Tag Archives: glenn hamer

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Legislative session wraps with wins for business

Ninety state legislators and Gov. Jan Brewer made their way through a myriad of bills in workmanlike fashion in the recently completed legislative session, wrapping up their work in an efficient 101 days.

The session produced a number of wins for the Arizona Chamber and the larger business community demonstrating once again why Arizona has a reputation for doing more than any other state in the last several years to improve its economic climate.

On the tax front, the Arizona Manufacturers Council and the Chamber were pleased to see the Legislature pass and the governor sign into law legislation introduced by Sen. Steve Yarbrough that will ensure manufacturers won’t pay sales tax on their electricity or natural gas consumption, bringing Arizona into alignment with most states around the country.

The governor also signed HB 2377 into law, a bill by Rep. Justin Olson that in tax year 2015 will index income tax brackets to inflation. This is a commonsense policy that seeks to stop a backdoor tax increase that results from rising inflation.

A world-class education system is an integral part of Arizona’s economic development strategy. We helped to ensure that Arizona would continue to implement the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. The key areas identified by the business community for additional funding – performance assessments, a student data system, career and technical education and performance funding – all received critical dollars in the fiscal year 2015 budget.

The Chamber worked hard this year to ensure that in addition to a tax and education environment that encourages job growth, that our legal environment does the same. We were proud to work with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Rep. Justin Pierce on HB 2567, which protects employers from the theft of trade secrets, an area of our existing theft statutes that, until now, had not kept pace with technology. And we were also pleased that SB 1248 became law, legislation by Sen. Adam Driggs that establishes a fund that is used to pay jurors’ expenses in cases that last longer than five days. This program has been recognized nationally as one that encourages higher quality juries.

An important reform to our state’s unemployment insurance system was made possible by HB 2115, a bill by Rep. Karen Fann. The bill defines severance pay and prevents double dipping by making important clarifications as to when an individual who has received severance can access the unemployment insurance system.

In addition to these bills, the Legislature and governor came together on a responsible, pragmatic budget that included a number of items important to the business community, including increased funding for the state’s universities, a new trade office in Mexico City and a reduction in the shift of dollars out of the Highway Users Revenue Fund. Senate President Andy Biggs, Majority Leader John McComish and Majority Whip Driggs did a masterful job of spearheading the passage of a budget that received support from their entire Caucus.

While we had a number of successes, there is unfinished business.

The tax treatment applied to the insurance industry is still unfair compared to regular corporate income taxpayers. Despite strong bipartisan support throughout the committee process, our attempt to reduce the insurance premium tax did not make it across the goal line.

Also not reaching the finish line this year was legislation that would have implemented some important reforms to the conduct of the legislative session and the interim periods between sessions, as well as legislation that would give the Industrial Commission exclusive jurisdiction in bad faith claims in workers’ compensation cases.

We will work hard over the interim to ensure bills addressing those issues are in a good position for passage next session.

A special session to make reforms to the state’s child welfare system still looms, but the just completed regular session represents the last regular legislative session for Gov. Brewer and Speaker Andy Tobin.

Gov. Brewer will go down in Arizona political history as what Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein referred to her as at the Chamber’s Heritage Award dinner in February: the Iron Lady of Arizona. She leaves the state much, much better off than she found it. Speaker Andy Tobin has been one of the most consequential Arizona legislators in a generation. Few can match his record on tax, regulatory and tort reform, not to mention the heavy lifting required to repair Arizona’s budget. Both have worked tirelessly to help grow our economy make the state a far more attractive destination. They will both be missed.

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.

manufacturing sector expanded

Brewer OKs tax cut law for manufacturers

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill that eliminates sales taxes on electricity and natural gas purchased by manufacturers and mining smelters, a move she said was needed to make the state more attractive to large businesses.

Brewer signed Senate Bill 1413 at a Capitol ceremony attended by a couple of dozen business leaders, calling it “another smart tax reform that will bolster job creation in Arizona and our competitive edge.”

