Winning the 2010 election for governor was a great honor, but I knew the biggest challenges were still ahead.
How were we to deal with a state budget deficit in excess of $1 billion? Was the solution to grow government bigger? Or was the solution to limit government interference and embrace free-market principles?
The path I chose was to remain faithful to Arizona’s remarkable history of limited government and free-market virtues, while fostering a sustained economic recovery that brings prosperity to our state.
In January, I released a vigorous policy agenda focusing on four cornerstones of reform: economic competiveness, education, state government reform and renewed federalism.
Economic competitiveness: One of our first actions was to help put Arizonans back to work with the Arizona Competitiveness Package. Approved with broad Republican support and signed into law just six weeks into the session, this is among Arizona’s most meaningful economic legislation in decades.
The package includes the newly created, public-private Arizona Commerce Authority, and uses targeted incentives and broad tax reforms to spur the Arizona economy and allow our state to compete globally for high-paying jobs.
By reducing corporate income and property tax rates, Arizona will transition from one of the least competitive states to one of the most competitive. These tax cuts are phased-in beginning in 2014, once Proposition 100 has expired and the state’s fiscal situation has improved.
The Economic Competitiveness Package builds upon Arizona’s business-friendly, limited-regulation strategy. It’s a winning formula. Consider:
• Intel is investing in a new $5 billion manufacturing plant, which should bring thousands of new jobs to its Chandler complex.
• First Solar will be manufacturing solar panels in Mesa, potentially creating nearly 5,000 jobs at full employment.
• Gestamp Solar Steel is building its U.S. headquarters in Surprise, bringing hundreds of quality jobs to the West Valley.
Education: Because information is power, I’m proud that my administration has begun to replace an outdated K-12 data system with a new system that will better report test scores and other measures of school performance. We’ve also unveiled a new website — ArizonaSchoolChoice.com — that serves as an online one-stop-shop to give parents the information they need when deciding where their children should attend school.
Additionally, we established the Governor’s Office of Education Innovation to implement Arizona’s Education Reform Plan developed by key education and business leaders under the P-20 Council. We’re currently developing an education performance management dashboard, and developing plans with education leaders to align resources across the state and help communities grow student achievement.
State government: The Legislature and I are working together to modernize state government.
This last session, that effort included reform of our state pension system to eliminate abuse and ensure its future solvency. Soon, we’ll pursue personnel changes to give the state more flexibility to reward and retain its best employees, and to eliminate red tape that prevents the timely termination of its underperforming.
Notably, the state of Arizona has reached another important milestone on the road to recovery: a balanced budget. That’s quite an accomplishment for a state rated as having one of the worst budget deficits in the nation when I took office in 2009.
Renewed federalism: Arizona has taken on the federal government with regard to border security and health care.
Recently, I announced plans to appeal the injunction against major parts of SB1070 to the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m proud that my office is standing together with Attorney General Tom Horne and the Legislature to defend this law and preserve Arizona’s right to protect its citizens.
In February, the state of Arizona filed suit against the federal government for its failure to enforce immigration law and secure the border, as required by the Constitution.
Our actions are having an impact. The White House just announced the extension of the National Guard along the border, something for which I’ve repeatedly advocated in recent months.
Regarding health care, Arizona is among a host of states that have filed suit over the unconstitutionality of Obamacare. Blocking this federal takeover is critical in maintaining a health system focused upon doctors and patients, not bureaucrats.
We’ve also crafted a Medicaid reform plan that puts our AHCCCS program on a sustainable path. This plan maintains coverage of current members, while reducing the rolls over time and enacting reforms common in private insurance to reduce taxpayer costs and encourage personal responsibility.
This is the most comprehensive AHCCCS modernization effort to date, achieving more than $500 million in savings in the first year alone. Since Medicaid is the biggest single factor driving state spending, this reform is critical to the state’s long-term fiscal health.
2011 legislative session: This legislative session will be remembered as one of the most productive and efficient in state history.
While much has been said in the media about the number of vetoes I issued this year, they account for fewer than 8 percent of the bills sent to my desk. It’s a testament to the cooperative relationship between the legislative majority and I that we reached agreement on the overwhelming majority of legislative actions, including significant issues such as the budget, job creation, state pension reform and Medicaid.
The Legislature is focused on the people of Arizona. So am I. Together, we are preparing this state for the future, for its promise, and for generations to come.
— Jan Brewer is the governor of the state of Arizona.