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Governor’s Flagstaff Speech

(Governor Jan Brewer’s speech in Flagstaff today, addressing the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon.  These remarks were made at the High Country Conference Center at Northern Arizona University.)

Good afternoon.  Today I found out, I received a call on my cell phone from someone who said, ‘Congratulations.  You now have served two years as the governor of Arizona.’  So I have an anniversary today.

Anyway, I want to share with you today, some other really important milestones that I see in the distance.

On Tuesday, I announced reclaiming its historic decision as a national leader in population and job growth and economic energy over the next four years.  i intend to devote my last and my best years of public service to ensuring Arizona is at the top of those states with a limited public sector, a restrained regulatory state and a vibrant private sector.

While my basic philosophy remains unchanged, restraining government, restoring liberating, returning to the free market principle, I do believe that state government does have a role to play in job creation and that is to provide stable, predictable, business-friendly environment in which our employers can grow.  We must not wait.  We’re fresh outta ‘later.’  No more excuses why things  cannot be done.

My plan is built on four cornerstones of reform:  economic competitiveness, education, state government and renewed federalism.

Working with legislative leadership, we’ll be conveying a special session of the legislature to enact an aggressive economic package.  We will then have the tools to compete with other states for relocations.

The package will consist of three parts: a new Arizona Commerce Authority, job based tax incentives and tax reforms.

States we’re competing with have two advantages over Arizona; they have dynamic economic development agencies and they have access to deal closing funds.  To compete, Arizona must eliminate that gap.  Our new commerce authority is exclusively focused on business attraction, retention and expansion from the strongest economic sectors.

Business retention and expansion programs are critical.  Real job growth over time comes from local business expansion.  And I am committed to a statewide approach that advances the rural approach. That is why I salvaged   a rural business advisory council, dedicating two million dollars from my economic development stimulus funds for this new rural approach.  and a special thanks to Julie Pastrick who is serving on the council.

Arizona’s Enterprise Zone Tax Incentive program is outdated and should be replaced by a statewide program of tax incentives that reward companies for creating high quality jobs.  Finally we need to phase in reforms to our tax structure that will attract businesses from outside Arizona and encourage business creation and expansion from employers who are already here.

Tax reform should include reducing the corporate income tax rate to (the) original average just below five percent.  Reducing the business personal property tax which discourages capital investment.  And three, increasing form 80% to 100% the sales factor in calculating income taxes to encourage more export based industries in Arizona.

While paying careful attention to these three reforms, immediate impacts on the general fund and Arizona homeowners we can create conditions under which our employers can take Arizona to the top tier of states in quality job creation.

And of course, you can’t have quality job creation without our second cornerstone of reform.  Education reform.

the underlying philosophy of our education reform plan, is really quite simple.  A future where all Arizona students are prepared to succeed in college and careers and lead this state for the next 100 years and beyond .

Children can learn if we expect them to.  I can tell you this:  we expect them to learn in Arizona.  Arizona’s new education plan has yearly benchmarks that will put us on the path to achieve specific goals by 2020.   Including, improving our high school graduation rate to 93% from a starting point of 75%.  Enabling at least 94% of third graders to meet reading standards as opposed to our baseline of just 69%.  ANd doubling the number of college students who complete their studies and earn a four-year degree.

The time has come to reward our best teachers and our best principals.  To do this and accomplish our goals, we need a data system to accurately tells us how well students teachers and schools are doing.  Discussions with the state commerce department and other state governments everyone agrees that our data system is unreliable and out of date.  Better information from the new data system will allow better decision making by parents as they seek effective and safe learning environments for the children to grow.

Let no one doubt that the active involvement of parents is a cornerstone of student’s success in school.  Arizona leads the nation in school choice.  let us never infringe on the right of parents to enroll their child in a district school, a charter school, a private school or a home school.

If we ever hope to have resources follow success and to reward schools for graduating students instead of just enrolling them, we must have a new student data system and we must have it now.  and for that reason, my proposed budget will include a plan to fund this system, and oversee its development.

To make sure we are staying on track, I have announced an overhaul of the existing 2020 education council.  The council has served our state well as a coordinating body among our various education systems.  But the new council will be dedicated to driving results under the new plan while respecting local control.

As they say in business, what gets measured gets done.  With our new standards and data system, we plan to measure and we will get it done.

