Author Archives: Glenn Hamer

baseball

Spring Training means big business

In 2012, the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, Cactus League Association, and a coalition of municipalities that host the Cactus League funded two different studies, conducted by Elliott D. Pollack & Co. and FMR Associates of Tucson, to examine the economic impact of the Arizona Cactus League. The studies revealed that Spring Training and the Cactus League facilities continue to benefit Arizona significantly, as overall attendance and revenue to the state have increased significantly since a similar 2007 study.

According to the studies, over 1.7 million people accounted for overall attendance, 56 percent of whom were visiting from out of state. That means exhibition baseball games brought in over 950,000 tourists to Arizona in 2011, an impressive haul for games sometimes featuring split squads and players bound for the minors.

The studies revealed that the median length of stay was 5.3 nights, with fans spending about $300 a day. Those are valuable imported dollars flowing into Arizona that states in the polar vortex wish they had.

Spring Training is getting bigger and better. The studies estimate that during Spring Training the Cactus League is responsible for over $420 million of total revenue in Arizona. When the original study was conducted, Arizona hosted only 12 of the 30 major league teams. In 2009, however, three teams moved out west and joined the Cactus League, giving both leagues an even 50/50 share.

But the good news doesn’t stop when teams pack up and head home. The league’s facilities accounted for additional revenue for the state through a number of off-season events like concerts, baseball tournaments, festivals, races, and a number of other profitable functions. In total, the Cactus League has an annual impact of $632 million, and the latest attendance numbers suggest that number is only getting bigger.

The rapid increases in attendance and revenue should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s had a chance to check out a game recently at any of the great ballparks in the Phoenix area. I had the thrill a few weeks ago of throwing out the first pitch at the Goodyear complex shared by the Indians and Reds, and I was blown away by the incredible amenities and the access fans have to their favorite players. (This lefty fireballer is still available for a bargain price to start the season, by the way.) That park along with Salt River Fields, Camelback Ranch and the new Cubs ballpark in Mesa are absolute gems.

We are able to host and benefit from these facilities because Arizona offers an ideal atmosphere for baseball this time of year, and proves a more desirable destination than Florida’s older Grapefruit League for both the fans and the teams.

Unlike Florida, Arizona is able to offer both terrific weather and all the stadiums within a 25-mile radius, allowing for fans and scouts to see multiple games in a single trip. The convenience (and lack of giant Florida bugs) gives the Cactus League the win by a long-shot.

But the numbers make clear that the Cactus League is about more than baseball and tourism; we should think of it as its own industry, vital to Arizona’s economic success. Remember that Spring Training in Arizona was created as a business-generation push by local civic leaders who saw the power of baseball to lure both tourists and business owners to the sunny desert environment. It was about more than tourism when it began and it should be today as well.

The mild temps are nice, but we offer so much more to distinguish ourselves to businesses looking to expand. We shouldn’t rely on nice weather alone to support this industry. Palm Springs has nice weather, too, after all. Other communities would love to get a piece of the Cactus League pie. We should keep our guard up.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

Aerospace and defense industry - AZ Business Magazine March/April 2012

Arizona Jobs at Risk in Latest Defense Budget

The world is a dangerous place, which is why we should proceed with extreme caution when we consider big cuts to the Defense Department’s budget.

What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a reminder that there are existential threats to freedom and stability around the globe. In a time of escalating tensions worldwide, we don’t want to take tools out of our warfighters’ toolbox. As Sen. John McCain reminded attendees at a recent roundtable discussion with Arizona’s defense community hosted by Arizona Manufacturers Council Chairman Steve Macias, the world is getting more perilous, not less so.

The president on Tuesday released his fiscal year 2015 budget request, with the Defense Department coming in at $495.6 billion, $25 billion less than was projected a year ago. Those are big numbers. Obviously every sector of government deserves close scrutiny; in the federal government there’s almost always fat to be trimmed.

But let’s keep in mind that defense spending is a government responsibility enumerated in the Constitution. We’re not talking about the Railroad Retirement Board.

And there is a direct correlation between the defense budget and good paying Arizona jobs, where the defense industry is a major economic driver.

Defense jobs come with an average annual salary of $85,000, 41 percent above the average Arizona manufacturing salary. The top companies in the defense sector are represented in Arizona. Names like Boeing, Honeywell, General Dynamics and Raytheon dot the landscape in a sector responsible for over 30,000 jobs. These are the desirable, export-oriented jobs that other states are clamoring for.

These manufacturing jobs can thrive here because of all Arizona has done to make the state more attractive to these job creators. Reforms like a reduction in the corporate income tax, property tax relief, and a tax calculation that makes Arizona more competitive for companies that build products here but sell them outside our borders have all made the state a better place to do business than it was just a few years ago.

This year Gov. Brewer has again made manufacturing competitiveness a top priority. In her State of the State address this year, she called for an elimination of the sales tax that manufacturers pay on their electricity consumption. Arizona is one of the few states that charges sales tax in such a way.

Our nine military installations are important, too. We cheered when Luke Air Force Base was named as an F-35 training facility. However, we must also be cognizant of the impact of potentially phasing out the A-10. This could have significant implications for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and southern Arizona’s economy. While the current trend might be towards unmanned aircraft, until that technology is ready to replace manned missions, the A-10 is still important.

Tucson-area Rep. Ron Barber called the A-10 “an invaluable aircraft for our military, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the Tucson community.” Rep. Trent Franks and Sen. McCain, with their spots on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and the rest of our delegation members are vocal supporters of Arizona’s defense jobs

We appreciate our congressional delegation’s support of our armed forces, as well as Arizona’s defense and aerospace industries. We would encourage all of our members of Congress to advocate for an Arizona-friendly budget that supports a strong defense system.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

money management

Wage laws hurt young and poor

President Obama this year has been making noise about wanting to hike the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour and then indexing the wage to inflation. That means the hourly wage would go up every time the cost of living goes up.

The latest Gallup poll finds that over 75 percent of Americans would support raising the hourly minimum wage to $9. Voters in New Jersey backed up that data earlier this month when they voted to raise the Garden State’s minimum wage to $8.25 and tie future increases to inflation.

It might be politically popular, but raising the minimum wage is terrible policy.

Minimum wage laws hurt the very people they’re intended to help. The poor who would benefit most from an entry level job find themselves shut out as employers have fewer dollars to devote to new hires.

Teenagers looking to grab that first rung on the career ladder are presented dwindling choices as jobs for young people with little experience become increasingly scarce.

Teen employment rates are dismal and they’re getting worse. In 1999, more than 50 percent of teens age 16-19 had a summer job. By the summer of 2013, only 32 percent of teens were off the couch and earning a buck, prompting one economist to call this “a Great Depression for teens.” For all of 2012, Arizona’s teen unemployment rate was a staggering 28.9 percent, one of the highest in the country.

Young people are the most likely to seek out minimum wage-level positions and to be hurt by wage hikes that eventually freeze them out of the job market. Just over half of minimum wage earners are between 16 and 24.

While the president’s proposal is unlikely to gain traction in a GOP-controlled House, Arizona unfortunately has already chosen to go with the automatic inflation index option. Passed by voters back in 2006, Arizona law says that employees earning the minimum wage get an automatic raise every January based on the consumer price index. In January 2013, workers saw the minimum wage go from $7.65 to $7.80. In a matter of weeks when we flip the calendar to 2014, the hourly rate will go up another 10 cents to $7.90.

As the Gallup data indicates, momentum around the country is solidly behind a minimum wage hike. With federal action unlikely, states are pushing a higher minimum wage. Five states this year, either through legislation or ballot measure, have hiked their minimum wage. Cities are instituting their own minimum wage laws, too, including our neighbors in the New Mexico cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. SeaTac, the community of 27,000 around the Seattle airport, just passed a $15 minimum wage, and Seattle’s mayor-elect says he wants his city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, too.

There is not only a real opportunity for business community leadership on this issue, but a responsibility, too. Unless the business community leads a conversation over the destructive power of minimum wage laws, employers will soon be saddled with unsustainable entry-level wages that will squash job growth, hurt the poor and stifle teens looking for a start. It’s time we make a move to change the momentum before it’s too late.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Garrick Taylor is the senior vice president of government relations and communications at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Hamer - June 2011-fornewsletter

Gap is Narrowing on Immigration Reform

Various Arizona Chamber and business leaders have made numerous visits to Washington, D.C. over the years to push for reform of our nation’s badly broken immigration system. As a border state, we understand this issue well. For years, the business community in Arizona has been pressing Congress and the Administration for a secure border, workable visa and guest worker programs, nationwide employee verification programs such as E-Verify, and a way for those who did not enter the country legally but are now contributing to our state to get right with the law, especially those brought to this country as children. The failure of the federal government to act resulted in Arizona and many other states trying to do immigration reform on their own, resulting in a patchwork of policies nationwide.

