Just as we always do this time of year, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry today kicked off the next legislative session with our annual Legislative Forecast Luncheon. This year’s edition was held at a packed Phoenix Convention Center, where the 1,000-person crowd had the opportunity to hear from Gov. Jan Brewer and state House and Senate legislative leaders about their vision for the 2013 session.
We also use the event as the Chamber’s opportunity to roll out our Business Agenda, and this year was no different. The Business Agenda outlines the top legislative priorities for Arizona’s business community. The Agenda, in addition to highlighting the Chamber’s priorities at the Legislature and in Washington, outlines the short and long-term goals for the Arizona Manufacturers Council and the Chamber’s policy issue committees.
In 2013, we’ll be working at a state level to:
- Support a world class education system, including the successful adoption of the Arizona Common Core Standards.
- Reduce health care costs for business and restore Proposition 204.
- Expedite business permitting and licensing requirements.
- Support sales and use tax uniformity and simplification.
- Reduce the insurance premium tax.
- Allow relevant military experience to count towards training requirements for professions that require a state license or certification.
I thought Gov. Brewer’s comments today were excellent. She spoke with conviction behind her contention that the state’s sales tax system – known in Arizona as transaction privilege tax, or TPT – is overly complicated and needs reform. She was backed up in that assertion by the comments from the panel. The Chamber looks forward to adding its voice to this choir that business needs a simpler TPT system, which will in turn lead to greater compliance. TPT reform will make a great next chapter in the tax reform that this governor and the Legislature have advanced the past two years.
I was also heartened to hear the governor make clear her support for Arizona’s Common Core Standards. These new rigorous education standards will play a big role in ensuring that Arizona’s students are prepared for higher education and the workforce. By raising the bar and our expectations, we’re also strengthening Arizona’s competitiveness, making our state even more attractive to job creators as an outstanding place to invest. The Chamber will be in full support of the full integration of the Common Core into Arizona classrooms and the transition from the current AIMS exam to the PARCC assessment, which will be closely aligned with the Common Core curriculum.
The governor also took the opportunity to reflect on a major accomplishment from last session, personnel reform. Because of the work of the governor and the Legislature, more Arizona state employees are treated like their counterparts in the private sector. Last year’s reforms are not just about making it easier to dismiss poorly performing state employees, but rather about making it easier to attract talent and position the state to retain its talented workforce. We were proud to have supported the governor’s personnel reform plan so vigorously.
During our panel featuring Senate President-elect Andy Biggs, Senate Minority Leader-elect Leah Landrum-Taylor, House Speaker Andy Tobin and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, I was encouraged by the comity (and a little comedy) on display from all four legislative leaders. While there are clear differences in ideology and policy, I know everyone in attendance was impressed by their commitment to service and doing the right thing for Arizona.
Like any legislative session, there will no doubt be some dust ups over the path the state should take in critical areas of importance like health care, education, taxation and regulation. But because of our governor and Legislature’s desire to ensure a bright future for our state, I am confident that 2013 will be an excellent year at the state Capitol.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry