It is often said that nothing — or at least nothing good — gets done in an election year. You can’t say that about the Arizona state Capitol in 2012.
Balanced budget with more money for education? Check. Job-boosting legislation? Check. Historic update of state workforce rules? Check.
When it comes to the issues that matter most to Arizonans, the 2012 legislative session will be remembered as one of the most successful in years. Consider the budget. Working together with the legislative majority, we not only enacted a budget that is truly balanced, we also paid down some of the state’s debt and began refilling our depleted reserves. All of this, and we still added resources to critical programs like early childhood reading, public safety and health and human services.
Beyond the budget, I and Republican legislators kept the focus on economic growth. We enacted legislation that builds upon last year’s Economic Competitiveness Package, this time focusing on steps to aid small businesses and start-ups while encouraging capital investment and creating new incentives for job creation and corporate relocation.
Specifically, this legislation will phase-down Arizona’s capital gains rates to a level that is regionally and nationally competitive; nearly double the business personal-property exemption; eliminate a cap on income tax credits available to manufacturers and exporters that create new jobs; and extend an existing renewable energy tax credit so it can be used to lure corporate headquarters in other fields.
When added to the broad tax cuts and targeted incentives of the 2011 Economic Competitiveness Package, this is one powerful tonic for job creation and business investment.
The early returns are in. Arizona’s job growth ranks among the nation’s leaders, and our unemployment rate has fallen
2.6 percentage points in two years — down nearly half a point in April alone! Independent, national analysts are taking notice, as well. Most recently, Chief Executive magazine named Arizona one of the nation’s top 10 states for business, and the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity rated our state the country’s most entrepreneurial.
This is no time for slowing down, not even close. But with the conditions we’ve put in place for economic growth, and by aggressively recruiting worldwide for jobs and investment — as we are with the current European trade mission — Arizona’s economy is on the path for sustained prosperity.
While we took steps to boost the economy, we also enacted a long-overdue modernization plan for the rules and regulations that govern the hiring and firing of state workers. To be clear, nearly all of our employees are dedicated public servants and committed to their jobs. The relative few bad actors, however, weigh on the reputation of the entire workforce. It’s time that the state had a system in place that allows supervisors to more effectively reward their best employees and discipline or terminate the weakest performers.
That’s exactly what personnel reform will do. It’s no secret plan. In fact, if you work in the private sector, you’ve almost certainly operated under these guidelines and principles for years.
Personnel reform has been a policy priority of mine for two years. Thanks to the Arizona Legislature and the diligent work of the Department of Administration and stakeholders like the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, this important workforce update is finally a reality.
Lastly, I was thrilled in recent days to announce the state has reached a truly historic agreement with plaintiffs in the 30-year-old Arnold v. Sarn behavioral health case. Our plan adds real resources — $39 million next year alone — to create a menu of community-based services for Arizonans with serious mental illness. I’m talking about crisis services, employment and housing assistance, case management and life skills training, among other offerings. This was a momentous achievement, one that will long pay dividends for Arizona as we struggle with how best to care for those among us living with serious mental illness.
We go through the same drill every year right about this time. Capitol reporters take stock of “winners” and “losers” from the legislative session, and elected officials like me are asked to sum up four months of work in 800 words or less. The key, I believe, is to separate the fleeting from the lasting — the sideshows from the truly significant.
Each accomplishment I’ve listed above — a stable budget that funds our priorities, a growing economy, modernized workforce and critical assistance for our mentally ill — will be with the state of Arizona long after I’ve gone. These are accomplishments in which not only the Legislature but the people of Arizona can take pride.
I know I do.
— Jan Brewer is the governor of the state of Arizona.