But it is obvious today that all roads to reform lead through Washington, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. U.S., which held that state attempts to regulate immigration were preempted by federal immigration law.

This past Tuesday, when a group of about 20 Arizona business, faith and law enforcement leaders visited with all nine of our U.S. House members, we were not alone. Over 600 leaders from over 40 states took to Capitol Hill to urge House Members, with a focus on the Republican majority, to support bringing legislation to the floor this year.

I had the privilege to address the gathering on Monday night at the opening reception to discuss why reform is so important and beneficial to our economy and security. Our country’s greatest comparative advantage is that the best, brightest and hardest workers from across the globe desire to work in our country.

Before we hit the Hill on Tuesday, we gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to prepare. The U.S. Chamber and their Senior Vice President Randel Johnson have been the lead business organization on this entire reform effort. At the kickoff meeting we heard from conservative icon Grover Norquist, who made the free-market case for reform.  Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Rebecca Tallent of the Bipartisan Policy Center remarked that all credible studies of reform point to significant economic and budgetary benefits. Fresno County (Calif.) Sheriff Margaret Mims made a compelling case for the increased security reform could bring. Faith leaders offered a humanitarian case for reform, and our delegation was joined by a number of pastors working in coordination with a coalition called Bibles, Badges and Business.

While in Washington, we had the good fortune to run into ASU President Michael Crow, who is a strong supporter of reform. Our universities would benefit enormously from federal action. As Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein says, “Our ability to produce a highly-skilled workforce and thriving research enterprise that stimulate a growing, vibrant economy for Arizona will be strengthened by balanced immigration laws that promote access to education and economic opportunities.”

Our conversations with our House delegation were positive. While it is fair to say that there were differences in approach, all of our representatives agree that our nation’s immigration system is badly broken, and I believe that they all want to have a hand in getting it fixed.

While we are very proud and thankful for the hard and good work of our two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, in crafting the Senate immigration proposal, it is clear that the House, as is its right, will draft its own plan and proceed with a series of bills as opposed to an omnibus. In fact, five different bills ranging from border security measures to efforts to fix some of our visa problems in the high-tech and agricultural sectors have passed two different House committees.

All agreed that we need to enhance our border security. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery offered some suggestions on changes that would allow for him to be more effective in assisting in border security. Nationwide use of E-Verify, a system already in wide use in Arizona due to the requirements of the Legal Arizona Workers Act, is another common area of support. And all agree on the need for visa reform, although there are some differences in scope. There may be an effort in the House to expand on the number of lower-skilled visas available as compared to the Senate bill.

The most difficult issue is how to deal with the 11 million who did not enter this country legally. There is growing support for some type of legalization, and even citizenship for the Dreamers, those individuals brought to the U.S. as children. But it is hard to imagine the citizenship language in the Senate bill passing in the House.

Although there are differences between the Senate and House, those differences are narrowing. But as one of our congressmen told our group, if the House is faced with making an all or nothing choice when considering the Senate legislation, the House will go with nothing.

Hard work will be required to get a package passed. This is not naming a post office. This could be the first significant immigration legislation to pass since 1986. This will take real leadership from Congress and the White House, where our president needs to channel his inner Bill Clinton and put on the charm on Capitol Hill.

Leadership from the business community will be required, too. If the House considers reform this year, job creators from across the country should welcome the opportunity to help broker a deal between the House, Senate and President Obama. We’re doing our part in Arizona, and we’ll keep at it until a deal gets done.

Postscript: I want to thank everyone who joined our team to urge Congress to pass an immigration reform package.

Barry Broome, President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Lea Marquez Peterson, President and CEO, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney
Jack Harris, former police chief, City of Phoenix
Mary Ann Miller, President and CEO, Tempe Chamber of Commerce
Chad Heinrich, Vice President of Public Policy and Economic Development, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Vice Mayor Tony Rivero, City of Peoria
Steve Moore, President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pastor Gary Kinnaman
Pastor Bob Hake, Orangewood Church, Phoenix
Pastor Dan Steffen, Pure Heart Christian Fellowship, Glendale
Nan and Dick Walden, Farmers Investment Co., Sahuarita, Ariz.
Russell Johnson, President and CEO, Merchants Information Solutions, Inc.
Adam Estle, Bibles, Badges and Business
Brett Hunt, Bibles, Badges and Business

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

Manufacturing Companies

High tariffs put manufacturing in the rough

Arizona has a rich golf history. We have hundreds of outstanding courses throughout the state, ranging from affordable municipal courses to Golf Digest five-star offerings. We’re host to top-flight tournaments like the Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain and the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the PGA tour’s best attended event. Our state universities’ golf programs have produced superstars like Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorrenstam. It is estimated that the golf industry contributes nearly $3.5 billion to Arizona’s economy annually.

But perhaps one Arizona company has contributed more than any other to golf in this state, an impact felt around the world and throughout the sport. By creating the tools of the golf trade, Karsten Manufacturing Corp., the producer of PING golf equipment, has transformed the game by creating custom-fit, technologically advanced clubs used by golfers ranging from PGA tour champs to weekend duffers. A look at Golf Digest’s Hot List is like browsing through the company’s product catalog.

By all measures, Karsten Manufacturing is an American success story, reaching the pinnacle of its industry and sustaining nearly a thousand U.S. jobs today. For over 50 years the company has weathered the ups and downs that come with growing a business in this country, navigating a tax and regulatory environment that has seen many of Karsten’s competitors head overseas. But keeping the company’s manufacturing operations here in Arizona is becoming increasingly difficult due to import tariffs that, when combined with higher taxes, stiffer regulations and rising health care costs, make it difficult to compete in a global business.

Congress in years past has attempted to relieve U.S. manufacturers of these tariffs by passing numerous Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs), which remove or significantly reduce tariffs on items that are generally unavailable from U.S. suppliers.

In 2006, President Bush signed an MTB that eliminated import duties on incomplete golf bags that would be assembled in this country. Prior to passage of the MTB, the golf bag tariff was at 7 percent. The MTB signed by President Obama in 2010 took the tariff on incomplete bags with dividers to 1.5 percent. These more favorable tariffs allowed PING to move its golf carry bag production to the U.S. from Mexico. Even while the golf industry as a whole was struggling during the Great Recession, PING trained dozens of workers to begin bag production at the company’s Arizona facility.

But the last MTB expired at the end of 2012. Manufacturers like PING are again forced to pay higher tariffs on materials central to the assembly process, causing costs to spike and putting American jobs at risk. Unbelievably, golf equipment manufacturers like PING are now faced with higher tariff rates on golf club heads than tariff rates to import an entire completed golf club. These tariffs effectively penalize and create a competitive disadvantage for those companies who wish to keep production in the U.S.

Passage of a new MTB isn’t some special deal for PING or the golf industry. Rather, it is leveling the playing field for U.S. companies who wish to retain U.S. jobs and manufacture here rather than abroad. Manufacturers across the entire economy are faced with rising costs on goods not readily available here at home. The MTB process is a bipartisan and transparent one, designed to ensure that one manufacturer doesn’t use the process to gain an unfair advantage on a competitor. The hundreds of tariffs up for review in the MTB cannot exceed a budget impact of over $500,000 each.

It’s time for Congress to pass a new MTB. The U.S. Job Creation and Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013 (H.R. 2708) is sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee awaiting action.

In a dysfunctional Washington, U.S. manufacturers aren’t holding their breath any time soon in expectation of major reforms to our country’s tax code and regulatory system. But Congress can pass straightforward pro-growth legislation without partisan rancor. Enacting a new MTB is something we can do now to help companies like Karsten keep good jobs here in the U.S.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

Show Phoenix Pride, Photo: Michael Ruiz, Flickr

Arizona’s rocky relationship with the EPA

I’d imagine that the speechwriter preparing President Obama for his visit to Phoenix this week was hard pressed to come up with many highlights in the White House-Arizona relationship. We’ve had a rocky marriage over the past five years.

From health care, to tax policy, to labor relations, the administration has made it harder to do business and win back the jobs lost in the economic downturn. Especially in the area of environmental regulation, Washington’s overreach has put Arizona jobs at risk. That the president would focus his speech this week on homeownership and economic recovery while presiding over an Environmental Protection Agency that is seemingly working against such a recovery, is rich with contradiction.

You’ll recall that the EPA set its sights on the greater Phoenix area’s air quality after high particulate levels were identified following dust storms. The agency threatened sanctions over the high readings, which put at risk over $1 billion in federal funds, threatening Arizona highway projects and the jobs that come with them. Arizona was placed in an impossible predicament: either learn how to control the weather, or face stiff penalties.

Thanks to the leadership of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the state has been able to stave off the sanctions and is working with the EPA on a long-term plan to reduce particulates. Sen. Jeff Flake is working diligently to ensure that EPA’s revised “exceptional events” rule, as it is known, does not harm Arizona.