The tax cut is expected to cost the state general fund at least $17 million a year. Brewer also vetoed money in the state budget designed to help counties make up for the losses, saying their loss was small and would set a bad precedent.

“Since becoming governor, my cornerstone priority has been to make Arizona as attractive as possible for new and expanding businesses, particularly for our manufacturing industry, which generates quality jobs and high-wage salaries,” Brewer said. “I want Arizona to be No. 1 and be the pro-business state in the nation and we have worked relentlessly to accomplish that.”

Later in the day, Brewer also signed a law providing a $5 million tax credit many say is aimed directly at Apple Inc. Senate Bill 1484 grants the tax credit to a company that installs at least $300 million in renewable power capacity to supply its own plant.

The governor touted other tax cuts, regulatory reform and business-friendly policies that she has championed since she took office in 2009. Those tax cuts have affected the state’s revenue, but she said they are important to growing the economy.

“When we bring in these new businesses it drives our economy, they bring in construction jobs, they bring in employees, they bring in money into the state,” she said. “So in the end, everybody’s ship rises.”

Brewer called for the elimination of the tax in her State of the State address in January, saying it was needed to make Arizona more competitive and draw new manufacturing to the state.

The bill received bipartisan support in both legislative chambers, although one conservative Republican in the House of Representatives dissented when it came up for a vote earlier this week.

Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, says the bill places a burden on rural counties that rely on that tax base. She and other rural lawmakers managed to get $1.3 million in the budget to make up for the cuts, but Brewer vetoed that money Friday afternoon.

“I am getting to the point that a lot of these special legislation bills that we are promoting are harming the state of Arizona, and they are harming our rural counties and our rural cities, and I don’t believe we are doing a very good job of doing what’s right for the right reasons,” Barton said during debate earlier in the week. She didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Others defended the bill.

“I think anytime we can support small businesses and reduce their taxes and large businesses and reduce their taxes, and allow them to reinvest in their business and reinvest in the communities and reinvest in their employees, I think we need to be looking for opportunities to do this,” Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, said.

Steve Macias, chairman of the Arizona Manufacturer’s Council and the operator of a machine shop that will get a small direct benefit from the tax cut, said it could bring in more manufacturing.

“Seventy percent, 80 percent of the business we do is right here in Arizona,” Macias said of his operation. “And almost all of that is to larger manufacturers, the General Dynamics of the world, the guys who make equipment for the solar industry. So when they attract those guys, I get excited because to me those are all potential customers.”

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said 38 other states do not tax electricity use by manufacturers and cutting the tax will help the state.

“These are jobs that pay more than the median wage. They’re jobs that every other state competes for, and we’ve done something significant to make Arizona more competitive today,” Hamer said.

The tax credit bill drew the ire of conservative House Republicans, who said say the bill is unfairly tailored to benefit Apple’s planned Mesa sapphire glass manufacturing plant and picked winners and losers among the state’s industries.

Apple said in November it will open the plant and eventually employ 700 workers to provide material for its iPhone 5 cameras and fingerprint reading sensors.

The tax credit could also be claimed by other companies that build similar facilities. Tesla Motors Inc. is currently looking for a battery plant site and often mentioned as a possible candidate.

“We as conservatives have got to step away from this crony capitalist style of development,” Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, said during debate on the bill Tuesday. “We cannot afford to pick winners and losers in industry. We believe in low taxes for everybody. We believe in simple rules for everybody.”

But the bill sponsor defended it, saying it was a small amount of money to help establish a large manufacturing operation. The Arizona Commerce Authority helped seal the deal with other incentives.

“I believe that they did the right thing to bring Apple here,” Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, carried the Apple bill, saying he did it because the Arizona Commerce Authority had made a commitment to the company as part of the deal to draw them here. “And the dollars are very small in the whole scheme of things with Apple being in the Valley. They could have gone to Texas, they could have gone other places and we wanted them here. It’s a good decision.”

