Arizona: Bouncing Back in a Big Way

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With its reasonably priced real estate, spectacular scenery, and variety of climates, the State of Arizona is a premier destination for America’s retirees. Many a Baby Boomer has aimed his or her RV towards the Grand Canyon State. But over the past few years, Arizona has garnered its share of national media attention for far more sobering reasons, from the tragic 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tucson, to its controversial hardline stance on immigration, embodied by “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio.

Governor Jan Brewer is Arizona’s equally feisty Republican head of state. As you might remember, the governor was immortalized last year by a photo of her waving her finger and chastising President Obama as he stepped off Air Force One in Phoenix. She confronted him about his vocal criticism of her immigration policies and her book Scorpions for Breakfast, which dealt specifically with the murder of Arizona citizens at the hands of those who were in the country illegally. She also took the opportunity to hand him a handwritten letter on official State of Arizona stationery. The contents of the letter were subsequently released. In the letter, she cited their differences in vision, and then detailed the choices that her state had to make in order to improve the safety of its citizenry and turn around the lackluster economy that she had inherited.

Because Governor Brewer’s work is often overshadowed by her personal notoriety, it is easy to overlook the progress the state has made during her tenure. In an effort to increase business migration into the state, Arizona’s corporate income and property tax rates are set to fall by 30 percent from 2014 to 2017. The decrease will save businesses an estimated $270 million in taxes over those four years. In 2013, Arizona ranks 6th in the nation as best state for business, after rising four points in just one year. The Arizona Department of Administration forecasts the state will be adding 45,900 jobs in 2013, placing the state in the top 10 nationally for job creation.

Through responsible cost reductions, a 1-year, 1-percent increase in state sales tax set to expire this year, and increased revenue collection, the state has turned a $3.2 billion deficit in 2011 into a $401 million surplus. If you then add in $450 million already deposited into the state’s rainy-day fund, Arizona began fiscal year 2013 with a total $850 million cash surplus.

Arizona is also experiencing one of the nation’s most enviable real estate turnarounds. The Phoenix-area median home value rose 20 percent over the past year, 6 percent in March alone. Plus, Tucson was recently named the nation’s best market for investors.

As Governor Brewer stated in her letter to President Obama: “I’d love an opportunity to share with you how we’ve been able to turn Arizona around, with hard choices that turned out to be the right ones.”