The EPA is also at the center of the future of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Plant, which delivers power to Arizona ratepayers and to the Central Arizona Project.

Once again, the EPA placed Arizona in a terrible spot. Salt River Project, NGS’ operator, was presented two undesirable options: Spend hundreds of millions of dollars to install technology at the plant in hopes that it would have a substantive effect on visibility at the Grand Canyon and pass muster with the feds, or begin to take the plant offline. Either way, Arizona jobs are in peril.

So give credit to SRP and its partners in a technical working group for arriving at a responsible counter proposal to the EPA that reflects current and future economic and environmental considerations.

Under the deal, which will allow for the continued operation of NGS, one of the plant’s units will be shut down by 2020, with the rest of the units getting the retrofit technology by 2030. The closure of the plant would be delayed until 2044.

It’s a bitter pill. As Rep. Paul Gosar recently wrote, “the closure of the plant and the reduction in productivity will result in a reduction in our energy supply and higher costs.” But although it might be the regulatory equivalent of kissing your sister, it’s better than pulling the plug now or installing the technology and passing on the costs in one fell swoop to power consumers. I agree with Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb, who observed that Arizona stakeholders have “no alternative course with a reasonable prospect of a better outcome.”

President Obama says he supports an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. But at the White House, “all” apparently doesn’t include coal. If it did, we likely wouldn’t be having this conversation on NGS. The Kayenta Mine, operated by Peabody Energy and which supplies NGS with coal, employs more than 400 workers and has generated over $1 billion in royalties to the Hopi and Navajo tribes, a significant economic impact now in jeopardy.

If only the president could adopt an all-of-the-above strategy for job creation and give his EPA a timeout.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

Hamer - June 2011-fornewsletter

Time to vote yes on immigration bill

If you were worried that the Gang of Eight’s immigration overhaul efforts didn’t sufficiently address border security, then then amendment filed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-ND) should put any fears to rest.

Sen. Hoeven last week said his amendment language is “almost overkill.” It’s not almost overkill, it is overkill. But it might be exactly what’s needed for legislation to get passed by the Senate and head to the House of Representatives.

There’s a $30 billion price tag attached to Corker-Hoeven, but if a bill gets to the president’s desk it will still be a bargain, following the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis that comprehensive immigration reform will reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and $700 billion in the next 20 years.

Consider the amendment’s border security provisions:
Adds another 20,000 agents to the ranks of the Border Patrol.
Calls for 700 miles of border fencing.
Deploys to the border technology like cameras and unmanned aerial systems currently used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of this is hoped to add up to a 90 percent effectiveness rate in apprehending or preventing illegal crossings.

For a border state like Arizona, which represents only about two percent of the U.S. population but at one point saw as many as 50 percent of illegal crossings into this country take place along our border with Mexico, such a surge of border enforcement resources is unprecedented. With estimates that a border surge would result in a Border Patrol agent every 1,000 feet, Arizona is poised to receive a huge injection of federal dollars and resources.

Just as important are the underlying bill’s effects on the U.S. workforce and economy. The bill creates a new W visa, improves the visa program for agricultural workers and has a raft of other improvements to our visa system that will make it much easier for the needed labor of all skill levels to enter the U.S. legally.

As Tamar Jacoby of the pro-reform group ImmigrationWorks USA has said, if we improve the legal pathways to work in the U.S., we will at the same time also improve border security.

The Wall Street Journal recently editorialized that the Corker-Hoeven amendment should meet the demands of those senators who’ve been clamoring for “border security first” throughout this immigration debate. Frank Sharry, the executive director of another pro-reform group, America’s Voice, said, “If you’ve been saying you want more border security so that you can vote for the bill, and you still don’t vote for this bill, you just have to say that there are other motives (for voting no).”

This entire debate has offered a lesson in political leadership. Big challenges like immigration require big ideas and leaders willing to take a risk. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are doing the serious work of the American people. When they succeed, the rewards for Arizona’s economy and security will be immense.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.  

sales.tax

Arizona Business Community Supports HB2111

The undersigned organizations and businesses want to express their strong support for the passage of HB2111 with the floor amendment that will be offered by Senator Steve Yarbrough. This final amendment represents major concessions to address concerns that have been expressed by the city representatives.

This final amendment reflects the cities’ request for a separate online portal for the collection of sales taxes in the 18 non-program cities. In addition, the amendment reflects the cities’ demand to maintain the authority to audit single-location businesses in their city. Lastly, the amendment removes all of the changes to prime contracting tax except for the trade and service contractors.

While the Yarbrough amendment reflects major concessions to the cities that undermine some of the important reforms recommended by the Transaction Privilege (Sales) Tax Simplification Task Force, we believe this final proposal still reflects historic progress that deserves final passage.

The Senator Yarbrough floor amendment will provide for the following:

* Single Point of Administration – the Department of Revenue (DOR) will become the single point of administration and collection of TPT. However, at the request of the cities, there will be a separate online portal for the 18 non-program cities. Despite this concession, the cities remain opposed because they want to continue to require businesses making paper sales tax remissions to pay the state and city separately. Their proposal provides most small businesses no administrative relief from making multiple payments to multiple jurisdictions each month.

* Single and Uniform Audit – DOR will administer a standardized state audit program where all state and city auditors are trained and certified by DOR. Despite major concessions from the business community to allow cities to continue to audit local businesses, the cities continue to push for further changes that will undermine much needed reforms to standardize state and local audits.

* Trade/Service Contracting Reform – Service contractors working directly for an owner to maintain, repair, and replace existing property would pay tax on materials at retail and not be subject to the Prime Contracting Tax. During Task Force deliberations, the cities repeatedly conceded that this area of the prime contracting tax was problematic and should be changed. However, after almost a year of study and discussion, they have offered a change to the taxation of service contractors that provides no administrative relief and couples that change with a request that the state give the cities $80 million from use tax collections.

Arizona’s chaotic and dysfunctional sales tax system has been the subject of considerable controversy at the Capitol for over 30 years. The creation of the Task Force, as well as the appearance for the first time that the cities recognized the need for reform, gave Arizona businesses great hope that this system would finally be reformed. We strongly encourage state policymakers to pass a sales tax reform bill that is grounded in sound tax policy and focuses on reducing the extraordinary compliance costs on Arizona businesses.

Kevin McCarthy, President, Arizona Tax Research Association
Michelle Lind, Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Association of REALTORS
Bas Aja, Executive Vice President, Arizona Cattlemen’s Association
Glenn Hamer, President & CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce
Steve Macias, Chairman, Arizona Manufacturer’s Council
Francis McAllister, Chairman, Arizona Mining Association
Courtney LeVinus, Arizona Multihousing Association
Michelle Allen Ahlmer, Executive Director, Arizona Retailers Association
Steve Chucri, President/CEO, Arizona Restaurant Association
Rick Murray, Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Small Business Association
Steve Zylstra, President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council
Greg Turner, Vice President, Senior Tax Council, Council On State Taxation (COST)
Lisa Rigler, President, Small Business Alliance AZ
Todd Sanders, President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Tom Franz, President, Greater Phoenix Leadership
Connie Wilhelm, President, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Tim Lawless, Chapter President, NAIOP
Farrell Quinlan, Arizona State Director, NFIB
Ronald E. Shoopman, President, Southern Arizona Leadership Council
Scot Mussi, President, The Arizona Free Enterprise Club
Matt Beckler, Vice President, Treasurer & Chief Tax Officer, Apollo Group, Inc.
Steve Barela, State & Local Tax Manager, Arizona Public Service
Steve Trussell, Executive Director, Arizona Rock Products Association
Michael DiMaria, Director of Legislative Affairs, CenturyLink, Inc.
Gayle Shanks, Owner, Changing Hands Bookstore
Michelle Bolton, Director of Public Affairs, Cox Communications
Nikki Daly, Owner, Flair! Salons
David Karsten, President, Karsten’s Ace Hardware
Reuben Minkus, Minkus Advertising Specialties
PetSmart, Inc.
Tina Danloe, General Manager, Pima Ace Hardware
Molly Greene, Senior Government Relations Representative, Salt River Project
Les Orchekowsky, President & Co-Owner, Sierra Ace Hardware, Inc.
Ann Seiden, Administrator/Corporate Public Affairs, Southwest Gas Corporation
Joseph Hughes, Director of Government Affairs, U.S. Airways
Walgreens Co.

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

immigration

Visa reform needed to move country forward

And so it begins. After six years since the last substantive debates over immigration reform, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week began hearings on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, the title of the legislation borne out of the months-long work of the bipartisan Gang of Eight, which includes Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

The bill is a needed recognition that we need to boost border security in certain areas, including southeast Arizona, and find a realistic and humane way to deal with the estimated 11 million individuals who are not in the country legally.

But the bill also offers desperately needed visa reforms at both the high-skilled and low-skilled ends of America’s economy. The bill fills the shortage of high skilled workers by increasing the H1-B visa cap that fits our 21st century economy. As Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president for Microsoft, testified at last week’s hearing, “The current system does not meet the needs of today’s economy, and it must be reformed to enable ongoing innovation and economic growth.”

The bill:
Removes the numerical cap on green cards for researchers, scientists, PhDs and certain physicians;
Allocates 40 percent of employment-based visas to advanced degree-holders in critical areas and to individuals who have earned advanced degrees in the sciences from a U.S. university;
Increases to 40 percent the percentage of visas for skilled workers;
Creates a startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to emigrate to the United States to startup their own companies; and
Raises to 110,000 the cap on H-1B visas from the current 65,000, with the ability to go as high as 180,000.
Tech groups are enthused with the bill, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leading the charge for its passage with the formation of a nonprofit advocacy group called FWD.us. The group has a broad coalition of industry leaders, including the Arizona Chamber, who believe the time is now for developing an immigration system that meets both our security and economic needs.

When it comes to high-skilled workers the numbers say it all. Fifty seven percent of engineering graduate students are immigrants, and if the immigration system is left unchanged many of these students will be forced to leave the U.S., taking their knowledge and expertise with them to other countries.

In a country in need of entrepreneurial leaders, immigrants are unmatched; 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. The ethos of America has been to bring the best and brightest from around the world, and the Senate’s bill does just that.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, someone who will play a key role in advancing a reform package through the House, has wisely framed the debate in economic terms, telling The Wall Street Journal, “We believe in pro-growth economics. We believe in entrepreneurialism. Well, that’s immigration.”

If Arizona plays its cards rights and capitalizes on the knowhow of the Arizona Commerce Authority, our state can leverage a revamped high-tech visa system and our welcoming business climate to make Arizona an innovation capital rivaling anywhere on earth.

Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio has called the bill a “starting point.” Considering that the package aggressively improves the country’s high tech talent pool, I’d call it a heck of a good start.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

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Creating high performance schools

A central part of this year’s state budget debate is over Governor Brewer’s Performance Funding proposal for district and charter schools. Her plan helps ensure that tax investment in our schools yields measurable results.

Employers from across the state have fought against across-the-board cuts to our K-12 system, and we’ve supported the governor’s budget request to help make new, more rigorous standards successful. But we cannot support millions of dollars in additional new funding without some exchange for true accountability. Lest we forget, the voters agreed with this premise last November when they overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have raised taxes for education, but with little oversight in how the dollars would be spent.

A modern school funding system should be based on transparency, giving parents the information they need to choose schools and to choose communities in which to live and work. And the job creators we work hard every day to keep and recruit deserve a system that makes clear that our elected leaders are serious about excellent educational outcomes that prepare today’s kids for tomorrow’s jobs.

For more than a decade we have been building and adjusting such a system. We started with school accountability that tells us how schools and districts perform. We articulate this information using the same A-F letter grades that our students receive. More recently, Arizona implemented a teacher and principal evaluation system to ensure schools intervene with struggling educators, amplify the impact of high performing teachers and engage all educators in between.

These and other mechanisms implemented thus far seem to be moving the needle in most schools and providing the kind of transparency education hawks have demanded. But some persistent challenges remain. With billions of taxpayer dollars going to fund our K-12 system, Arizonans are demanding accountability that doesn’t just advertise performance, but also predicates some amount of schools’ annual funding – particularly hard-to-get new resources – on learning outcomes.

In response, the governor is proposing a first-of-its-kind model for schools to earn more funding than they currently receive. What’s really revolutionary is that a small amount of their current funding will be on the line as well. This percentage will grow over the course of the next five years.

Under Gov. Brewer’s plan, districts and charters at all performance levels can earn new dollars for improving their outcomes. For schools that reach state performance levels, even more money can be earned. But the greatest earning potential is in doing more than before, rather than being rewarded for perpetuating the status quo, the theme of the current funding model.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for a redesign of the education funding system that provides the right incentives to focus on outcomes rather than just seat time. The governor has proposed a modest move towards such a model. For fiscal year 2014, 1 percent of total funding is set aside for this model, reaching 5 percent at the end of five years.  One third of the funding would be from existing revenue, but nearly two thirds – more than $150 million by Year Five – would be new funding that all schools and districts would have an opportunity to earn simply by showing improvement.

A variety of reforms have been tried over the years and more will be tried during our time and after. Not all of them will work, but not trying at all is unacceptable. Combined with new standards, Gov. Brewer’s Performance Funding plan provides the right amount of tension in the system to move Arizona schools to the next tier.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.  

1st Quarter 2013 Report From The Arizona Chamber Of Commerce & Industry

With such uncertainty in the business world, the Chamber is proud to report what’s going right in Arizona.  In recent years Arizona has seen job-creating reforms in taxes, regulations, civil justice and education.

Arizona’s tax system is a model for other states, with reductions in corporate income tax and property assessment ratio.

Businesses have seen a reduction in rules and regulations as the Arizona Legislature ensured new state rules weren’t more stringent than corresponding federal law.

Arizona enjoys one of the better legal environments; businesses will spend more time on investment and innovation, not lawsuits.

In education, we now assign simple letter grades in school assessments and have tightened standards to make sure our third-graders are reading. For higher education, Arizona is moving towards a performance pay model to reward universities.

Currently, the Arizona Chamber is hard at work on tort reform, regulatory reform, tax reduction and Medicaid, among many other issues that will make Arizona a better place to do business.  For more information on the Chamber’s top legislative priorities for 2013, please visit www.azchamber.com.


Glenn Hammer, President and CEO
Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry
ghamer@azchamber.com; 602-350-0923

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Shine coming off the Golden State

The Tax Foundation in its 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index tells us something most of already know: California has high taxes. Really high.

In its state-by-state rankings, California checks in at 48, duking it out with New Jersey and New York at the bottom of the barrel. Breaking out the ranking in its component parts, California comes in at 45 for corporate taxes and 49 for individual tax rate.

The hits keep on coming. The California Taxpayers Association reports that California has the highest statewide sales tax in the nation and the country’s second-highest gasoline tax.

So it doesn’t take an economic development wizard to figure out that California’s pain could be Arizona’s gain. After all, while our governor and Legislature have been reforming Arizona’s tax code to make it friendlier to business, California has been going in the opposite direction.

As the Arizona Commerce Authority made clear last week in a presentation by ACA CEO Sandra Watson before the House Committee on Commerce, our state’s job creation authority is well aware that our proximity to California and our fertile jobs environment can drive job growth here at home.

But as Watson said in her testimony, “the opportunity in California goes way beyond a tax discussion.” The state’s California strategy is about opening doors to the world’s ninth largest economy and taking advantage of the opportunities our nearness to that market allows.

The ACA has set up offices in Santa Clara and Santa Monica where it has two executives working full-time as market representatives, spreading the word about what Arizona has to offer for firms exploring expansion, while also helping Arizona take advantage of the benefits our proximity to California has to offer, such as improved supply chain access.

As Chamber board member Pete Bolton of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank said at the same hearing, the tremendous growth in warehousing seen in the West Valley can be attributed to logistics. The area, according to Bolton is “zoned properly and that’s where the trucks come from. You get on I-8 and mostly I-10, it is a very serious line of trucks coming from the ports. The ports in Los Angeles distribute a huge amount of the products that we all consume.”

Sharing a border with California is advantageous to our other neighbors as well.  Currently, Texas and Mexico are tied for the 14th largest economies in the world and they, too, enjoy the access to California that Arizona provides. Arizona is well positioned to easily ship goods to market, while companies looking to hire California talent can set up shop in Arizona and have easy access to that talent pool.

As Watson pointed out, “Businesses generally don’t pay attention to a state border when they’re looking at access to markets. They’re going to ship their goods in and out, [and] they’re going to access the talent in those markets.”

Arizona is making tremendous strides in emerging technology and aerospace and defense. Having a flag planted in California, home to venture capital firms looking to invest in the next big thing, means opening doors for Arizona firms looking to be that next big thing. Beyond just access to capital, locating in Arizona means Arizona companies can enjoy the benefits of California without the high cost of doing business next door.

But the ACA’s strategy in California is more than just one state versus another or one region’s economic dynamism versus another’s. This is about global competition. By hanging a shingle in California, the ACA has access to the many multinational firms that call California home and is more easily able to interface with them to help Arizona companies reach customers around the world, especially since the world’s fastest-growing economies all have consulate offices in California.

Currently, the ACA has been in touch with over 200 potential leads and partners through their offices in California. Of those leads, more than 40 are truly qualified and are currently being pursued. The ACA is hopeful that more of those leads will become solid partnerships and that Arizona will continue to grow our presence within California. Greater Phoenix Economic Council President and CEO Barry Broome nailed it when he said, “California’s economy and Arizona’s economy are intertwined.”