Cushman & Wakefield Leasing

The 2013 Hammer Awards

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; time to hand out some virtual hardware to the winners of the 4th annual Hammer Awards, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer’s look back at the wild and the wacky of the year in politics and anything else that’s on his mind.

State Leader of the Year: Gov. Jan Brewer

This one was a runaway. Not even close. The governor at the outset of the 2013 legislative session took on a set of issues that would make most elected officials wilt: Medicaid restoration and sales tax reform. She spearheaded highly effective campaigns on both issues, stood strong against a motivated opposition, and won the day in each case. Her accomplishments as governor are too numerous to mention, but she outdid herself this year, adding to her profoundly positive record for the state’s business environment for which the state will reap rewards for years to come. She’s building a legacy that will be tough to match.

National Politician of the Year: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Are you a Republican interested in running for statewide or national office? Take a lesson from two-time Hammer Award winner Gov. Chris Christie. The governor worked hard in his first term to burnish his image as pragmatic problem solver, and it paid off in 2013 when he won re-election in a route. Buoyed by a bevy of must-see YouTube videos, Gov. Christie made deep inroads into segments of the electorate that have been leaving the GOP in droves. I have no idea whether a Christie presidential campaign in 2016 will be a winning one, but his opponents underestimate him at their own peril.

Legislators of the Year: Reps. Debbie Lesko and Heather Carter

Some legislators get drafted into a fight, others volunteer. Rep. Debbie Lesko and Rep. Heather Carter volunteered to champion the year’s most contentious policy issues, and for that they each win a Hammer.

Rep. Lesko expertly navigated the thorny issues surrounding the reform of the state’s byzantine sales tax system in the face of an opposition that was perfectly willing to run out the clock on the legislative session and stick with the status quo. Rep. Lesko teamed with the governor’s tax guru, Michael Hunter, and refused to the let the session end without real reform.

Courage is an overused term in politics, but Rep. Carter has it in spades, as demonstrated by standing shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Brewer in her campaign to restore the Proposition 204 AHCCCS population. Rep. Carter didn’t waiver and remained committed in her belief that backing the governor’s plan was the right move. She was right on the policy, and I’m confident she’ll be proven right on the politics.

Rising Star of the Year: Adam Deguire

Rep. Matt Salmon’s Chief of Staff Adam Deguire has quietly become a mover and shaker in western politics. The Brophy grad has hit his stride as Rep. Salmon’s top aide after guiding Salmon’s return to Congress in the 2012 elections. Adam has done stints at the Republican National Committee as a field rep, was a senior level campaign and transition team aide to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in her 2010 run, and led the Hawaii GOP as its executive director. I always think it’s risky for a Hill office staff not to have ties back to the home state. Having Adam lead the staff and earn the frequent flyer miles between Phoenix and D.C. is a great move by Rep. Salmon, who will be well served by Adam’s commitment and loyalty.

Fighting the Good Fight: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake

I’m in the camp that firmly believes that we’re going to see a true immigration reform package land on the president’s desk in 2014. (For those keeping score, I was also confident that we were going to get a deal in 2013, but who knew that a government shutdown and an amateur hour website were going to crowd out every other issue.) But as we sit here on the cusp of a transformative shot of adrenaline for the American economy, let’s give a Hammer where a Hammer is due. We would not have gotten this far were it not for Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake. Arizona is incredibly fortunate to have these men representing us in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

The Great Communicator: Matt Benson

Gov. Brewer has an outstanding team, including a few members who have won Hammers over the years. This year the governor’s former press secretary, Matt Benson, takes the honors for his outstanding work as the 9th Floor’s flack.

Issues like Medicaid restoration and TPT reform were incredibly complicated and they required their own public relations campaigns, but Matt communicated the governor’s positions on these and a host of other issues and acted as a liaison between the governor and her supporters, all while making it look easy. I should also note that there is no such thing as a day off for a gubernatorial press secretary, and Matt deserves a shout out for taking incoming fire from the fourth estate while he and his wife are still navigating the toddler years. Matt’s new firm, Veridus, is lucky to have this Hammer winner on board.

