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10:33 PM Tue, Jan. 22nd

$10,000 for VIP seats to inauguration of top officials

Gov. Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey

PHOENIX – Want to watch today’s inauguration of the state’s top officials in person but don’t want to be stuck in the cheap seats – or left standing?

You can get an up-close view. But it’ll cost you.

The base donation to acquire a pair of VIP seats is $10,000. That also buys you a pair of tickets to a special reception. And you can get your picture taken there.

Got $15,000? That gets you three VIP seats, three reception tickets and two photos.

And for $25,000 you get the whole enchilada: Six seats up front, three parking passes, six reception tickets, three photos and six inaugural pins. You also get your corporate logo included on the programs being handed out, the inaugural website and other promotional materials.

Those good seats also guarantee a good viewing point of Robert Uribe, the mayor of Douglas, who will be master of ceremonies.

Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss tapped Uribe because he is a Democrat, mayor of a border town and that community’s first African-American mayor. That, said Ptak, underlines what is expected to be the governor’s theme for the day of working together and “inclusivity,’’ especially now that the two of the top five state officials, unlike Ducey, are Democrats.

There’s also the fact that Uribe supported Ducey’s reelection effort.

And just in case you were wondering, the governor’s office says that any money donated, because it is going to the state, qualifies for a tax deduction as a charitable contribution.

As to the substance of the event, Ducey is expected to give what Ptak calls a “view from the 10,000-foot level,’’ where the state has been in the past four years, what Ducey believes has been accomplished and what he sees as general goals for the next four.

Most of the details of the governor’s legislative agenda are going to have to wait until the following Monday when Ducey gives his State of the State speech to the new Legislature. But the governor may use this Monday’s opportunity to get lawmakers and other focused on the pressing issue of water, especially Arizona approval of the multi-state drought contingency plan to deal with the shortage of Colorado River water and declining levels in Lake Mead..

There isn’t a lot of time. Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, has given the states involved until the end of this month to come up with an acceptable proposal. If they do not meet the deadline, Burman has vowed to impose a solution of her own.

So where does the money raised for today’s event go?

Officially it’s earmarked to offset the costs.

Aides to Gov. Doug Ducey, who is entering his second four-year term on Monday and whose office is planning the event and the fundraising, had no immediate figures on what the governor’s first inaugural cost in 2015 or what happened to the leftover cash.

But Ptak said it is his understanding there was not much left after all the expenses were paid. He said those dollars went into a “protocol fund’’ which governors can use for things like promoting the state without tapping taxpayer dollars.

Four years earlier, when Jan Brewer was sworn in along with other state offices, the price tag was $65,000. That included more than $13,300 for special inaugural coins given to invited guest gathered in the courtyard of the Old Capitol bearing an image of Brewer’s face with her name and the notation that she was the state’s 22nd governor.

It also cost more than $6,400 to rent and set up the chairs and another nearly $6,000 paid to the Department of Education to print fliers and special badges to identify who was invited and entitled to be in the fence area. The general public was relegated to bleachers off to the side in the rear.

That year Brewer raised $200,000 from lobbying firms, business interests and the state’s major utilities.

As it turned out, the total tab didn’t run anywhere run that much. So the leftover was earmarked to refurbish the governor’s offices, particularly to pay for new carpeting.

Eight years earlier, Janet Napolitano collected $150,000 which included money from those attending four separate receptions. And those funds were on top of more than $50,000 shelled out by state taxpayers, mostly for renting audio and video equipment, including large-screen television and the staff to operate all that.

There is a bit of dark history behind the protocol fund.

In 1988, Evan Mecham became to only Arizona governor to be impeached and removed from office by the Legislature. While one of the charges involved obstruction of justice, the other related to loaning $850,000 of inaugural ball receipts that had been in the protocol fund to his own Pontiac dealership.

For those without the cash to get the reserved seats and a chance to schmooze with their new elected officials afterwards there are some other events planned.

One is the Explore Arizona Showcase featuring exhibits from several of the state’s sports teams as well as a chance to meet Arizona Cardinals mascot Big Red. State agencies also will have some displays, including a Department of Public Safety patrol vehicle and a giant snow plow operated by the state Department of Transportation.

There’s also a display by organizations both public and private that offer training beyond a high school diploma.

And nine Arizona restaurants are setting up booths to show off their culinary skills.