FLORENCE- Less than a month after she delivered her State of the State address in Casa Grande, Govenor Napolitano was back in Pinal County to meet and talk with residents. Her whirlwind late morning-early afternoon tour took her to Apache Junction, Johnson Ranch and Coolidge.
At the first stop in Apache Junction, the Governor addressed a standing room only crowd at the Multi Generational Center. Chairman Smith introduced the Governor who jumped into a talk about senior issues in Pinal County and the state. In a sobering opening statement that pointed out that the two fastest populations in Arizona are ages newborn to five and 85 and older.
"In 2030, we will have as many people over 65 as we do under the age of 17, Napolitano announced. "We need to start planning now for service delivery, medicaid, quality of life issues and finding out how to manage medicare."
Following her focus on aging and medicare, the first-term governor examined another growing population that she hopes to address in the upcoming legislative session-veterans.
"We have 585,000 veterans in the State of Arizona," Napolitano said in a sobering tone. "The number is growing from more and more people returning from Iraq and the Middle East.
"I have asked the legislature to triple the amount of veteran benefit councilors we have in this state. We have 19 for over 500,000 veterans. I am also asking to construct a veteran's home in Southern Arizona and a new veterans cemetery in Northern Arizona."
Chairman Smith also escorted the Governor to the YMCA building in Johnson Ranch where Napolitano spotlighted her education initiatives for this legislative session. Those initiatives include speeding up of full-day kindergarten and teacher pay increases.
From Johnson Ranch, the Napolitano express headed south to Coolidge for a meeting with the residents of the District 1 city.
Over 50 people made it to the new City Council chambers to hear the Governor take on growth issues.
"We need to look again at Pinal County's growth," Napolitano began. "It's time to throw away the plans from 20 years ago." With that opening statement the Governor used her platform to underscore her ideas on how to handle the increase in people coming to Arizona and Pinal County.
During her 45 minute talk to those in the Coolidge City Hall, the Governor ventured away from the dais frequently and answered questions ranging from airport access to state shared revenue. Wrapping up her conversation with the Coolidge residents the Governor offered this insight on the future of the state: "This can be a golden age, if we keep our eye on the ball and put Arizona first."