Democrat Nancy Young Wright was appointed to the House District 26 seat in January, after Rep. Lena Saradnik resigned the position for health reasons.
At the time, the Legislature had already convened.
“It was like being put into a fast-moving stream,” with “a big learning curve,” said Young Wright, who seeks election to one of two HD 26 seats in a contest with Democrat Don Jorgensen and Republicans Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull.
The lessons were several for Young Wright, an Oro Valley resident and longtime member of the Amphitheater School Board.
“It’s an extremely fast-paced environment,” one in which it’s “hard for anyone to thoroughly read all the bills,” Young Wright said. “You learn who you can trust. You learn to be cautious, to think twice before signing onto anyone’s bill. It’s important not to question motive, and keep an open mind about people, no matter what party they’re with.”
She believes she was effective.
“I was able to stand up on some tough bills, help the governor, represent my district, and keep the state on an even keel during some tough times,” Young Wright said.
If elected, “I’ll be vocal on children, seniors, veterans, the disabled, trying to protect services for them,” Young Wright said.
She plans to advocate anew for education spending.
“Arizona can’t go down any lower” in terms of per-capita student spending, she said. Arizona’s per-student spending is $3,173 below the national average. “We need to improve 41 percent just to get to average,” requiring hundreds of millions of dollars to catch up. “We don’t find it overnight, that’s for sure.”
School tax credits have “drained lots of money from our state,” and she wants that to stop. Teacher salaries are not competitive, particularly in math and science, she believes.
“What do we want to be in the future, a low-wage state, or a competitive state, with graduates staying and starting businesses here?” she asked. “We have the resources, but we have just battered our public schools and our universities. We need to take off some of the red tape they heaped on top of them for 20 years. There’s been a lot of bashing.”
She expects the need for further budget cutting in Phoenix.
“I’m afraid this year is a year we’re going to have to make more cuts,” said Young Wright.
She would not support tax increases.
“This is not the time to raise taxes, and it’s not the time to cut them, either,” said Young Wright, who does not support extension of a statewide school property tax exemption.
“When we had a surplus, we gave a tax break,” she said. “It was suspended when we were flush. We should have kept that tax.”
Nor does she support across-the-board spending cuts. “Give department heads the ability to decide,” she said.
Arizona must “get off a sales tax-based budget,” Young Wright believes. And, in reference to housing, “we’ve got to get off this one-industry dependence of doing business in Arizona.
She believes Arizona has shifted its tax burden from mines and utilities to homeowners. “Shareholders have benefited while we pay more,” Young Wright said. “We gave tax breaks to out-of-state interests, and I’d like to look at things like that. We need to look at the way their burden has been reduced at the expense of the homeowner.”
Young Wright is concerned by the state’s level of spending on prisons. She wonders “if there’s a way” Arizona could divert non-violent drug offenders away from prison, and into outside monitoring and addiction treatment.
“I like to look at root causes,” Young Wright said. “Unfortunately, they’re the toughest to solve. We’re too high in all the bad things here.”
The candidate calls for open budget hearings. “Most representatives in both parties don’t know what’s going on in the budget process. There were no public hearings, because it became so dysfunctional.”
The Republicans have adopted “a destructive way to run the Legislature. To me, that deprives your state of everyone’s good ideas, no matter what your party is.”
Democrats could create “a more fair, optimistic outlook for the future if we’re the ones” in the majority, Young Wright believes.
“With a more forward-thinking Legislature, corporations commission, and with our governor, we can get a lot done in this state,” she said.
Young Wright is opposed to the expansion of nuclear energy production, and makes that a part of her campaign.
“Arizona’s a very bad place” for nuclear power plants, because of the time required, the cost and the amount of water needed, she argues. “I just don’t feel it’s right for Arizona,” Young Wright said. “I’d rather see us invest in clean, renewable energy, like solar.”
As a school board member, “I’ve set policy, and worked with lots of diverse people.” As an “Oro Valley activist,” Young Wright has turned to “other people who are experts, I’ve learned, and I’ve worked to build teams. I am energetic and hard-working. People know they can trust me to work hard. I have experience in education and conservation. Those are two key areas we need in this state to help us right now.
“I’m trying to look out for the underdog, the average tax-paying citizen. I am a fiscally conservative person. I try to make the best decision for the health of the whole body. I have a positive outlook. Let’s make a plan, and be ready to get that plan executed.”