Glenn Hamer

It’s tax time, and time for tax reform…Did you get your taxes in on time on Tuesday? It’s this time of year when the talk around the water cooler turns to how much we owe Uncle Sam.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has made tax reform a priority agenda item for 2012, but with sine die in sight, we need to keep a pro-growth tax bill moving through the legislative process.

House Bill 2815, legislation offered by Rep. J.D. Mesnard, seeks to treat capital gains at a state level similar to that of the federal government’s. The feds provide a deep discount on the tax rate assigned to capital gains, but here in Arizona, we treat them like regular income.

The Mesnard bill also seeks to extend to 20 years from our current 5 years the amount of time businesses carry net operating losses forward against future profits. Like capital gains, this is one of those rare areas in tax policy where the feds have a more competitive policy than we do at a state level. The feds and 26 other states have a net operating loss carry forward period of 20 years, so Arizona has plenty of room to improve there.

You can imagine that if you’re in the business of making big capital investments, the ability to spread those losses out over as many profitable years in the future is a major priority.

Back in January, Gov. Jan Brewer cited capital gains and net operating loss as two areas where she was backing reforms, and they make nice additions to last year’s once-in-a-generation competitiveness package that she and the Legislature worked on together so beautifully.

Speaker of the House Andy Tobin deserves a lot of credit for tapping the very bright and able Rep. Mesnard with shepherding the premier tax bill of the session, legislation that will make clear to the rest of the country and the world that Arizona is doing everything at its disposal to attract and retain jobs.

Solar heating up…Listening to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s upbeat State of the City address last week and his encouraging plans for growing the impact of solar energy in the Valley in the near future got me thinking about the positive activity surrounding the solar industry and renewable energy in Arizona.

The State Land Department and APS announced earlier this month that they’re partnering on the first-ever solar facility to be built on state trust land. The 400-acre Yuma County parcel will be home to a 35-megawatt APS Foothills Solar Plant.

Gov. Brewer commented that, “the project will bring quality solar jobs to Arizona and dollars to support our state’s public schools – all while utilizing Arizona’s most abundant resource, the sun, to generate clean and renewable energy.”

She further noted that this is “the first of many solar projects that will benefit the entire state and cement our status as the ‘Solar King.’”

Kudos to State Land Commissioner Maria Baier for her innovative thinking that will bring this new facility online.

Leisa Brug, the governor’s director of the Office of Energy Policy has done real work to raise solar’s profile in Arizona.

On the legislative front, the governor recently signed three pieces of important solar and renewable energy legislation: HB 2743 (school districts; renewable energy development), HB 2830 (energy & water savings account) and SB 1229 (tax exemption; residential solar electricity).

These bills provide incentives and guidelines to assist with the proliferation of solar energy for school districts, municipalities and individuals throughout Arizona. These are important and substantive steps in making our state the solar capital of the U.S.

Arizona tourism plays ball… Hope springs eternal this time of year. The start of the 2012 baseball season has many of us thinking ahead to October and another run by the Diamondbacks at a National League pennant and, just maybe, another World Series trophy.

These pieces start to come together every February when pitchers and catchers shake off their winter rust and report to Spring Training in Arizona and Florida.

For Arizona, turning the page on the calendar to a New Year means welcoming another tourist high season, including the economic powerhouse that is the Cactus League.

I can tell you that my relatives in New York do their best to arrange their vacation plans around Spring Training so they can catch some ball games and thaw out from the East Coast chill.

Two thousand and twelve was an outstanding spring for baseball in Arizona. Fourteen of the 15 Cactus League teams saw higher year-over-year attendance figures, and league-wide attendance was up over 5 percent from 2011.

The Cactus League was also home to the team posting the best attendance in Spring Training across both the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League in Florida. Our hometown Diamondbacks were the attendance champs, with an average attendance of 11,677 up 4.6 percent from last year.

When it comes to how our Cactus League stacks up against the Grapefruit League in terms of fan friendliness, it’s no contest. As someone who grew up following the Yankees and the Mets, I’d still rather spend Spring Training in the Cactus League, where the longest distance between ballparks is a mere 45 miles. In Florida, the longest trip between parks is 210 miles.

The Cactus League is one of Arizona’s crown jewels. It might not fit easily on a picture postcard like the Grand Canyon or Sedona’s red rocks, but perhaps more than anything, the Cactus League speaks to Arizona’s outstanding quality of life, making our state one of the most desirable places in the country to call home.

The Cactus League results in an over $350 million positive annual economic impact. It’s only every so often that we get a shot at the $500 million economic impact that is estimated to have resulted from the last Super Bowl in Glendale. But with Spring Training, it’s almost like a Super Bowl every year.

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