Glenn Hamer

As we heard from Gov. Jan Brewer and the legislative leaders who addressed us today, the 2011 legislative session was notable for the adoption of a landmark economic development package. While other states are still crawling out from the economic downturn, Arizona acted decisively in declaring that our state is a great place to grow a business. From a phased-in nearly 30 percent corporate income tax cut, to business property tax relief to the transformational creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority, the governor and Legislature left no doubt that Arizona’s best days are ahead.

But the battle for new jobs never stops. As always, the Chamber in 2012 will be working hard to ensure that Arizona has a tax, legal and regulatory environment that puts us on the most competitive footing as possible for job growth. In conjunction with the Arizona Manufacturers Council and our public policy partners at the Arizona Small Business Association and the Arizona Tooling and Machining Association, the Chamber is fighting hard to promote public policy that will win back the 300,000 jobs we lost in the economic downturn.

Here’s a quick look at our 2012 priorities:

Continue regulatory reform

The Chamber will be supporting legislation that will promote streamlining and improved accountability by enhancing sunshine in the regulatory process, guarding against the improper use of substantive policy statements and by strengthening the review of possibly outdated regulations.

Ensure fairness and accountability for fee setting authority

We’re hearing from more and more members that they’re getting hit with increased fees at every turn. In 2012, we’ll be working to make certain that any fee increase put in place by a government entity is subject to strict accountability measures while ensuring that the fee is temporary in nature and is used exclusively to provide the specific services for which it is designed and not to fund the general operations of government entities or to help balance the state’s general fund. Increased fees should result in expedited service as well as offer a look at whether the service in question could be privatized.

Encourage tax competiveness

Last year’s hallmark competitiveness package had me popping champagne in celebration. This year we’ll be looking to build on 2011’s successes by providing investors with capital gains tax relief and encouraging business start-ups by instituting a more competitive net operating loss carry forward policy, whereby a loss can be deducted against profits in future years. And we’ll be working to ensure that the tax code is modernized where necessary, such as extending the same favorable treatment to service providers that was extended to manufacturers in last year’s session.

Support further tort reform

Tort reform is another area where employers made a lot of progress in 2011, making Arizona a national civil justice reform leader. We’ll be working with the Legislature and governor this year to ensure that manufacturers won’t be subject to punitive damages in product liability cases if state and federal regulations were followed properly.

Develop the Greater Phoenix area into the commercial hub for the Southwest United States

Arizona has great growth potential in the area of logistics and freight forwarding. The Chamber is in the in the midst of a collaborative effort with public and private sector stakeholders, including commercial airlines and cargo carriers, to undertake a planning and development process aimed at positioning the Valley to become a center for commercial transportation.

Reduce health care costs for business

The Chamber is always on the lookout for ways to reduce businesses exposure to the hidden health care tax, whereby employers and their employees end up shouldering a greater heath care cost burden due to inadequate Medicare and AHCCCS patient reimbursement rates and a growing population of the uninsured.

Plan for the implementation of a state insurance exchange

The Chamber strongly opposed the federal Affordable Care Act. But even as a Supreme Court challenge to the law’s constitutionality looms, it’s the law of the land. Arizona is better off preparing for the law’s implementation than it is getting caught flat-footed should the Court rule it passes Constitutional muster. To that end, the Chamber supports the development of a minimally regulated, state-based health insurance exchange so that the federal government does not impose a one-size-fits-all highly regulatory exchange upon Arizona. As Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb wrote in November, “Arizonans will ultimately have to pick up the cost of administering the exchange, one way or another. So, the question is whether it is better to have that tab and how it is paid decided by state officials or federal officials. That’s not a hard question to answer.”

Eliminate public financing for the Clean Elections system

Should public funds be used to bankroll candidates’ political campaigns? We don’t think so. In 2012, the Chamber will work to see that a measure is referred to the 2012 ballot to eliminate the public financing portion of the Clean Elections system so that public funds are no longer used to support state political campaigns and we will oppose legislation that would increase the base funding provided by taxpayers for the political campaigns of publicly financed candidates who are running against privately financed ones. Surely we can think of a better way to spend those dollars than on junk mail and yard signs. Kudos go to the Goldwater Institute and the Institute for Justice to ensuring that the matching funds portion of the publicly funded elections scheme was found unconstitutional. Now it’s time to finish the job.

Finally, we will continue to advance pro-business reforms across a host of other areas, including education, where we will seek opportunities to expand choice, improve outcomes and increase accountability as a means to creating a well educated pipeline of future Arizona workers.

Your Chamber advocacy team in 2012 stands shoulder to shoulder with you in the effort to make Arizona as job and employer friendly as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is a public policy challenge facing your business or industry that needs attention. See you at the Capitol!

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Read the 2012 Business Agenda here.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry