PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer plans to push a school safety package in her budget proposal and also plans to champion a proposal to simplify what she calls the most complicated tax code in the nation.
In an interview with The Associated Press Thursday, the Republican governor also said she will decide "shortly" if she will ask lawmakers to expand the state's Medicaid program to cover about 300,000 additional low-income Arizonans. Brewer has until mid-February to decide on the expansion allowed under President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
She also praised Democratic lawmakers for proposing a school and community safety plan Wednesday that even she called "dead on arrival" in the Legislature.
"Well, let me say this, good for them. At least they're trying to find a solution," Brewer said. "However, I don't think its stable throwing $260 million kind of just out there. The state doesn't have $260 million just to throw out there to begin with, so they set the level so high, that you know, as you said, dead on arrival. But I'm glad that there's discussion on it. My plan will be in my budget."
Brewer did a series of media interviews Thursday in advance of the Legislative session that opens Monday, when she delivers her State of the State address. She plans to release her proposed budget later next week, which serves as a guide to start negotiations with leaders of the Republican-led state House and Senate.
The state is heading into the next fiscal year sitting on more than $1 billion in surplus or rainy-day fund reserves, but also faces the expiration of a temporary sales tax in June and the impact of business tax breaks that will come online in coming years. That's left her cautious even in an improving economy.
She declined to discuss specifics of her budget proposal, including whether it would include added funding for education or services to the poor, both of which took major hits as the state cut spending during the Great Recession.
But she said, one of her major pushes this year will be to enact a tax proposal generally outlined by a task force she appointed last year. She called the state's tax system especially difficult for business.
"It is the most complicated in the country, and it's difficult for people to work under those circumstances, so as governor I would like to see under my watch for once we do something in regard to making it easier for people to comply," Brewer said.
"Because my goal, as it has been since I became governor, was to let people know that Arizona is open for business and not to make it hard, to make it simpler. And to be sure we are getting the revenue into the state that is ours to use.
That tax proposal already is getting opposition from cities and towns worried that a change to how sales taxes are levied on new construction will cut their revenue. Sales taxes on new construction is collected where it's built based on a percentage of the final value. The proposal would collect tax in the city where the materials were purchased.
Reminded of the municipal opposition, Brewer said she might be open to some changes.
"What the task force recommended ... I like it a lot, but that doesn't mean it can't be tweaked in some manner," she said.
On the Medicaid expansion, Brewer said she agreed with many of the thoughts Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez expressed when she opted Wednesday to expand Medicaid. Martinez said the expansion would help the state's children and families while also driving economic expansion and that an expansion could be pulled back if federal funding falls short.
"I think that what Gov. Martinez has stated is actually the truth," Brewer said. "I think that each state, though, is very different, funding is different going out to different states because of the existing levels we have to reach. So I'm taking everything into consideration because we want to deliver the best services we can and of course we have to work hand-in-hand with the federal government."
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