I Miss You, Man Award: David Cavazos

Phoenix is the best run big city in America. That’s in large part due to the dynamic Mayor Greg Stanton and a city council of professionals. But Phoenix this year bade farewell to its terrific city manager, David Cavazos. David was able to move effectively between different political factions in order to do what was right for the city. Having led efforts that ranged from attracting new investment to downtown Phoenix to spearheading trade missions to Mexico, he leaves big shoes to fill here. I don’t envy the search committee on this one.

A testament to David and Phoenix’s work is the appointment of Ed Zuercher as acting city manager. David left a great team behind as evidenced by Ed, a consummate professional, stepping into the top job.

An Apple a Day Award: Sandra Watson

I continue to be impressed by Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson’s talents. She’s taken the economic development toolbox assembled by the governor and Legislature and built something significant here. Constructing the deal that brought Apple to Mesa was a master stroke.

I can tell you from having traveled to Taiwan with the governor right after the deal was announced that bringing one of the most recognized brands to Arizona was a worldwide story. I did not expect dozens of Taiwanese reporters and businesspeople to pepper our delegation with questions about what makes Arizona so attractive to high-tech manufacturers. Sandra’s work is rippling around the glove, and for that she deserves a Hammer.

The Youngest Elder Statesman Award: Jaime Molera

The business community in 2013 rallied around Gov. Brewer’s health care restoration plan, but the campaign didn’t start to gel until Jaime Molera took on the role of a sort of campaign chairman. Jaime had the credibility and talent to bring together a host of lobbyists from across the health care and business community and assemble a dynamite team of political operatives to get the deal done. I hesitate to call a young man like Jaime an elder statesman, but the results leave little doubt that he was the right man for the job. Arizona owes a debt of gratitude to Jaime for stepping into the breach.

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the work of Anne DeGraw, Jaime’s colleague at the firm of Molera-Alvarez, and Brittney Kauffman at the Arizona Chamber, both of whom ran the statewide campaign’s day-to-day affairs. Though he didn’t need it, they made Jaime look good.

The Mariano Rivera Best Closer Award: Jim Norton

On the last night of a legislative session, you can practically hear “Enter Sandman” echoing throughout the Capitol. This is the time that Chamber lobbyist and R&R Partners big shot Jim Norton shines.  When it comes to closing a deal, he’s the Mariano Rivera of lobbyists. He’s the best in the business, and I am incredibly fortunate not only to have him as the Chamber’s advocate at the Capitol, but to call him a friend.

He’s also a pretty good dancer. Give the man a Hammer.

The Legislative Branch Foreign Service Award: Speaker Andy Tobin and
his Mexico City trade delegation

Arizona in very recent history has had its share of missteps when it comes to our relationship with Mexico, which is why Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin and the seven legislators who traveled to Mexico City with him this year all deserve Hammers for hitting the reset button south of the border.

The speaker was joined by Rep. Tom Forese, Rep. Catherine Miranda, Rep. T.J. Shope, Rep. Karen Fann, Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla and Rep. Lydia Hernandez. The bipartisan delegation was received warmly by everyone we met from Mexico’s executive and legislative branches, with everyone appreciating the genuine effort made by the bipartisan Arizona delegation to make clear that we view the Arizona-Mexico relationship as a special one characterized by friendship and trust.

Also deserving recognition are Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who led their own delegation to Mexico City this year. Both the mayors’ and the speaker’s trips drove home the potential benefits that could be gained by putting down deeper roots and elevating our presence in Mexico’s political and financial capital.

The Next Great Buddy Cop Tandem: Luis Gonzalez and me

I had the pleasure earlier this year of traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico with a delegation led by Mayor Stanton. As a big baseball fan, I was thrilled when I found out Luis Gonzalez was joining our group as a representative of the Diamondbacks.