But I close with a note of caution. For all that Arizona is doing right and California is doing wrong, let’s remember that the Golden State is our next door neighbor. While we’ve got the manicured lawn, our neighbor’s yard is overgrown with weeds and there’s a car up on blocks. It’s an eyesore and bringing down the value of the whole block.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is so concerned about the direction California’s taken that it’s launched the California Comeback, a policy initiative designed to help advance California’s recovery. A state with as much to offer as California is too important not only to Arizona but to the entire country to allow it to fail.

Admittedly, Arizona has much to gain by California’s struggles; we’re an escape hatch from their high taxes and stiff regulations. But we have so much more to gain when California makes a full recovery.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

Labor Unions, City of Phoenix

Grand Canyon-sized tax reform

The recent Grand Canyon Institute report “The Effects of Tax Reductions In Arizona: Significantly Reduced Government Revenue and No Apparent Impact on Economic Growth,” dismisses the bipartisan efforts to improve Arizona’s tax competitiveness over the past two decades and defies common sense.

Does anyone really believe that Arizona would be better off with significantly higher personal, corporate and business property taxes?

Yes, we need adequate revenues to fund the core areas of state government, including education, health care and criminal justice. But, without a healthy economy this task becomes very difficult. And reform efforts can be more valuable than simply new money.

A quick history lesson:

Former Gov. Symington got the party started with sharp decreases to personal income taxes. Gov. Hull kept it going by insisting those tax cuts continue. And while further reductions in the personal income tax may not have been at the top of her agenda, the fact is that then-Gov. Napolitano signed legislation reducing the personal income tax rate as well as reducing tax rates for business property and research and development.

Gov. Brewer and the architects of the last two major job bills, including Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams, took the matter of tax reform to a new level.  We have now put in motion tax reductions to business property – real and personal – capital gains, corporate income, sales factor for manufacturing and service industries, new job creation tax credits, bonus depreciation and even further enhancements to the R&D tax credit.

The evidence is clear that tax rates do matter. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the nine states with no personal income tax accounted for 62 percent of the three million net new jobs over the past 10 years despite representing just 20 percent of the country’s population.

And Steve Moore and Art Laffer’s recent report, “Rich States, Poor States,” found that Census data consistently shows that people choose where to live, engage in commerce, and invest based on economic competitiveness, driven primarily by low tax rates.

California is a perfect example of why tax rates do matter. We have written about Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods fleeing or preparing to flee the state due to excessive taxation. They are just two examples of a greater trend of athletes and other wealthy Californians looking to relocate. Could it be that these movers and shakers are looking for better weather? Less crowded beaches? Or simply looking to take their money to states where they can keep more of it?

So what is the bottom line? Arizona is now among the top-10 best states for business according to Chief Executive Magazine. We are in the game when it comes to significant job relocations for high-wage jobs that could go anywhere in the country and oftentimes the world.

Arizona’s economy is adding jobs at one of the fastest clips in the nation. We have been one of the fastest growing areas for population over the past two decades.

While we have made great progress, other states are not standing still.

Noting the success of Texas and Florida’s zero income tax rates, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana are looking to lower or eliminate their income taxes.

Rather than go backwards, let’s continue to make progress on our tax rates and improve Arizona’s ability to create jobs for our people.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

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Arizona Chamber Foundation issues Medicaid reports

The issue of Medicaid expansion continues to loom large in state policymaking circles, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s research arm, the Arizona Chamber Foundation, has produced new reports on this important topic.

The Foundation recently released a new Policy Brief titled The Business Case for AHCCCS Expansion. The brief outlines the impact of cost shifting and hidden health care taxes on Arizona businesses, along with the effect expansion of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System – AHCCCS – will have on the state economy and budget. It’s an excellent overview of the issue and the reasoning behind the growing support from governors throughout the United States, including Governor Brewer.

In addition, the Foundation has released a FAQ sheet to help individuals better understand what AHCCCS is and what voters passed into law when they adopted Proposition 204 in 2000. It’s an outstanding primer on the state’s best-in-class Medicaid program, the ballot measure that extended coverage to childless adults and the challenges facing the state posed by uncompensated health care.

I encourage you to dig into both of these publications and to share them with your network.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

Download Understanding AHCCCS and Proposition 204 and The Business Case for AHCCCS Expansion.

immigration

I love it when a plan comes together

This is a heady time for supporters of real immigration reform. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including our own John McCain and Jeff Flake, have announced their support for a framework of sweeping changes that have long been supported by Arizona’s – and the nation’s – business community.

It is natural that Senators McCain and Flake are at the forefront of this effort. They have been consistent voices for reasonable changes to our immigration system that will secure our borders and grow our economy.

We are seeing real leadership on display. To have a New York Democrat like Chuck Schumer standing next to Florida Republican Marco Rubio, someone who could easily sit this one out in order to protect his status as the latest potential GOP presidential nominee du jour, is an example of putting policy over politics that we could use more of.

That’s not to say that there aren’t politics at play here. Just look at the walloping the Republicans took from Hispanic and Asian voters last November to get a sense of why that party would be wise to alter its posture towards this fast-growing demographic. But as someone who has done his time in the trenches of partisan politics, a bold move like this one won’t necessarily earn valentines from grassroots activists.

Here’s the framework for legislative action on immigration reform that the senators laid out:

1.  Creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays;

2.   Improving our legal immigration system and attracting the world’s best and brightest;

3.  Strong employment verification; and

4.  Admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights.

This emerging framework and the cast of characters involved make me truly optimistic that there is a very real opportunity to advance immigration reform in 2013.

The desire to find a way to keep and attract high tech workers is especially encouraging. Even when unemployment was coming dangerously close to double digits, time and again I heard from employers who were having trouble finding qualified workers. Yet we have a visa system that will train up potential workers in sought after fields through our universities, and then wish them well as they head back to their home countries, and it’s almost a consensus item that we have to fix our broken agriculture worker visa system.

As the president said in his speech Monday in Las Vegas, “… the time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. […] I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”

The fact that the world’s most talented and hardest working want to come to the United States is an asset that no other country can claim. It speaks to the dynamism of our people, culture and economy. I can personally attest that it was a net win when my wife, Tali, and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Israel. Ask North Korea about how well they’re doing attracting new immigrants and you‘ll get a sense of how beneficial immigration can be to a country’s health.

We can secure our borders and secure our economy. Let’s get this done this year.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

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An open letter to Phil Mickelson

Dear Phil,

I read your recent comments about the crushing tax burden California has imposed on wage earners like yourself. You said that you might even move out of California. Allow me to suggest Arizona – your former home – as your next home.

Though my time playing golf is usually limited to courses where I try to hit the ball into a miniature windmill, you and I have a lot in common. We’re both left-handers. We’re both Arizona State grads, you with a Bachelor’s, me from the law school. You’re a member of the ASU athletics Hall of Fame. I enjoy watching ASU sports.

More importantly, though, we both understand the impact high taxes have on a state’s economy and its hard working residents. A high-tax environment drives capital and people out of state, which explains why California is currently experiencing an unprecedented exodus of wealth.

It’s apparent you’re not alone in your high-tax sentiments. Even your sometimes rival on the golf course, Tiger Woods, said California’s high-tax environment is why he left the state for Florida.

California’s current top income tax rate of 13.3 percent is a good enough reason to pack up one’s clubs and move on.

Sure, California has sandy beaches and sunshine, but that doesn’t dull the sting of paying out nearly half your income in total taxes. It’s hard to enjoy the ocean when you’re watching your hard earned money float out to sea.

Arizona has sunshine and sand (traps), too. And while California has been pursuing a flawed economic strategy, we’ve been making all the right moves.

Over the past two years, Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature have worked hard to make Arizona a state that is known for job growth and creation. They’ve decreased the corporate income tax rate, lowered the tax on business property and equipment, cut taxes on investment income and have made Arizona’s tax code more attractive to businesses selling goods and services outside our borders.  While California was raising its taxes (again), our voters rejected a massive permanent tax hike. We’ve also balanced our budget.

The per-capita income going to taxes in Arizona is just 8.7 percent, compared to the national average of 9.8 percent and California’s burden of 11.8 percent. That leaves more money for vacations to your favorite beaches (including those in California) or for purchasing a Major League Baseball team.

We’ve also cut back on unnecessary regulations, freeing up businesses to expand without the worry of frivolous government interference.  You can’t even go into a Starbucks in California without a Proposition 65 warning of the dangers of coffee.

All of these efforts have resulted in Arizona’s move up the leaderboard.  Arizona received the title of number one state for entrepreneurial activity in 2011 and was ranked a Top-10 state for business in 2012. We also ranked second – just behind North Dakota – for states with the best job-growth forecast.

I’ll put this all in terms you can appreciate:  If Arizona competed in The Masters of economic competitiveness, we’d end up with the coveted green jacket.

Phil, you know better than anyone that you can’t beat the golf here. You’re already a crowd favorite come Waste Management Phoenix Open time. So go pack your clubs and call the movers.

Just don’t take too long. I could really use some tips on my swing.

Sincerely,

Glenn

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

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Gov. Brewer, legislators ready to lead in 2013

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. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

Hamer - June 2011-fornewsletter

The 2012 Hammer Awards

It’s that time of year to hand out some honors for the year’s best. So it is without further ado that I bring you the Third Annual Hammer Awards.
Impact Player of the Year: State Treasurer Doug Ducey
The keeper of the state’s checkbook took down Proposition 204 in a rout, and for that Doug Ducey wins a Hammer. Before he arrived on the scene, the tax measure was poised to coast to victory with no opposition. Ducey rallied opponents to make a clear case to voters why Arizona could do better by its education system than to saddle the state with a permanent tax increase that wouldn’t advance proven reforms. Ducey hit the exacta when Proposition 118, which would help create a more reliable funding stream into the K-12 system, also passed.
Best Public Policy Effort of the Year: (tie) Personnel Reform and Competitiveness Package 2.0
Two major policy efforts in 2012 deserve Hammers.
Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature, led by Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin, were firing on all cylinders in 2012 with their passage of a sweeping personnel reform package that injects a new and much needed level of accountability and professionalism into the state’s employment system. Newly appointed Brewer chief of staff Scott Smith deserves kudos for shepherding the package through the Legislature with the help of two of  the state House ’s brightest rising stars, Justin Olson and Justin Pierce.
As if that weren’t enough, though, the governor and Legislature also passed a major economic competitiveness package in 2012 that built on the gains passed in 2011. Who says you can’t have back-to-back once-in-a-generation job creation bills? This year’s wins included the state’s first ever reduction in the tax on investment income (capital gains), and it now makes Arizona more attractive from a tax standpoint to service providers who sell their services beyond the state’s borders, bringing the service sector into alignment with manufacturers. Gov. Brewer’s lead policy adviser and tax guru Michael Hunter, state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, who was honored as the Arizona Chamber’s Representative of the Year, and Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson all deserve a Hammer for a job well done.
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Salmon
The Hammer goes to former and now Congressman-once-again Matt Salmon for his return to the U.S. House 12 years after he stayed faithful to his term limits pledge that he made when he was a member of the class of 1994. As someone who had the honor of spending a good chunk of his professional life working for Matt, the East Valley will be well served by its incoming congressman who, by having served three terms in the 1990s, brings to his job a perspective (and seniority) few have.
Expect Big Things: Steve Chucri
Maricopa County Supervisor-elect Steve Chucri is one to watch, so he earns the Expect Big Things Hammer. Steve is one of the most affable guys you’ll ever meet. Adding his voice to the Board of Supervisors will ensure that the needs of Maricopa County will always come before any personal political agenda. Drawing on his experience as the chief of the Arizona Restaurant Association, I expect he’ll inject a pro-business point of view into the Board’s work that will help Maricopa County grow more jobs.
Southern Arizona Star: Lea Marquez-Peterson
Lea Marquez-Peterson, the president and CEO of the fast-growing Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, wins the Hammer for her groundbreaking work to illuminate business issues for southern Arizona’s Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community. Through her work on votaaz.org, an online guide to candidates and election information, Lea is ensuring that more people than ever understand public policy’s impact on business.
I’ll Be Back: Kirk Adams
Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams may have come up short in his bid for Congress, but he’s simply too talented a leader and respected as a conservative voice to be gone from the scene long. Here’s hoping it’s won’t be too long until Kirk returns to a position of influence.
Emerging Mayor: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton
If I were pressed, I might be able rattle off the names of a dozen or so big city mayors around the country. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gets the Hammer Award for now having clearly joined that small list of mayors whose influence exceeds the borders of his or her city. Mayor Stanton and his colleagues on the Council are doing great things in Phoenix. The Mayor has taken the lead in advancing trade with Mexico, developing a biotech hub, education and pension reform. Because of Stanton and City Manager David Cavazos, when cities around the country are looking for best practices, they’ll look to Phoenix.
Councilmen of the Year:  Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot
Phoenix has dramatically reduced the time it takes to get a project through the permitting process, an initiative headed up by Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot.  This effort has received national attention, including from columnist George Will.
Buy this Stock: Danny Seiden
Danny Seiden, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s political adviser, wins the Hammer for being a stock to watch in 2013. He was on the inside of two big wins in the 2012 election cycle: the defeat of Props 204 and 121, the so-called open primary measure, all while working with Montgomery to return the office of county attorney to respectability. And to boot, he’s married to one of Arizona’s most talented women, Southwest Gas executive Ann Seiden. Buy this stock!
The Next Generation: Martinez and Romero
They’re barely old enough to rent a car, but Gretchen Martinez (formerly Conger) and Lorna Romero each wins a Hammer for representing the next generation of Arizona politics. Martinez was the successful No on 204 campaign manager while doing her day job directing advocacy efforts at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Romero last month was named Gov. Brewer’s director of legislative affairs, where she helps shepherd the governor’s priorities through the legislative process.
Serious Work for a Funny Man: Chris Bliss and the Bill of Rights Memorial
Professional juggler and comedian Chris Bliss wins a Hammer for his dogged determination to install monuments to the Bill of Rights in civic spaces across America. Thanks to Bliss’ work and legislation introduced by U.S. Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona last week became the first state to dedicate a monument. The limestone pieces with the words of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution can be found at Wesley Bolin Plaza at the state Capitol.
Former Roommate of the Year: Steve Voeller
This is no slight to anyone else who split the rent check with me during my 20s, but Steve Voeller wins the Hammer for Former Roommate of the Year for his tireless and effective tax policy work at the state Capitol as head of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. Steve is now headed off to serve as Sen.-elect Jeff Flake’s chief of staff. A trusted adviser for years to the senator-elect, Steve will be an excellent leader for the Flake office as he shuttles between D.C. and Arizona. The Chamber wishes him the best of luck in his new post.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.

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Governor’s task force making right moves on sales tax

One of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s top legislative priorities for 2013 is to simplify our state’s sales tax system.  Our sales tax is so complicated that you might be surprised to learn that Arizona does not technically have a sales tax. Rather, we have a transaction privilege tax (TPT), something that requires certain merchants to pay for the “privilege” of selling taxable items and a use tax, which is aimed at consumers who purchase certain goods to pay.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Jan Brewer and the state Legislature, we have made tremendous progress in tax reform over the past two years. Our corporate income tax rates, capital gains tax rates, business equipment and property assessments are all being reduced to put the state in a better competitive position and to win back the jobs we lost in the Great Recession.

But when it comes to the TPT and use tax, the state is out of kilter. After the expiration of the temporary one-cent sales tax in June 2013, our overall sales tax burden (state and local) will be among the 15-highest in the country. However, perhaps even more problematic than the tax rate will be the incredible complexity of the system, which places substantial administrative burdens on companies – particularly small businesses – and also leads both to willful and inadvertent tax avoidance.

Gov. Brewer on May 11 wisely issued an Executive Order establishing the Transaction Privilege Tax Simplification Task Force, premised on the following three points:

> Arizona has one of the most complex sales tax systems in the country;
> Taxpayers have expressed a clear desire to see reforms enacted that will modernize and simplify the TPT; and
> It is in the interest of taxpayers and state and local governments to make the tax code easier to understand, comply with and administer.

Lead by one of the state’s smartest and savviest tax and policy experts, the governor’s director of policy, Michael Hunter, the task force recently released a draft report. The report, which in an easy to digest 22-page document captures the group’s 17 meetings conducted over a five-month period.  The key recommendations:

State law should allow only a single audit, in accordance with existing statutory schedules, including a multi-jurisdictional audit if applicable.
The current tax structure for contracting activity is a mess and should be transitioned to a tax on materials at the point of sale, which if done properly should ease compliance and increase the overall pot of tax dollars available to local communities.
The State Legislature should act to ensure that Arizona is well-positioned to benefit from the taxation of online retail and remote sales.
The state, cities and towns should standardize TPT licensing
When fully implemented, the online portal required by legislation authored by Rep. Rick Gray (HB 2466) should be expanded to issue all TPT licenses and allow for all TPT tax returns to be filed through the portal.

These are all sound, commonsense ideas. While there is much work to be done to implement all of these recommendations, it is exciting that we have taken the first step to simplify a tax system so complicated that few Arizonans even know what it’s called.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

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Tackle Popular Immigration Reforms Now

Following the results of the election, there appears to be a real window in Washington, D.C. to do something meaningful on immigration.

The just reelected president has made immigration reform a first tier priority.  And many Republicans believe that dealing with this issue is essential to restoring to their party some attractiveness with the two fastest growing groups of immigrants: Asians and Hispanics.  Both groups clobbered the GOP in the election, with approximately 66 percent of Hispanics breaking for the president and Asians going into the president’s column at a whopping 73 percent.

The inability of Republican candidates to capture votes from these important demographic blocs is jarring. In 1996, the GOP Dole-Kemp ticket won 48 percent of the Asian vote. In his successful 2004 reelection campaign, President Bush won over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Much has changed.

But more important than any political gains to be had are the economic benefits. As American Enterprise Institute fellow Ben Wattenberg wrote a few months ago, immigration is a comparative advantage for the United States. We need to take full advantage of the fact that the best and the brightest, the hardest working people from around the world desire to work and live in the United States.  This isn’t a situation that we should run from. This is something we should fully embrace.

While there may be the urge to try to fix the entire immigration system in one fell swoop, an all-at-once approach imploded a few years ago.  A step-by-step approach focused on making incremental gains may make more sense.

Yes, we need to bolster security and continue to work towards operational control of the border, but we also need to work on other areas ripe for reform now.

The three areas that should be addressed first:  1) some sort of codification of the president’s mini-Dream Act; 2) a path to increasing the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and higher-skill visas; and 3) improvements to our existing temporary worker programs.

Already the president has gone forward via executive order with a Dream Act-type plan that provides a renewable work permit for those who entered the country illegally at a young age and who meet certain conditions, such as military service or enrollment in college.

Shoring this up via legislation is not necessarily dead on arrival in Congress. You will recall that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized the president’s process behind this new program, but he did not attack the substance.  And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had been working on a similar proposal to the president’s actions before the executive order.

On visa reform, the U.S. House as early as this week is poised to act on legislation that would increase the number of STEM visas and make it easier for those with green cards to bring over family members.  The trade-off would be an elimination of the diversity visa program.

The public support for reform is there. A poll conducted for the Arizona Business Coalition over the summer found support for the president’s action on undocumented immigrants brought here as children, with 56 percent of respondents favoring the president’s policy while 41 percent were opposed.  This proposal was supported by 76 percent of Hispanics with only 21 percent in opposition.

Regarding Arizonans’ support for a proposal similar to the STEM legislation to be considered by the House later this week, the results are clear. The same poll asked the following question:

“The proposal would create a new category of green cards for highly-skilled foreign students who have earned a masters or doctorate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from an American university and have received a job offer to work in the U.S. This would allow these foreign-born students to stay, work, and pay taxes here in the United States. ”

The results?  Eighty percent support and only 19 percent in opposition.

In addition to this STEM proposal we should pass something along the lines of what Sen.-elect Jeff Flake has proposed with his STAPLE Act, which would exempt international STEM graduates educated in the U.S. from visa quotas.

There is also support for addressing obvious U.S. temporary worker needs. Arizona voters were asked:

“In general, would you support or oppose a guest worker program that allows workers from Mexico to cross the border legally and register with American authorities to perform seasonal work on a temporary basis in Arizona?”

The results were 83 percent of respondents in support and only 16 percent registering in opposition.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is prepared to help advise policymakers on these items, and we’ve established new policy committees – Federal Affairs and Hispanic Business and Emerging Markets – to help provide the analysis they require.

Forgive the sports analogy, but if immigration were a baseball game, we’re down by four runs. It would be nice to hit a grand slam and solve all of our immigration challenges, but we can get the same results by stringing together singles and doubles.

There’s a real opportunity to make substantive reforms to our country’s immigration system. Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

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Advancing Arizona’s Heroes

This week, our nation took time to celebrate the enormous contributions and sacrifices of those who have served in our Armed Forces. Just in time for Veterans Day, the Arizona Chamber Foundation released its latest policy brief, Economic Opportunity for Arizona Veterans. This new report highlights the importance of veteran employment and outlines specific policy recommendations for Arizona.

Arizona is home to an estimated 76,000 Second Gulf War veterans. According to national unemployment numbers for August 2012, these veterans face an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, compared to the national rate of 8.1 percent. These veterans serve as an untapped resource for Arizona employers – one that has the ability to significantly grow and help diversify Arizona’s economy.

Military service prepares veterans with work ethic, teamwork and leadership skills. There are clear economic opportunities and synergies between the talents veterans bring to the workforce and the needs of private industry. Yet many veterans continue to face obstacles when transitioning to civilian employment. As the report recognizes, it’s incumbent on business and elected leaders to harness this talent by:

1) Adopting best practices for hiring and retaining veterans

2) Implementing policies to  facilitate the transition from military to civilian life

3) Streamlining and clarifying the wealth of public, private and non-profit resources that are available

To that end, the Arizona Chamber has established the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee with a vision of making Arizona one of the most attractive states for veterans to live and work. The committee serves as a resource and connector for employers that are interested in helping veterans transition from military service to civilian employment. The committee also works to support public policies that aid in this transition.

The committee has created a resource toolkit to help veterans and employers navigate the wide array of resources available. Additional next steps in addressing this issue include:

1) Finalizing a specific policy proposal to allow relevant military experience to count toward the certification requirements for occupations requiring a professional license.

2) Developing a strategy for disseminating company best practices for hiring and retaining veterans, reservists and National Guardsmen.

3) Partnering with like-minded organizations and interested elected officials to provide meaningful connections between employers and veterans.

Media response to these efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. Yesterday’s edition of Arizona Illustrated featured Suzanne Kinney, executive director of the Foundation and Captain Craig Doyle, chairman of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, in a discussion on the report’s findings and the importance of this topic. The issue is gaining traction and the efforts of Arizona businesses are being recognized.

It’s important to acknowledge the cross-section of Arizona Chamber member companies that were interviewed for the Foundation’s report: Amazon, Intel, Magellan Health Services, Northern Arizona University, Raytheon, Swift Transportation, University of Phoenix, USAA, and Wells Fargo. These companies along with the Arizona Department of Veterans Services provided valuable insight regarding best practices for recruiting and retaining vets. Many other chamber member companies, such as US Airways with their nationally-recognized Honor Flight Network, are taking action to support veterans as well. A key goal of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is to help other interested employers adopt proven strategies that will lead to more veterans successfully transitioning to civilian employment.

The Chamber also owes many thanks to Captain Craig Doyle for his leadership and continued service.
An Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, Captain Doyle recently returned from the Asian Pacific Theater, his third activation since September 11, 2001. While there, he was the first Naval Reserve Officer to serve as Commanding Officer of the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka.  His mission included all operational, planning and logistical support for the Far East region. With both business and military leadership experience, Captain Doyle brings indispensable personal experience to this important endeavor.

We look forward to further advancing the mission of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during the 2012 legislative session and continuing the recognition of this issue throughout the state. We will be working diligently to help more Arizona businesses implement proven programs to recruit, promote and retain veterans and to advance public policies that support veteran employment and entrepreneurship.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

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Heroes, Goats and ‘Pure Idiocy’

In case you’ve been living in a cave, next Tuesday is Election Day. Here are a few thoughts about some of the folks that have distinguished themselves as true leaders and others who have made us tune them out this election season.

The Heroes
 
The Treasurer

Treasurer Doug Ducey’s leadership on Proposition 204 is astonishing.  Before his involvement the tax measure was cruising to what many – including me – believed to be a double-digit win.  But now, from every poll that I have seen – including in swing districts in southern Arizona – it is behind and headed for defeat.

Treasurer Ducey has raised dollars, rallied the major chambers and small business groups and an impressive list of mayors and has articulated a clear case on the ills of what would be the state’s largest tax increase. Win, lose or draw, Treasurer Ducey should be recognized for his efforts.

The real education reformers

One of the savviest and wisest policy minds in this state, Jaime Molera, deserves praise for his gutsy opposition when Prop. 204 first hit the streets.  Also making the case for real education reform is Dr. Craig Barrett, who has made clear that 204 is rotten policy. The retired chairman and CEO of Intel delivers as effective a speech as any educational leader in the country on what it takes to improve our schools.  We all agree we need to improve our K-12 education system.  A proposal that permanently raises the state’s sales tax to the second-highest in the nation without directing dollars to proven education reforms is obviously not the answer, though.

The President and the Speaker

Steve Pierce and Andy Tobin have been paragons of leadership at the Legislature the past two years, and in the last year have led their chambers as Senate President and House Speaker, respectively.  Not only have the two championed passage of the most comprehensive set of job creation proposals in the nation, they have passed responsible budgets and moved the state past divisive issues.  As a result of their work and the vision of Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona is now ranked as a Top-10 state from Chief Executive Magazine and rated number one by the Kauffmann Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Index.

Both President Pierce and Speaker Tobin have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect viable and valuable incumbents, particularly those now thrust into more competitive districts as a result of the redistricting process.

I find it humorous that some would attack Pierce in particular on fundraising.  He has raised more than anyone in the state, perhaps ever (not counting unions; see below) for legislative races. Compare his Herculean efforts with any challenger or even the state GOP and it is obvious that any criticism is crass political posturing. But if you don’t think the president and speaker have done enough, there’s still time to write a check.