Higher education has taken its share of cuts during this economic downturn despite significant increases in enrollment.  as a result, the university presidents and the regents are already realigning their operations.  There must be more options than simply raising tuition or eliminating programs.  We must continue to explore lower cost higher education models including expansion of 2 plus 2 programs, more regional campuses with differential tuitions, online education and four year degrees offered by community colleges.

So, we must continue to encourage efforts that allow our universities to be strong, focused enterprises.  More graduates with higher skills, more choices in ways to learn, less dependency on buildings and less bureaucracy.

To be at the top of the pro growth pro private sector groups of states, Arizona needs a 21st century government.

So our third cornerstone is wholesale reform of state government.  This includes budget reform, with spending limits, it includes executive authority to reduce expenditures.  The constitution should be amended to allow the governor to reduce existing expenditures to reduce the budget during a fiscal emergency and to reduce expenditures through the line item veto authority.  Together, we’ll put and keep Arizona on the road to fiscal sanity.

Finally, reform of state government should include a rainy day fund established with constitutional safeguards to ensure it is there when needed.  we need a rainy day fund that will be there when it is actually raining.

This spending fiasco should never ever ever ever happen again.  State operational reforms need to be implemented including modernization of our state personnel and retirement systems of reinforcement of Arizona’s status as a right to work state.

Finally, the fourth cornerstone, will be renewed pursuit of federalism, one that protects the state of Arizona and its citizens from its far reaching federal government.  Never during our nearly 100 years of statehood had federal interference in Arizona’s affairs been more blatant.  We must demand that the federal government overturn the 2010 Health Care Reform and its unconstitutional mandate on states, employers and citizens.  the federal government must take the fiscal handcuffs off Arizona related to its Medicaid program: AHCCCS, which prevents us from balancing our budget without raising taxes.  these handcuffs were slapped on us again in the ObamaCare legislation last year.  They are called a maintenance of effort provision.  In short, the federal government is telling Arizona taxpayers to pick up the tab.  Well, here’s a newsflash to my friends in Washington.  Arizona will not be the tax collector for Uncle Sam’s unfunded health care mandates.

We simply cannot allow unfunded federal mandates to set our priorities.  Arizona and other states must be allowed to establish our own coverage.  Arizona knows what is best for Arizona.

We are fighting ObamaCare with 25 other states in court and I am pleased that several more states and our new Attorney General Tom Horne is joining our fight.  I’m also pleased that in our one day special session I called Wednesday, the legislature supported the waiver request to the federal government, giving Arizona the flexibility it needs.

Let’s start the process of freeing Arizona from these federal fiscal handcuffs.

Finally, let me be as clear as I can be.  I will never sign a budget that cuts money to Arizona’s school children to fund the federal Medicaid mandates.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever.

One way to help our local jurisdictions in their own growth and planning process is to free them from the obligated unnecessary federal requirements.  The United States Supreme Court recently said local governments may petition to remove themselves from section five of the voting rights act, the federal pre clearance process.  Over 16 local jurisdictions in other states have done so successfully.  Together with Secretary Bennet and local jurisdictions in Arizona we can reward those who accomplish the mission of the voting rights act and allow them to finally end the unnecessary, expensive, burdensome federal justice department oversight of Arizona’s elections.

the federal government must also fulfill its constitutional statutory duties to secure the border and restore our integrity to our immigration system.  Washington has failed to gain operational control of the border  required under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.  Failed to enforce federal immigration laws as enacted by congress.  And failed to reimburse the state of Arizona for hundreds of of millions of dollars of costs incurred in trying, convicting and incarcerating criminal aliens.  The state must pursue all legal remedies to make the federal government live up to those responsibilities to defend Arizona’s right to cooperatively give force to federal immigration laws.  We can do no less.

I believe building upon these cornerstones, Arizona will be an irresistible magnet for the business relocations,  business formations and growth, capitol formation and investment, employment and personal income growth and prosperity for all Arizona’s businesses and citizens.

I look forward to celebrating many successes, many important milestones with you and we’ll accomplish much in the years ahead, building upon these cornerstones.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but together, I truly believe we can get it done.  So may God bless you and your families, the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, our great state of Arizona and may God always bless and protect  the United States of America.

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