By the time trip was over, I had been able to give Luis my keen insights on the improper use of closers, the proper execution of a suicide squeeze play, hidden ball tricks and when to pitch out against left-handed batters. I got the feeling there was some real chemistry there, the kind that a Hollywood screenwriter might want to tap into for the next buddy cop hit. I sense box office gold.

Most Versatile Player Award: Steve Macias

One of the reasons I love my job is because I get to work with an absolutely first class board of directors. The boards of the Chamber and the Arizona Manufacturers Council are comprised of some of the most outstanding leaders in their industries across the state.

One of these leaders is Steve Macias, the chairman of the AMC. Steve is the consummate champion for manufacturing in Arizona. As the president of Pivot Manufacturing, Steve knows the shop floor firsthand, which makes him such an effective advocate for this critical sector of Arizona’s economy.

Steve does it all for the Chamber. In addition to chairing the AMC, he’s always willing to serve as a master of ceremonies or moderator, and he’s an outstanding writer, providing insight through his occasional Made in Arizona columns. And the guy’s got a biting wit. He deserves a Hammer.

The Milton Friedman Rock Star of the Year Award: Bono

U2 frontman Bono has long been a champion of foreign and charitable aid to Africa as a means to alleviate poverty across the continent.  But in a speech at Georgetown this year, he said, “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”

Bono, your Chamber membership form and PAC solicitation are in the mail along with your Hammer.

Book of the Year: Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution
 
Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Goldwater Institute legal beagle Clint Bolick win the Hammer for their book Immigration Wars.

The book is an excellent piece of work, full of real, actionable solutions on the immigration front that could find themselves into the House’s immigration package.

Citizen Advocates of the Year: Linda Stanfield and Craig Barrett

One of them owns a plumbing franchise; the other is the former CEO of one of the world’s most respected tech companies. But both of them win a Hammer for stepping into the arena of public advocacy.

Linda Stanfield runs Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Arizona. She was the public face for TPT reform this year, testifying in committee hearings, appearing in campaign videos and standing alongside the governor at press conferences and, deservedly, at bill signing ceremonies. We need more Linda the Plumbers shaping policy in Arizona.

Craig Barrett heads Gov. Brewer’s Arizona Ready Education Council. He’s also the former CEO of Intel. If he wanted to, he could spend his days on a beach sipping mai tais, but instead he’s devoting his energy to ensuring that Arizona has an absolutely world-class education system, with high standards and expectations, accountable principals and teachers, engaged parents and students ready to learn.

Supreme Court Decision of the Year: Campaign contribution limits (award accepted by Rep. J.D. Mesnard)

Since it might seem unseemly to bestow state Supreme Court justices with the acclaim and notoriety that comes with a highly valued Hammer award, I’ll recognize state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, the architect of legislation that ushered in the modern era of political free speech in Arizona in a law recently upheld by the state’s highest court.

Also deserving recognition are attorney Mike Liburdi, who successfully argued in favor of the new contribution limits and Andy Gordon who, on behalf of the business community, filed an amicus brief that argued for the removal of aggregate limits on a candidate’s ability to accept PAC donations. Hammers all around!

Chairman of the Board: Rep. Tom Forese

Who needs a Hammer when you’ve got a gavel? Give Rep. Tom Forese a Hammer Award for expertly using his position as state House Commerce Committee chairman to hold informational hearings on topics that matter for Arizona’s economy. I was able to participate in his hearing on the state’s aerospace industry and the mining industry this year, and both were filled with outstanding content. There are true industry leaders in Arizona, and Rep. Forese deserves kudos for urging them share their knowledge with lawmakers.

From all of us at the Arizona Chamber, we wish you all the best this holiday season and in 2014.

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.

carey school - graduate

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.  

real estate - expanding to california

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. 

Brewer

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/.

sales.tax

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/

immigration

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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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.

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Hamer: Let’s talk about jobs

The main issue that every candidate from president to town council should be talking about this elections season – but isn’t – is jobs.

