PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer plans to boost funding for Child Protective Services and push for the Legislature to reform the state's sales tax collection system this year.
Brewer unveiled the proposals in her annual State of the State address Monday in which she also made a surprise announcement that she'll push for the expansion of the state's Medicaid program.
The governor told lawmakers that she wants more money for school resource officers to keep children safe from school violence like last month's shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
She also plans to add funding to reward schools that improve performance while implementing new curriculum standards.
Other key points in Brewer's speech to a joint session of the state Senate and House of Representatives include a task force to plan development of federal lands and a rejection of comprehensive immigration reform until the U.S.-Mexico border is fully secure.
Brewer said her budget will include money to add 150 new Child Protective Services workers. She said she wants emergency funding to hire 50 immediately.
The state has improved operations at CPS in the past year by creating a special law enforcement unit to investigate the worst cases. Officials have also overhauled the child abuse hotline reporting system, cut paperwork burdens and streamlined hiring, she said.
But Brewer said more needs to be done to address what she calls a "moral issue" of protecting children, including boosting foster care, adoption services and emergency placement for children needing rescue.
"We cannot strike evil from the hearts of those who would harm an innocent child," Brewer said. "But these common sense steps will help at-risk children get the assistance they need before it is too late."
Brewer also wants the Legislature to enact her proposal for a comprehensive simplification of the state's sales tax collection system.
The current system has so many twists and turns it is extremely difficult for businesses to pay what they owe, Brewer said. Business owners serving multiple cities must file multiple tax returns with multiple tax bases and undergo multiple audits, and the governor said she wants a system that entails just one form and one filing per business.
Cities and towns object to some of the proposals because they would lose money from new construction sales taxes. House Speaker Andy Tobin has said he's listening and open to changes.
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