Thank you, Mike.
And thank you General Shoopman and your team at the Southern Arizona Leadership Council for putting together a fine event, as usual.
It's good to be in Southern Arizona among friends.
First, let me say that I recognize SALC has been a strong supporter of some of our signature policy priorities this year including my Medicaid Restoration Plan.
Your voice has been enormously helpful as we fight to make Arizona friendlier to business, more competitive for jobs and 2 capital investment and better prepared for the challenges we know await our State in the years ahead.
I thank you for that.
So here we are nearing the end of a legislative session I remain hopeful will go down as one of our most productive in memory.
When lawmakers adjourn sine die, I'll judge this session according to the steps we've taken to improve Arizona's competitiveness both nationally and globally.
It's a measuring stick you may remember from my State of the State address in January.
Then, as now, I stressed my belief that we have an obligation to make our decisions with an eye toward how they'll impact the ability of our businesses to grow and our families to thrive.
I wish I could report to you that this legislative session had already seen the passage of our most critical bills.
That's not true. At least, not yet.
But thanks in part to your support and that of strong legislators like Representative Ethan Orr, who is with us this morning we are making headway.
For example just last week, the Arizona State Senate approved my Medicaid Restoration Plan.
This proposal is critical to Arizona's economic competitiveness.
I know you're familiar with the pros and cons, so I'll just ask you to consider this:
How will Arizona compete against our neighboring states if each of them -- California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico-- expand Medicaid and bring billions of dollars into their economy, but we do not?
How will Arizona compete for new jobs if our companies continue to be saddled with higher health premiums courtesy of the Hidden Health Care Tax?
How will Arizona market its premier quality of life if we fail to even keep the solemn promise made to voters with passage of the health care initiative known as Proposition 204?
It's simple. My Medicaid Restoration Plan will save Arizona tax dollars save hospitals and save lives.
It's the right thing to do.
As I mentioned, the State Senate approved this plan last week.
I believe strongly that, with the continued help of groups like yours, we'll have the votes in the House of Representatives, also.
In the meantime, I'll keep fighting.
Following this, I'll be leading a press conference at Tucson Medical Center as we talk about the importance of this issue in Southern Arizona.
So, here's what I need you to do:
Continue to contact your legislators, and don't forget the Speaker of the House.
Let them know how critical Medicaid Restoration is to you, your family and your business.
We can get this done, but we can only get it done together.
Of course, Arizona's economic competitiveness goes handin-hand with education.
Here in Arizona, we're asking more of our students, teachers and schools by raising standards.
Just look at the new Common Core standards, which will be benchmarked to tougher, international standards.
Why would we do that?6
Because we know Arizona's graduates will be competing for jobs not just with their state, regional or even national peers.
No, the job market is global.
Our graduates are competing globally for the best jobs and Arizona is competing globally for the best employers.
So, I was proud to sign the new Common Core standards into law this year allowing us to phase out the old AIMS test and bring in a new test that better measures how our students and schools are performing.
Also, my budget proposal includes new resources for K-12 schools and universities including 8 Million Dollars for the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Downtown Phoenix?
I bet President Hart perked up for that one
As budget negotiations reach a critical stage at the Capitol, you can bet I'll keep fighting for our schools and universities both because of their importance in educating our citizens and the critical role they play in our economy.
I know those of you I this room are no stranger to our next topic: sales tax simplification.
Now, I've been in elected office for three decades and I think this issue may precede even me!
Everyone knows that our sales tax system in Arizona is arguably the nation's most complex!
Everyone knows it hampers businesses when they have to juggle multiple filings with multiple tax rates and multiple audits!
It's time to fix it.
Of course, there are advocates of the status quo.
I've heard the concerns of some city leaders. My updated proposal takes their fears into account and compromises on key issues like audits and prime contracting.
But I'm not going to let this once-in-a-generation opportunity to help our businesses owners pass us by.
This is the year we're going to make real changes to simplify our sales tax code.
Now, for those of you who are longtime watchers of the Arizona State Capitol, you know there are hundreds of bills signed into law each session but only a relative handful get much media attention.
With that in mind, I'd like to talk a little about some of thelesser-covered actions we've taken this year that are going to have a big impact for southern Arizona.
The very first bill of the session allowed CPS to hire an additional 50 caseworkers and support staff.
My budget includes funding for 150 more caseworkers and I'm hopeful this will help us identify kids in danger BEFORE it's too late.
* We created an incentive for businesses to perform health and safety audits, which helps workplace safety.
* We eased the licensing process for veterans, helping them translate their military skills into civilian jobs.
* And we extended health care coverage for the spouses and dependents of fallen public safety officers and firemen. It was the right thing to do for those who risk everything on our behalf.
Lastly, because I know you're looking for a bit of "inside' information here's a scoop for you:
Tomorrow, I'll be at the U of A Medical School in Phoenix for a ceremony as I sign into law Senate Bill 1353.
This measure will help extend insurance coverage for telemedicine in rural communities improving access to cost-effective care for Arizonans who may live far from their doctor.
Telemedicine is an innovative way to bring medical care to more people at lower cost and I'm proud that Arizona is a national leader in this field.
Finally, I want to talk a bit about the work going on to improve the transportation network beginning at our southern border.
Last summer, I was thrilled to announce that one of southern Arizona's own -- Jim Kolbe -- had agreed to help lead my Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance.
Knowing that transportation is central to Arizona's economic competitiveness see, there's that word again I've asked Jim and a panel of experts to identify the best ways we can spend our transportation dollars to boost trade and tourism.
Long-term, I want Arizona to be the preferred route for companies shipping goods and products back and forth from Mexico, our largest trade partner.
I'm proud we've worked with the federal government to expand the Mariposa Port of Entry, in Nogales.11
We've also got a new commercial port of entry at San Luis II. This is only half of the equation, of course.
Once products cross the border into Arizona, you need a decent road network to move them to Phoenix and points beyond.
That's where Interstate 11 comes in.
The I-11 will be a catalyst for economic growth easing the shipment of goods back and forth from Mexico and finally linking our nation's two largest cities still not connected by an interstate highway: Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Once built, the I-11 will be a river of commerce that will benefit all of our citizens.
Currently, the Arizona Department of Transportation is undertaking an I-11 corridor study with its Nevada counterpart.
That gives us time to increase support for the project and educate the public its benefits.
Of course, building the I-11 won't be easy. Or cheap.
But I believe in this project and I know we're going to make it a reality.
We really have no choice if we intend to compete as a state.
Competition is the essence of business. It's what those of you in this room do every day as private-sector leaders.
On that note, I want to thank you for your part in the Arizona Comeback.
I know that government didn't turn this state around. We may have put some of the right policies in place but it was the business owners and entrepreneurs who led this recovery.
Just the same, there's something great going on in Arizona right now.
You can see it in the national rankings, such as Chief Executive Magazine recently naming us the 6th Best place in the country to do business.
You can see it in our job growth, once again among the national leaders.
And you can see it in the premier companies choosing to locate or expand here - like General Motors and GoDaddy, just to name a couple from recent weeks.
This is all very exciting, and I'm grateful to the Southern Arizona Leadership Council for its continued advocacy on behalf of the pro-growth policies that have helped make it possible.
I appreciate you being with me today, and I look forward to your support of our key policy objectives as we push this legislative session to a close.
Thank you, and I'm happy to take your questions.