Every public opinion poll cites jobs and the economy as the number one issue. Voters want to know what type of policies candidates are going to support that will get our country’s stubbornly high unemployment numbers down.

We’re sitting on 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. Never mind the number of underemployed Americans or those so discouraged they’ve quit looking. These are numbers that have been too high for too long.

There is a way out of these doldrums, though, and it’s not exactly a state secret. Arizona has been named a top-10 state for business by CEO Magazine. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity has us ranked number 1. And Arizona ranks number 2 for expected job growth. If you’re a candidate looking for a jobs plan, look to Arizona.

First, don’t raise taxes on income and capital as we limp out of this economic downturn. A major element of the so-called fiscal cliff facing our country is whether we’re going to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire. We should not.

Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature over the past two years demonstrated they understand this well. Outside of fixing the state’s budget woes, more effort was placed on job creation than any other issue.
They made our state more fertile for job growth by lessening the tax burden on job creators and capital in Arizona. Together they’ve reduced the corporate income tax rate, lowered the tax on business machinery and equipment, instituted the state’s first cut in taxes on investment income and fixed our tax code to make the state more attractive for businesses selling goods and services outside our borders. They had a detailed plan and they executed.

Next, throw up a big stop sign on new regulations. Uncertainty is a jobs killer. Businesses aren’t going to expand if they’re constantly looking over their shoulder for the next new government rule or regulation. Arizona has gotten it right in this department. Gov. Brewer bolstered her pro-business bona fides when earlier this summer she extended the regulatory moratorium that she put in place as her first official action when she took office. The Obama administration has taken the opposite tack, pursuing an aggressive regulatory agenda at the EPA, NLRB and other agencies unlike anything this country has ever seen.

The feds should pass their own regulatory reform package. One bill, the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Jobs Creation Act, seeks to slow the growth of regulations until the nation’s unemployment rate falls below 6 percent. The bill passed the U.S. House in July, but now it’s stuck in the Senate.

The path should also be cleared for America to take advantage of our robust energy sources. We have been given a gift in the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has unleashed an oil and gas production boom in our country. This energy boom has occurred despite the Administration’s efforts to over-regulate this area, block the Keystone Pipeline, push back deepwater drilling and use every means available to block new coal production and shutter older facilities.

Every member of Congress should be required to make a fact-finding trip to North Dakota, where the energy boom has led to a strong housing market and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Energy is so critical to our economic recovery that it could be the lynchpin that would allow us to actually get serious about entitlement reform.

We should also be more aggressive in the area of trade. Some progress has been made here (finally) with the implementation of new trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. We should be wary of candidates in both parties who have a tendency to make noise about going down the road of protectionism.

Finally, say no to automatic spending cuts, especially in defense. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says, if the budgetary axe known as sequestration falls on defense spending, “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”

This is lunacy. We are on the cusp of creating a man-made recession, with defense firms around the country preparing their workforces for potentially devastating layoffs. Arizona was far more surgical in its approach to closing its deficit than anything coming out of Washington.

While sequestration is largely out of our hands here on a state level, the Arizona Commerce Authority and Gov. Brewer should be applauded for positioning the state in as good a position as possible for the state to be named an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site and for their advocacy, along with that of many others, in Luke Air Force Base being named an F-35 training site. Defense jobs are desirable ones, and state leaders deserve credit while Congress and the president play a dangerous game of chicken. We’re fortunate that Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl are working to diligently to stave off sequestration.

In a presidential campaign that has seen more debate devoted to a candidate’s tax returns than how we’re going to get the American jobs machine moving again, these job-creation ideas might seem a little on the wonky side. Here’s hoping that in this final sprint to Election Day we at least give some hope to the millions of Americans out of work and to the job creators who have been stymied by a dysfunctional Washington.

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

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9 Arizona Inc. 500 Companies to Speak at SkySong Luncheon

The nine Arizona-based Inc. 500 companies will speak to the business community at an educational luncheon event on Thursday, October 18th from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. These ‘best of Arizona’ company leaders will share insights on their remarkable economic success during challenging economic times.

