Arizona is doing all it can to develop a more competitive tax environment in order to attract jobs, but we’re getting no help from the feds.
The state over the last few years has scratched and clawed its way on the road to economic recovery. Staring down 300,000 lost jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession, leaders in the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer passed two major economic development packages that, among other things, phase in a 30 percent cut in our corporate tax rate.
Because of our work, we’re moving up the rankings. If you’re looking for a place to invest and grow, Arizona has one of the top 10 business environements nationwide.
But we’re not just competing nationwide; we’re competing around the globe. The good news on corporate taxes on a state level does not apply to Uncle Sam. The federal tax system is a mess.
The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, a fact laid bare in a news analysis by The Tax Foundation. And we’ve had a stranglehold on this dubious number 1 ranking since 2007. To add insult to injury, the new report also says the U.S. corporate tax system is complex and unstable.
In her State of the State address last month, Gov. Brewer, not one to rest on her laurels as a tax cutter, called for the elimination of the sales tax manufacturers pay on their power consumption.
Days later, in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama, in front of a skeptical nation and Congress, called not for a complete overhaul of the corporate tax structure, but for a hike in the minimum wage, as if that would jumpstart a wheezing economy and get the nation back to work. One economist said of the latest in a series of tepid jobs reports, “2014 might not be a breakout year, but it’s not a disaster either.” No need to pop the champagne corks with an assessment as unenthusiastic as that one. So much for the president’s “year of action.”
The U.S.’ job-killing corporate tax system puts at risk the country’s standing as a world economic leader. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom finds that the U.S. is no longer in the top 10. A rotten tax system, combined with a dysfunctional immigration system, a health care law that is stifling innovation and driving up costs, and an education system that has us batting below the Mendoza line in woldwide rankings, all make for a country that is limping along.
Defenders of the status quo point to the many loopholes in our corporate tax system that makes it such that corporations rarely pay the highest possible rate. But even after all those credits and deductions kick in, our Marginal Effective Tax Rate still has us higher than other developed nations. We can also point ot our rule of law that protects intellectual property, or our relatively stable labor environment, but other countries have that, too. After a closer look, the U.S. looks like a perfectly average place to do business.
Arizona and other states are bending over backwards to improve their competitive standing, but there is only so much a state can do. In order to get help, we must first admit we have a problem. The next presidential candidates from both parties have to make reform of our corporate tax system a top priority if we’re going to get the economy moving again.
In the fight to grow jobs, Arizona and the 49 other states are fighting with one hand behind their backs. Until Congress and the president make corporate tax reform a reality, this drag on the U.S. economy will continue.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.