Brewer, lawmakers: Business, education priorities for Legislature
Gov. Jan Brewer told business leaders Friday that her legislative agenda includes simplifying the "complicated and overly burdensome" process behind the state's transaction privilege tax.
The tax is technically assessed for the privilege of doing business in the state, though it is commonly passed on to the consumer and referred to as a sales tax.
"How can we justify a system that causes the taxpayer to fill out 50 different returns a month?" Brewer said at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Legislative Forecast Luncheon.
Brewer issued an executive order last year creating the Transaction Privilege Tax Simplification Task Force, noting that Arizona's system is among the most complex in the country. The task force recently submitted recommendations to Brewer and legislative leaders.
"And the fix is simple – one form, one point of contact and one audit," Brewer said.
She said an educated workforce is key to attracting and retaining jobs in Arizona.
"Start with K-12 schools. We’re implementing Common Core Standards that are benchmarked to the toughest standards worldwide," Brewer said. "We will not only improve what students learn, but how they learn."
Arizona adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010, and schools must have them fully in place by next school year.
At a panel discussion of Republican and Democratic legislative leaders, Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said jobs and education will be at the forefront in the coming session.
"We need to convey to the world if we are going to attract and keep businesses here that we have an excellent educational system," Biggs said.
Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, said part of improving education should be increasing funding for public schools after years of deep cuts.
"We have to look at our K-12 education as well as our university education," she said.
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, said Arizona needs to help schools train teachers on the new standards, a process that he said will cost tens of millions of dollars this year and next.
"That’s an investment we need to make," he said.
However, Biggs said the first priority is a balanced budget for the coming year and going forward.
"We need to find out how much the budget is and be prepared to see whether we can afford it and how quickly we can fully implement," he said.
House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, agreed.
"We don’t go all in unless we know we have a balanced budget," he said.