These 9 local companies were recognized in the September issue of Inc. magazine that highlights the nation’s 500 fastest-growing companies. They hope that executives of other companies in Arizona can learn from their experience and growth techniques.

In aggregate, these nine Arizona companies increased revenues by 1,785 percen, from $4.8 million in 2008 to $90.4 million in 2011. This reflects a 166 percent annual compounded growth rate over this three-year period. What makes this even more remarkable is that this growth was achieved during
severe recessionary economic times as reflected by GDP growth of only 6.1 percent from 2008 to 2011. These companies grew almost 300 times faster than the US economy during this period.

The October 18th lunch event is titled “Arizona Inc. 500: Nine Ways to Grow” and will feature key executives from these nine companies discussing what has worked to achieve their growth.

This special business event will have three moderators: Glenn Hamer, CEO at Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Hank Marshall, Senior Vice President at Arizona Commerce Authority; and Doug Bruhnke, CEO at Growth Nation. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane will kick off the event. Five of the nine companies are based in Scottsdale. The presentations by company leaders will cover a range of corporate growth and business strategy topics in a panel format.

Arizona’s Inc. 500 Companies: The Joint (national chiropractic clinic franchise); GlobalMed (real-time healthcare delivery systems for telemedicine); Loan Resolution (assists banks in fixing bad loans and selling property); Blue Global Media (operates affiliate Performance Marketing Network); Digital Video Networks (interactive city-directory kiosks and audio video systems); MYTEK Network Solutions (IT services, analytics and help desk support); American Group (freight-shipping services for small and midsized businesses); DreamBrands (natural healthy anti-aging products for 40+ target market); and Citywide Restoration (restores damaged properties and offers related services).

Interested attendees can register by signing up here: http://arizonainc500.eventbrite.com/.

Chalkboard - Making the Grade for Growth

STEM Education – Making The Grade For Growth

Arizona Leaders know it’s a problem.

“When one of our top employers of scientists and engineers says that if he had the decision to make all over again, he would never bring his business and its thousands of high-wage jobs to Arizona because of the lack of commitment to education, that is a call to action,” says Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

The top employer Stanton is talking about is Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO, who told state lawmakers in no uncertain terms that cuts in education are stifling Arizona’s economic development. But the financial aspect of education isn’t the only thing suppressing the state’s ability to prosper in the technology and bioscience industries. It’s the quality of Arizona education that’s killing us, according to another Valley tech leader.

“Our high schools are a mess,” says Steve Sanghi, CEO of Microchip in Chandler. “They are among the worst in country and that is a major problem that we need to address before the state can prosper.”

Sanghi sees many hopeful workers come into Microchip looking for a job, but are unable to pass a remedial math test that the company gives to all prospective employees. If they cannot pass, they cannot get hired, Sanghi says.

“STEM education — science, technology, engineering, math — is where we lack,” Sanghi points out. “That’s where the most competitive, high-paying jobs will be in the future. That’s where other countries are taking our jobs and taking our positions. That’s where we need to improve, but that’s a very tall order.”

It seems like a Herculean task. Arizona ranks 44th in the country in the Quality Counts report, compiled each year by Education Week in conjunction with the Education Research Center. That ranking represents a slight drop from the state’s standing in last year’s report.

“Today’s students have a lot of distractions,” Sanghi says. “We cannot compete with Hollywood stars or sports figures because they are bigger than life. It’s easy to get students to dribble a ball or go into music or arts. It’s crucial that we get them interested in science and technology before pop culture gets them. Once pop culture gets them, we can’t get them back.”

The only way to change the way students view education is through visionary leadership, says Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, a statewide movement dedicated to making Arizona education the best in the nation.

“Our leaders need to start viewing education as an investment, not as an expense,” Esau says.

