a crew of men and boys under the direction of a master weaver. Since ordinarily they work from the underside of the rug-to-be, it often happens that a weaver mistakenly introduces a color that is not in the pattern. When this occurs, the master weaver, instead of having the work pulled out, will find some way to incorporate the mistake harmoniously into the overall pattern.

It is a useful object lesson, for we all can learn to take unexpected difficulties and mistakes and weave them advantageously into the greater patterns of our lives.

There is inherent good in most difficulties in life, whenever changes are being made, change alone can cause friction between people. Disagreement is always potentially present in the crafting of legislation and in the administration of government. A good rule to remember is: We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Thank you, and God bless you all.