The first session of the 51st Legislature continued the momentum that started a few years ago in transforming Arizona into one of the best states in the country to do business. These efforts have not gone unnoticed. We are moving up the ranks on several key rankings: Chief Executive Magazine now ranks Arizona as the sixth best state for business in the country, the Kauffman Index ranks us as the number one most entrepreneurial state, and Arizona topped Forbes Magazine’s list of best states for future job growth. Moody’s Analytics just reported that Arizona is poised to have some of the best jobs numbers in the country in 2014. But, as always, there is still more work to be done.
This year the Chamber will be working to promote a world-class education system in Arizona, and we’ve tapped nationally recognized education expert and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan to lead the effort. The business community shares Lisa’s vision that all of Arizona’s students deserve to be in an “A” school, but only approximately 25 percent of our schools meet that standard today. Our efforts will include ensuring proper implementation of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards and funding for an assessment that aligns with these standards. We will also work to secure additional funding for schools based on their students’ success, and providing more opportunity for “A” schools to expand and replicate. As our students move on from high school, it is vital that we also ensure that Arizona continue s to be home to world-class higher education institutions. Additionally, we will explore ways to expand access to career and technical education.
In the area of tax reform, the governor and the Legislature have made significant strides over the past few years in improving the state’s corporate income tax, property tax, capital gains and in reforming our transaction privilege tax system. In the upcoming legislative session we will continue to make improvements to the tax system, such as through premium tax reform and ensuring that Arizona is more attractive to manufacturers.
This session the Chamber will also explore a set of reforms designed to make state government function better, which will help recruit candidates that can maintain Arizona’s tradition as a citizen legislature.
As part of our continuous effort to reduce legal and regulatory burdens on business, the Chamber will seek ways to clarify the standards for properly classifying an independent contractor versus an employee to decrease the amount of unnecessary audits from outside agencies. We will also seek to protect businesses from stolen confidential and proprietary information by strengthening penalties when such information is stolen from an employer. And our efforts to improve Arizona’s legal climate will continue as we work to reestablish the Industrial Commission’s role as the proper jurisdiction for bad faith claims.
While our primary focus is at the state level, there are key areas where we will turn our attention to Washington. Our top priority at the federal level is to reform our nation’s immigration system. The business community in Arizona will be constantly reminding our congressional delegation that immigration reform is too important an issue to kick down the road for another year. We echo U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue’s comments from his annual State of American Business speech that we are determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted.
Our 2014 Business Agenda is full of policies that will continue to improve Arizona’s business climate. We look forward to serving as the voice of the business community for another year, as we embark on what we believe will be another successful session in 2014.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.