Arizona: Governor Ducey Receives Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award

Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush Among Past Recipients

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award for his historic success in tax relief and universal access to a high-quality education.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) presented the governor with its highest honor Tuesday night at its States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C.

"It's an honor to be here tonight and humbling to be recognized with this very special award," said Governor Ducey to a room of state legislators and private sector representatives from across the nation. "The people in this room tonight have safeguarded the ideals that Jefferson left our country, embodied in the phrase 'We the People.' For me, it's so fitting to receive this recognition here at ALEC. The conservative policy victories we've accomplished in Arizona would only be possible with the leadership and courage of our Legislature."

ALEC emboldens public and private sector leaders to come together to share policy success stories and develop state-based solutions.

"We are proud to present Governor Ducey this year with our highest honor in recognition of his significant contributions to the advancement of educational opportunity and tax relief in the state of Arizona," said Lisa B. Nelson, ALEC's chief executive. "For the past eight years, Arizona has been a laboratory for innovative and conservative policies, creating new opportunities and endless possibilities for its residents. We are proud that legislative leadership, including Senate President Karen Fann, Senator Vince Leach and Representative Ben Toma could play a role in Arizona's success. At ALEC, we can only hope more states will see Arizona's results under Governor Ducey's leadership and follow suit."

The Thomas Jefferson Award is given annually to a current or former public official who has established an exemplary record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty. Previous recipients include Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, Senator George Allen, Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Senator Zell Miller, Secretary Rick Perry and Governor Bobby Jindal.

"I've been fortunate to work alongside Governor Ducey and some very impressive Republican legislators to enact sensible, conservative legislation for all Arizonans," said Arizona Senate President and ALEC President Karen Fann. "At ALEC, we're dedicated to principles of limited government, free markets and federalism – all critical issues facing the states and nation. I'm proud that Arizona has been at the forefront of policy innovation to protect those principles."

Governor Ducey delivered on his promise to not slow down during his last year in office. This year, Arizona unlocked 1.1 million K-12 students' educational potential and the state's historic flat tax package a full year ahead of schedule.

In July, the governor signed the most expansive school choice legislation in the nation, opening Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to every K-12 student in the state. Arizona's successful effort to ensure every Arizona student can attend any school that best fits their unique needs has made it the gold standard for educational freedom in America.

In September, Governor Ducey announced the state's record revenues and surging economy accelerated the implementation of Arizona's 2.5 percent flat tax. The governor signed the historic tax package into law last year, further reducing and streamlining taxes for Arizonans while protecting small businesses from the threat of a 77 percent tax increase.

Earlier this year, ALEC recognized Arizona's strong economy in its Rich States, Poor States report. The report ranked Arizona as the #1 state for economic performance in the last decade and placed the state in the top 3 for economic outlook.

Read the full text of Governor Ducey's speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council below.


Thank you. Thank you.

It's an honor to be here tonight, and humbling to be recognized with this very special award.

When we got word of this, one of my three sons asked me, "Dad, do you have a favorite Thomas Jefferson quote?"

And I said, "Of course — the Declaration of Independence."

If George Washington is the father of our Republic, then Thomas Jefferson is the spokesman for our Republic, and the principles he put on paper inspired patriots of a new nation, forged out of the proposition, God ordained, that all men are created equal.

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And the people in this room tonight have safeguarded the ideals that Jefferson left our country, embodied in the phrase "We the People."

For me, it's so fitting to receive this recognition here at ALEC. Because the conservative policy victories we've accomplished in Arizona would only be possible with the leadership and courage of our Legislature.

There is strong representation tonight from our delegation and they are the ones deserving of praise. Would all the Arizona legislators — past, present and future — please stand. Let's give them a round of applause.

I've been so blessed to have great legislative leaders to work with in my tenure. I want to give special recognition to ALEC President — our Arizona Senate President and my friend, Karen Fann. Karen — thank you for your decades of public service, your leadership of this organization and your friendship and partnership these last eight years.

Rusty Bowers, our Speaker of the House, could not make it tonight, but he too has been a friend and a leader on lasting conservative policies and we salute him for a lifetime of public service.

And our incoming leadership — Warren Petersen in the Senate and Ben Toma in the House. With these two leaders at the helm, Arizona is in good hands and will maintain a strong sense of divided government.

Warren and I partnered together on universal licensing recognition — a first-in-the-nation, novel policy allowing people to get to work without government permission.

And Ben is rightly being recognized in his own right at this week's conference for his leadership on tax reform and school choice — he's been a beacon of conservatism; leading the way for our party on the fundamental issues that impact people, families and businesses.

It's been an honor to serve with all these individuals. Thank you.

ALEC truly is the cradle of conservatism at the state level, and for those of us from the land of Goldwater — that's a worthy fight worth fighting every day.

But quite frankly, there wouldn't be a Goldwater, or a Reagan, without a Jefferson. Because without Jefferson, there wouldn't be an American West. The Louisiana Purchase opened up the West, and Jefferson's vision of an America from sea to shining sea.

Today, our vast nation struggles for direction and purpose. America has always been a land of hope. And hope combined with action has resulted in this nation we so love. As we celebrate tonight, we see that in conservative states like Arizona, Texas, Florida and Tennessee — just to name a few.

Yet too many of our politicians in D.C. have lost sight and lost touch with what makes America great, and the principles upon which it was founded. To learn something new; our leaders would be wise to read something old:

As Madison quote in Federalist 45, "The powers granted to the federal government should be few and defined. Those granted to the states should be numerous and indefinite."

As conservatives, we rightly talk a lot about the First and Second amendments. We could also revisit the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Republican Governors and Legislatures of today understand it. Yet many in Washington, including in the Republican Party, don't.