The Goats
 
The Pinal County GOP Brain Trust

Sen. Andy Biggs deserves credit for his role in shaping a strong budget this past year.  With that said, it makes no sense to listen to a few angry and misguided Pinal County GOP poobahs and change horses in legislative leadership when under President Pierce’s direction the Senate has been firing on all cylinders. The thought of replacing Andy Tobin’s steady hand with freshman Steve Smith, no matter his enthusiasm, is absurd.

What is particularly outrageous is that this call has been issued at the end of an election in an area of the state that is so hotly contested. Their time in these last precious hours before the polls close would be better spent working to ensure that candidates like Frank Pratt and TJ Shope have a seat in the House of Representatives come January.

Richard Carmona

Rich Carmona’s ad implying an endorsement from Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain is both deceitful and stupid.  Not to provide proper context from remarks made from our senators over 10 years ago is wrong.  Carmona launched his ad on the 45th anniversary of Sen. McCain being shot down over Hanoi. Instead of taking that day to thank and honor Sen. McCain, Carmona instead chose to use the senator to deceive voters.

The Carmona campaign didn’t do itself any favors when it, in response to Sens. McCain and Kyl’s anger over the ad, dismissed the senators as career politicians. The Arizona Republic nailed it in Tuesday’s editorial when it called the Carmona charge, “pure idiocy.”

Carmona left himself open for a strong counterpunch, and the senators connect in their response ad. The counter ad should be enough to put Congressman Flake over the top and into the U.S. Senate.
 
The name callers

If you want to talk about lazy language, the charges that John McComish is an extremist don’t pass the laugh test.  McComish is a business-minded, independent former chamber executive who supports jobs-friendly legislation and stands strong against the bad ideas.  And hopefully there is a price to pay for the bozos who took a page from the Carmona playbook and suggested that Sen. Jerry Lewis endorsed Russell Pearce.  For anyone awake in Arizona, you’ll recall Sen. Lewis defeated Pearce in a recall race last year. You can Google it.

Final Observations

For those not convinced that paycheck protection is urgently needed to prevent union members’ paychecks from being raided to underwrite political campaigns, one need just to look at what is going on in the Senate races involving Senators McComish and Lewis.

Some feel that appeasement works and that certain unions will play nice if left alone.  Well, after somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in outside dollars -much of it union money – launched against Sen. McComish, we get a sense of how well appeasement works.

If you’re shopping for an early Christmas or Hanukkah gift for Arizona, I recommend paycheck protection legislation.

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

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The Arizona Chamber’s guide to the ballot propositions

With less than three weeks remaining before the 2012 General Election, many Arizonans are getting ready to put their early ballots in the mail. Before you fill in those boxes with ink and head to the post office, please take a moment to review the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s recommendations on statewide propositions.

The Chamber has weighed in on five ballot measures, taking a position of support on four and opposing one.

Here’s a brief look at each of our positions:

Proposition 116 – Property Tax Exemptions – Support
The Arizona Chamber joins the Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in supporting Proposition 116, which will help small businesses grow and create jobs by reducing the tax burden on their equipment and machinery. A tax on the value of equipment and machinery increases the fixed cost of operating a business in Arizona and creates a disincentive to new investment. Proposition 116 would exempt the value of equipment and machinery equal up to the wages of 50 Arizona workers (now about $2.4 million), making it more likely Arizona businesses will hire new employees and purchase necessary equipment.

Proposition 117 – Property Tax Assessed Valuation – Support
As our friends at the Arizona Tax Research Association have pointed out for years, our state’s property tax system is overly complicated, with two valuations: full cash value and limited property value. Under Proposition 117, the annual growth of the limited property value would be limited to five percent, and it wouldn’t exceed the full cash value. Also, the limited property value would be the only taxable value, helping to deliver a much greater level of predictability and stability in Arizona’s property tax system.

Proposition 118 – Establishment of Permanent Funds – Support
Passage of Proposition 118 will restructure the distribution formula for the Permanent Land Endowment Fund, whose largest beneficiary is K-12 education. Currently, in some years the formula distributes tens of millions of dollars; in other years zero.  This reform will smooth out the distribution so that there is some allocation to education every year.  The result will bring about reliable and consistent K-12 education funding with no new taxes and no new spending from the General Fund. Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey deserves applause for crafting this reform.

Proposition 119 – State Trust Lands – Support
Proposition 119 will help prevent incompatible land use that could put at risk the jobs associated with military bases. Arizona’s military installations contribute over $9 billion in economic output. Proposition 119, whose supporters include Land Commissioner Maria Baier and Greater Phoenix Leadership, will help ensure they are able to complete their critical missions and remain an integral part of Arizona’s economy for decades to come.

Proposition 204 – Permanent Sales Tax Increase – Oppose
The Chamber recognizes that a high-performing education system requires the financial resources necessary to produce a highly qualified workforce. To that end, the Chamber strongly supported Proposition 100 in 2010, which established a temporary one cent per dollar sales tax, and over 10 years ago our organization supported Proposition 301. We also supported new funding this past year at the Legislature to fund Move on When Reading, a proven reform targeted at ensuring that students exit the third grade with the ability to read. Going forward we will support efforts to properly implement the Common Core standards, which is a state-led effort to increase educational standards so America’s students can compete with the best and brightest students from around the world.

Unfortunately, this new $1 billion a year permanent tax would leave Arizona with the second highest sales tax rate in the country — leaving a number of cities with a combined rate over 10 percent. It would make future efforts to reform our sales tax code and help to create jobs much more difficult. Not surprisingly, many chambers and prominent business groups oppose this effort including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, the Arizona Small Business Association, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the East Valley Chambers Alliance. The education reform aspects are basically non-existent and simply not worth the risk to our state’s economy. Arguably two of the most prominent education reform advocates in the state, Dr. Craig Barrett and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jaime Molera have come out in opposition to Prop. 204. The Arizona Republic wrote a thoughtful piece opposing Prop. 204 as well. We strongly urge a no vote on Proposition 204.

We believe that by following the Arizona Chamber’s recommendations on these important ballot measures Arizona voters will be casting a vote in favor of growing jobs and increasing our state’s economic competitiveness. For more information on these items and candidate races, be sure to check out the Arizona Prosperity Project’s website, a convenient tool to learn more about the big issues in this election.

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

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Prosperity Project educates businesses about election issues

Last week I talked about jobs – the issue everyone should be talking about, but isn’t.

Jobs and the economy are the number one issues for voters this election season. The majority of voters want to enter the voting booth armed with facts about the candidates on their ballot. They want to know how these candidates plan on getting America back to work. Will the policies they support help lower the country’s too-high unemployment rate?

There is an easy-to-use tool voters can use to find out about the positions held by the individuals on the November ballot, including where candidates stand on jobs and the economy: The Arizona Prosperity Project.

The Arizona Prosperity Project is a non-partisan voter education tool available to all Arizonans. It’s based upon the belief that when Arizona citizens are informed and active in government and elections, our families, our communities and our state benefit.

Visitors to azprosperity.org can access objective information about each of the candidates they’ll see on their ballot. Information includes voting records for incumbents and candidate questionnaires for challenger candidates; everything necessary to make an informed decision when voting by mail or on Election Day.

In addition, azprosperity.org offers an issues section, which outlines topics important to Arizona’s job creators. It’s the go-to location for learning about legislative actions on each topic and how the public can be involved.

VotaAZ.org is another excellent resource for Arizona voters. Developed in partnership with the Arizona Chamber and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, VotaAZ educates Hispanic voters about issues that impact job security, economic competitiveness, wages and benefits.

Similar to azprosperity.org, visitors to VotaAZ.org can access – in Spanish or English – information on the candidates they’ll see on their ballot, along with viewing past election results and guides to the democratic process. VotaAZ also allows users to register to vote, find their local polling place and learn about Arizona’s voter ID Laws.

But the Prosperity Project is more than just an outstanding online education tool. The P2 can be deployed onsite at your business, too, with collateral material that explains to employees where candidates stand on important issues, voter registration drives, and even customizable websites for your company to share non-partisan information with employees about the issues important to your particular business or industry.

As we recover from the Great Recession, we’ve learned that good policy matters. Businesses of all sizes and industries have felt the effects – both good and bad – of decisions made in Washington, D.C, at the state Capitol or City Hall.

Voters have an opportunity to make a difference this election season and influence who will be making decisions in the next Congress, Legislature or city Council. They have the chance to initiate a discussion about jobs and ensure their candidates are offering real solutions to end our over 40-month streak of unemployment over 8 percent. Arizona Prosperity Project and VotaAZ provide a solid foundation for this important discussion.

To learn more about the Arizona Prosperity Project and how it can be put into action at your business, contact Erica Wrublik at (602) 248-9172.

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