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Republicans respond to Hobbs’ State of the State address; hit back on border, education

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(The Center Square) – Republican leadership in the Arizona State Legislature critiqued Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ State of the State address on Monday afternoon.

House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen expressed concerns about the governor’s priorities in a video. For example, they said her border policies have not gone far enough.

“But her record is one of open borders, and despite her grandstanding, she’s continued that approach as governor,” Toma said.

The governor has recently been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis, and she recently deployed National Guard troops to the Tucson Sector. But critics have argued that she could be more stringent, or could have taken action sooner.

Hobbs also addressed the Empowerment Scholarship Account program in her address, which warranted a response from the leaders.

“We have worked together, debated each other, pushed one another, and – most importantly – put aside our differences when it mattered most to do what’s right for Arizona and the people who call it home. Now, I think we can all agree it certainly hasn’t been easy. But, our constituents didn’t send us here to the Capitol to solve easy problems or take the easy way out,” the governor said.

However, Toma rebutted by saying he would act as a roadblock to further ESA regulations.

“I will not allow anything that would roll back or limit the ESA program that has enabled academic achievements for thousands of Arizona kids, no matter their zip code or household income,” Toma said.

In addition, Petersen said that the Republicans plan on having the back of law enforcement and “enacting tougher punishments for those who commit sex crimes against children.”

“This is what we’re all about– balance, common sense and sanity. And we will continue to put legislation on the governor’s desk this year reflecting that,” Petersen said.

Hot-button issues such as abortion and her desire to crack down on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts won some standing ovations Hobbs some standing ovations by Democrats throughout her address.

“We have worked together, debated each other, pushed one another, and – most importantly – put aside our differences when it mattered most to do what’s right for Arizona and the people who call it home,” she said at the beginning of her speech. “Now, I think we can all agree it certainly hasn’t been easy. But, our constituents didn’t send us here to the Capitol to solve easy problems or take the easy way out.”

Two Republicans stood and applauded at the end of her remarks, Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, and Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. Gress said it was out of respect for the office of the governor, as he previously worked for former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, and not necessarily for the points she made in her address.

“But it doesn’t suggest that I agree with everything that Gov. Hobbs said. It’s just showing a sign of acknowledgment that she’s holds the office of governor, but there are many things in her speech which I disagree with and think that that would take Arizona in the wrong direction if enacted,” Gress told reporters.

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