Governor Doug Ducey has delivered his State of the State address. Legislators have taken their oaths of office. The presidential inauguration is right around the corner.
This is the prime season for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
To guide our advocacy on behalf of the state’s job creators, we consult our Business Agenda. Each year the Chamber’s policy committees work diligently to put forth policy recommendations on a wide range of issues, from education, to health care, to taxation, to transportation and everything in between, all designed to make Arizona more competitive.
Our agenda is an ambitious one. Whether in Phoenix at the state Capitol or in Washington, D.C. in the halls of Congress, we’ll be on offense working hard to grow Arizona’s economy.
Big changes ahead in Washington
At a federal level, we are better positioned than we have been in years to achieve substantive policy victories on behalf of Arizona’s job creators.
Federal regulatory rollback and reform is at the top of the agenda. It’s time for Washington’s constant overreach to stop. Thankfully, big changes are ahead.
On the tax front, the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. It’s economic malfeasance. We’ll lead Arizona employers’ calls for a tax reform package to reach the president’s desk that contains a substantial corporate tax rate reduction and that reforms the personal income tax, which is especially important for our small businesses that file as individual taxpayers, all of which will make investment in the U.S. much more attractive than it is today.
A health care overhaul looms as well. We’ll work towards a health care system that promotes choice and flexibility, while ensuring our state’s unique needs are reflected in any reforms enacted at a federal level. Process matters. Obamacare was jammed through Congress in a raw partisan way. Now it’s unraveling, with the exchanges being the most glaring failure.
There is also opportunity on transportation, specifically Interstate 11 in Arizona, which would help realize the vision of a North American trade corridor linking Canada and Mexico. Our congressional delegation has successfully worked to win the highway the right designations, but now it requires funding. With the president-elect looking to make a move on infrastructure, I-11 – and Arizona – could be a winner.
Arizona wins with trade
This is not to say there will not be challenges. We will need to be vigilant to ensure that Arizona and the rest of the country remain a leader in global commerce by preserving or updating our existing trade agreements and pursuing new ones. Specifically, we will need an all-hands-on-deck strategy to remind lawmakers and the administration of the merits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and suggest improvements where necessary. And as we have always done on immigration, the Chamber will work with a broad coalition of business community partners to reach consensus and advance commonsense reforms.
Standing up for Arizona’s job creators
At the state Capitol, we’ll pursue an aggressive agenda focused on education, water, initiative reform and tort reform.
On education, we’ll work to advance reforms that ensure that our top-performing schools have the ability to expand and replicate. Too many of Arizona’s kids are stuck on waiting lists as families attempt to get them into better schools. We can also shape funding not only to reward achievement, but also to recognize the work of those schools that aremaking significant academic gains with low-income student populations . And we must also ensure that parents have access to reliable information that tells them how our schools are performing. While some are suggesting a go-slow approach on school accountability, the Chamber will advocate for a school grading system that parents can trust – and trust soon.
Water is an issue central to the state’s ability to thrive in the decades to come. Without water supply certainty, Arizona is at risk of a weakening economic development picture and a deepening federal involvement in its water management affairs. Thankfully, because of Arizona’s stewardship and expert management, our water supply position is strong. But we’re always planning for the future. The Chamber in 2017 will advocate for policies designed to stave off a declaration of Colorado River shortage, protect water elevations in Lake Mead, and seek federal development and state approval of the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
The Chamber each year for the last several years has advanced pro-business civil justice reform, affecting issues ranging from class action lawsuits to punitive damages to appeal bonds. This year the dramatic rise in frivolous litigation related to access for the disabled deserves our attention. We can pass commonsense reforms that protect business owners and the disabled alike.
There’s always more. Modernizing our transportation and infrastructure, protecting Arizona’s position as a defense and aerospace leader, and ensuring our state remains welcoming to cutting-edge businesses, will continue to be central to our agenda.
Initiative reform critically important
But no matter the progress we make on these big issues, our good work could be undercut at the ballot box, which is why initiative reform is so important. In 2017 we will seek to advance reforms that will add greater integrity to our citizen initiative process to ensure that out-of-state interests cannot so easily place their bad ideas on Arizona ballots.
Unless we act, Arizona’s competitive standing is at risk. Every day we hear of another Arizona business reducing employee hours, raising prices or going out of business because of Proposition 206. School districts across the state are grappling with how to pay staff. (No thanks to the Arizona Education Association, which helped fund this terrible initiative.) And the proposition’s proponents failed to account for the impact on the state budget in order to increase funding to state contractors – a failure that makes the entire initiative unconstitutional and is the grounds for our lawsuit challenging the measure.
We look forward to working with Gov. Doug Ducey, our congressional delegation and the state Legislature to advance smart public policy that positions Arizona to win in 2017.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.