Janet Napolitano's Last State-of-the-State Address: Did the Governor Cry?

Big girls don't cry, as the song goes.

But Janet Napolitano came close on Monday during what was surely her last state-of-the-state speech as governor.

On the verge of leaving for the wilds of Washington D.C. as Barack Obama's Homeland Security secretary (assuming she's appointed), Napolitano grew misty-eyed and her voice cracked as she spoke of the "bittersweet" feeling of leaving Arizona.

It looked like the closest Napolitano has ever been to crying in public.

Her voice was thick with emotion at times as she described what she'll miss about living in Arizona, but she was also loud and firm in urging Republican lawmakers to think of the future and save some spending programs.

Napolitano gave her annual speech on the floor of the state House of Representatives before a packed crowd that included the incoming governor, Secretary of State Jan Brewer.     

As the legislature's favored media hung out on the Capitol floor and guests of the lawmakers' took every available seat in the viewing gallery, a small crowd flocked to a hearing room to watch the speech on TV.

Arguing that now was not the time to abandon the state's most vulnerable and needy people, Napolitano implored lawmakers to keep all-day kindergarten, fund new university construction and grant in-state college tuition to all of the state's veterans. Here's a sample from the speech:

Budget deficits mean cuts, and cuts are hard. In the past two years, we have already cut $1.8 billion; the budget I will present to you later this week will provide for further cuts.

Yet, as we tighten our belts, we must remember that this part of our call to serve means still caring for those less fortunate, and protecting services like education, foreclosure assistance, health care and shelter from abuse, neglect and domestic violence.

Napolitano also called for more investment in "green" technologies and for a revamping of the state's initiative process. The latter issue stemmed from her failure to shepherd a major transportation bill onto November's ballot. She suggested tightening rules on petition signature gatherers, who were responsible for the numerous bad signatures that disqualified her initiative. You can read her entire speech here.

In answering a few questions after her speech, Napolitano simply smiled when asked whether she was going to target Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio once she ascended to chief of Homeland Security.

Republicans, meanwhile, seemed thrilled to be rid of Napolitano, who over the years vetoed many of their bills and -- in the opinion of some -- was responsible for the state's budget crisis.

In an interview with New Times after the speech, Senator Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican (pictured at right), says Napolitano was the "catalyst" for the "train wreck" of a state facing a massive funding shortfall. Pearce and former state senator Ken Bennett, who will be secretary of state under Brewer, single out Arizona's all-day kindergarten program as a quick way to save $200 million.

The future of Arizona is important, of course, but "we have to pay the bills today," Bennett (pictured below) tells New Times. Brewer, who is no doubt looking forward to her 2010 campaign to remain as governor, has already stated she would like to avoid cutting the kindergarten program.


Napolitano did have one faux-pas during her speech that will probably be seized upon by right-wingers as a Freudian slip of her belief in wealth redistribution. Health care reforms are crucial, she said, "to ensure that every Arizona family has access to a dollar when they need one."

She paused, then corrected herself with a chuckle.

"A doctor."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.