States' rights used to be a bad term. It meant segregation or separate but equal. But we've fought those battles. No serious person wants to revisit them — they've been won. The Federal government simply tries to do too much. And does most of it poorly.

So how about they focus on fewer things like defending the border, securing our nation, a coherent foreign policy while enforcing the law equally and reforming our finances and social safety net to allow for continued opportunity. And leave the rest to the states.

For nearly a century the transfer of power from the states to the federal government has been a hostile takeover. Congress and the president have continuously usurped authority the Founders reserved to the states.

And in the last two decades, as the Congress has become largely dysfunctional, more and more has been by Executive Order and the regulatory agencies – what people call the administrative state, or the non-constitutional fourth branch of government – that's taken over.

And all this time was happening, the third branch of government – the judiciary – largely sat by and let it happen. It was called judicial restraint. Legislators and presidents applauded it because there was no check on their power. I believe with this court – as currently constituted – that's about to shift, and shift noticeably and abruptly – into something called judicial engagement. The act of judging.

Because after all, it's the judiciary that decides what the constitution means and what is ultimately unconstitutional. For the first time in nearly a century, I believe the Supreme Court is going to act decisively in application of the Constitution to rein in the regulatory leviathan that threatens to strangle growth, opportunity and individual liberties in this country.

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All you have to do is read the Wall Street Journal editorial page and you can see the line-up of federal agencies that are about to get spanked, slapped down and reversed. The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education – are all likely to lose high-profile cases in the next several years that will fundamentally change the balance of power within our own government.

There's a reason Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are on the Supreme Court, and this will be a time – I believe – when the men and the women meet the moment and make lasting change.

We are on the front end of major, historic change in governance, and the ultimate beneficiary will be the states, the people and the cause of federalism. A constitutional rebalancing of power.

A second reason I believe Federalism is an answer to our circumstances is this: There's very little in American government that is effective these days. But there is one place where there is a working, functioning government, it's in the states and it's among legislatures and governors.

Nearly every single governor and legislator knows that we can do a better job serving our constituents without dealing with the red tape, the bureaucracy, and the micro-management that comes from the federal government.

I don't need to be told by the Department of Transportation that infrastructure money is available for roads in Arizona but it comes with strings attached – it needs to be roads with bike lanes, and light rail and electric charging stations! Oh, and by the way, don't you dare modernize or privatize your highway rest stops.

Every governor and legislator in America knows what needs to be done with roads in our states. We are far better stewards of money and can act with more urgency than the feds could ever dream of. There is a seriousness in the states about governing that you cannot find in Washington, D.C. today.

So, if there is to be a solving of problems in America, it's much more likely to come from the states and local communities than it is the Congress. So let it begin.

A third reason for faith in federalism comes from the fact that states compete against each other. We try different things and the outcomes are apparent to the voters. Best practices can be reapplied. Bad ideas can stop after one state unsuccessfully tries it. It has been my experience that our country rarely solves a problem, we innovate out of them.

Justice Louis Brandeis called the states "Laboratories of democracy".

He said, "a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

Reagan claimed, if the pilgrims had landed on the west coast, they would have never bothered to discover the rest of the country.

Yet, we have an almost perfect political science experiment going on right here on the West Coast. For two decades, Arizona and California have generally been headed in opposite directions, with growth in the gap between the two states accelerating dramatically in recent years.

One state has become a no-growth nanny state, simultaneously mandating that all cars be electric by 2035 and also telling citizens to not charge their cars in the afternoon because the power grid can't sustain it.

This magnificently beautiful place — with 840 miles of coastline — the state that invented movies and computers — now resembles more a chapter in Atlas Shrugged than the juggernaut Ronald Reagan presided over in the 1960s and 70s.

And it's all because of bad policies and poor leadership sustained and compounded over multiple decades.

And then there's next-door-neighbor Arizona, which has pursued the freedom-first, traditional conservative policies of lower taxes, lighter regulation, growth, opportunity, and personal safety, and where people and companies are moving in droves.

There is an exodus from the Golden State. Americans are voting with their feet. The conservative ideas applied outside of Washington, D.C. are winning and it's not even close.

Here is why I believe it's happening: Conservative states have better policies, policies that are working for everyday Americans. There is far more freedom and opportunity in these states. And there is a sense of priority for personal safety in our states. Along with educational choice. Parents have a real say in their child's education.

Consider what we've been able to do in Arizona — in just one state — without the help of the federal government.

The American Civics Act, so that no kid graduates high school without knowing at least as much about history and government as immigrants who become new citizens.

As I mentioned earlier — Senator Petersen's universal licensing recognition, so that when a worker moves to Arizona from any state they don't have to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars being re-licensed for a skill they already have. We want people to be able to begin earning a living immediately.

Improved trade relations with Mexico despite our unprecedented border security focus and the rhetoric on both sides. Telehealth — first in the nation, so you can see your doctor regardless of where you are. Universal School Choice for every child — again, first in the nation – money that follows the child, Arizona funds students, not systems. Thank you, Ben Toma.

With these successes, just imagine what Arizona and other states could do with their dollars, untethered from the strings and handcuffs of the federal bureaucrats? The real way to drain the swamp, to break up the D.C. cartel, to tear down the fourth branch of government — the administrative state — is to let the states compete.

So to the legislators in this room tonight, no matter what state you are from — keep pressing. Keep pushing. Push back on the federal government. Push back on the left. Push back on those in your party who want power concentrated in Washington, D.C.

It was Jefferson who wrote: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Do not consent to bad policy. Stand up and fight back. And remember, government isn't the solution to our problems. As many of you gear up for a new year, I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight another wise quote from our nation's third president:

"No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session."

So, thank you, God bless, and here's to many swift and successful sine dies.

Filed Under: Government, State

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