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Brewer wants changes to tax code, state personnel and K-12 funding

Gov. Jan Brewer filled in the blanks from her State of the State address with an ambitious policy agenda heavy on restructuring the state’s tax system, changing the way public schools are funded, revamping the personnel system for state employees and throwing down the gauntlet over federal environmental and land management policies.

In the 2012 iteration of her “Four Cornerstones of Reform” – the first version was unveiled early in the 2011 legislative session – Brewer outlined a series of proposals in four areas: economic competitiveness, education, state government and renewed federalism.

As House Speaker Andy Tobin and other lawmakers prepare a sequel to the Arizona Competitiveness Package, Brewer proposes a raft of tax code changes, including a reduction in capital gains taxes and simplification in the tax code to make it easier for small businesses comply with “complicated sales tax and personal property tax systems.”

Brewer also said she wants to extend the period that businesses can claim operating losses for tax purposes and to encourage businesses that export goods and services to relocate Arizona.

Brewer vetoed a bill in 2011 that would’ve eliminated sales taxes for in-state companies that provide services to out-of-state customers.

“All signs point to an economic turnaround, but we need to do more,” Brewer wrote in the policy agenda. “We must continue to explore ways to make our tax structure more competitive, lighten the regulatory burden and offer an even more skilled workforce to growing companies.”

The governor proposed a host of new policies aimed at readying the state’s unemployed and underemployed workforces for new jobs, including retraining programs at community colleges, eliminating ineffective programs and creating a new Workforce Arizona Council that study other states’ policies and recommend changes for Arizona. In addition, Brewer proposed mandatory drug testing for anyone applying for taxpayer-funded job training program.

On the education front, Brewer reiterated her recent calls for massive changes to the funding formula for K-12 schools, so that public schools are not simply rewarded “for merely finding students to occupy desks for part of the day for part of the year.” She said she would ask her new Arizona Ready Council to draft reforms for both K-12 and higher education.

Brewer also said she wanted to eliminate formula-based funding for other aspects of state government, such as K-12 and state Medicaid.

In regards to the beleaguered Child Protective Services, Brewer proposed adopting a handful of proposals drafted by her Arizona Child Safety Task Force, including greater involvement for law enforcement and revamping the CPS hotline.

Brewer said she was already planning another social safety net reform – a pilot program allowing patients designated as seriously mentally ill to get behavior health treatment through Medicaid. For those patients who aren’t eligible for Medicaid, Brewer said she will propose services in the spring that will provide medication and other support.

And Brewer vowed to continue her ongoing fights with the federal government over the Affordable Care Act and SB1070 while mounting new challenges the Environmental Protection Agency. She reiterated a call from her State of the State address for the federal government to allow Arizona to move forward with its “Four Forest Restoration Initiative,” which she said would return Arizona to a policy of “responsible thinning and active management of federal lands” that would prevent massive forest fires of the kind seen in 2010.

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