I am extremely pleased with what a productive session we had at the Arizona State Legislature. Passing the first truly balanced budget Arizona has seen in five years is noteworthy in itself, but doing so and completing all of the other critical legislation in 100 days is not something many people would have predicted.
We worked hard to pass a gimmick-free budget that makes tough, but responsible and necessary cuts, while avoiding generational theft. The Senate and House worked side-by-side with the governor’s office to pass the Arizona Competitiveness Package, a sweeping economic development and tax reduction plan. It makes targeted and innovative tax reforms that will incentivize new businesses to relocate to Arizona, while encouraging those already here to expand. The Legislature also passed comprehensive reforms that will salvage the currently failing state retirement system.
It is no secret that the news media often choose to portray our legislators as if we are wasting time dealing with crazy, controversial bills. While it may make for a better story, keeping Arizona’s citizens in the dark about the positive strides we have made this session does a disservice to you. That is why I wanted to take an opportunity to remind you of some of the accomplishments often ignored.
You might be aware that I have been working long and hard to get Gila Community College status as an independent community college district, rather than a provisional district. I am proud to say, because of the passage of SB 1213 that is going to start to happen. It outlines the process by which GCC will get its independence, and the district will have full control over the college. This will be a long process to carefully balance the transition and to be sure the college is able to acquire their own accreditation.
HB 2397 will stipulate that bare state trust lands cannot be taxed until either the State Land Department issues a patent or until seven years after the land’s auction. This bill will eliminate an unfair and unreasonable tax that, if not stopped, could result in a decreased interest in future purchases of state land. The signing of HB 2397 into law will result in a significant increase in revenue to the Arizona State Land Trust and in turn provide a major economic boost to Arizona. It also allows the State Land Department to auction potash mineral deposits, which is expected to result in more than 400 permanent high-paying jobs per year.
SB 1217, signed by the governor, is going to allow Gila and Santa Cruz community provisional colleges to receive Proposition 301 workforce development funds. These funds have previously been denied to provisional colleges yet the taxpayers of these counties have paid the full tax. The unfairness of this current taxing practice is now resolved and these schools will be able to receive these workforce development funds.
Your Legislature did not forget how important it is to secure our border. Getting boots on the ground will help. That is why I sponsored SB 1495, which would allow the governor to call up the State Guard without being prohibited that the National Guard had to be out of state. Now I will be working on how to formally organize and fund a State Guard. This is critical to help secure our border.
Our communities of Pima and Safford are hurting financially because of some poor decisions made a few years ago. My SB 1087 waives the penalties for those towns for exceeding their revenue expenditure limitation, and will help them get back on their feet.
It truly speaks to the efficiency of our legislators that we were able to pass so many significant pieces of legislation in so little time. Between a balanced budget, an innovative jobs bill, reformed retirement policies, and numerous bills that will help out counties in need, this was certainly a successful Centennial Session for the Arizona State Legislature.