Many of Arizona’s leaders are taking the challenge to heart and introducing programs and legislation aimed at promoting and strengthening STEM education in the state:

  • Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, has introduced a bill to make it easier for STEM professionals to become certified to teach and bring their expertise to the classroom.
  • Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, has introduced legislation to boost STEM education in poorly performing schools by calling for the State Board of Education to intervene when a school has earned a D or F for two consecutive years.
  • And Stanton, who campaigned on an education platform even though he was publicly criticized because school districts, not cities, have jurisdiction over education in Arizona, has created a Mayor’s Futures Forum on Education.

 

“The city of Phoenix is not as well-positioned as it should be to compete in the national economy,” Stanton says. “We need more of our kids graduating high school and studying in areas that will create the jobs of the future.”

Ironically, the man who has been the biggest critic of the state’s poor education record may be the man to help give it a much-needed spark. Retired Intel CEO Barrett has been named chairman of the Arizona Ready Education Council. He will be heading “Arizona Ready,” which is dedicated to helping Arizona students prepare to succeed in college and in careers that will boost the state’s economy. To improve education, Arizona Ready has established specific, measurable goals and accountability for everyone involved in educating our children.

“There is a lot of room for improvement in the K-12 education system in Arizona,” Barrett says. “I believe it is the responsibility of society to give the next generation the tools to be successful.”

Barrett insists that Arizona schools need to strive not just to be the best in the state, but they need to challenge themselves to be the best in the world so Arizona can compete in the global marketplace.

“It is not appropriate to just compare one local school district, or state, with another,” Barrett says. “You have to compare the accomplishments of your students with the best in the world.”

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agrees with Barrett that raising the standards is imperative to improving education and creating a pipeline of future workers with the skills to succeed in tomorrow’s tech-heavy industries. To accomplish that, Arizona Ready is raising the standards and hopes to accomplish these goals by 2020:

  • Increase the percentage of third-graders meeting state reading standards to 94 percent. In 2010, 73 percent met the standard.
  • Raise the high school graduation rate to 93 percent.
  • Increase the percentage of eighth-graders performing at or above “basic” on the National Assessment of Education Programs (NAEP) to 85 percent. In 2010, the numbers were 67 percent in math and 68 percent in reading.

 

“Every kid has that dream of becoming a celebrity in Hollywood or becoming a sports star,” Sanghi says. “But the chances of the average high school student making it in Hollywood or in sports is 1 in 1,000 at best. But if we can get them interested in STEM and get them to dream about becoming a doctor or scientist or engineer, the chances of them achieving their dream is pretty high. Most will be able achieve that.”

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Tourism Industry - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Arizona Tourism Industry Has A Billion-Dollar Impact On Economy

Economic engine: Arizona tourism industry packs an economic punch of $17.7 billion yearly

Tourism is one of the largest industries in Arizona, but it isn’t just about hotels and golf courses.

Its direct economic impact of $17.7 billion has helped keep the state afloat during some of its darkest economic days, and the ripple effect is even greater. Those dollars spill over to a host of businesses, from the farmers who supply produce to the hotel restaurants to the car dealers who sell vehicles to the banquet servers. They also help keep our police officers and firefighters on the streets, thanks to tax revenues.

“That trickle-down money does affect everyone who is a citizen of Arizona, to some degree,” said Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

And the money keeps coming, thanks to nearly 37 million overnight visitors annually.

“It’s so important to recognize the tourism industry is always here,” Henry said. “Even in recessionary times, people are still traveling.”

Tourism spending was up 7.9 percent in Arizona from 2009 to 2010 and has increased 25 percent since 2000. Overall, it’s still down 7 percent from its heyday of 2007, but most other indicators are moving in the right direction: Tax revenues, occupancy rates and demand are all up from 2009.

“It’s not that we don’t feel the effects of the recession,” Henry said, “but we’re still in the game.”

While the state has lost 11 percent of its tourism jobs since its high of about 173,400 in 2007, the industry still brings in $48 million a day. Tourism is the number one export industry in Arizona.

One way that benefits every resident directly is when the tax bills come. Taxes from tourism generate $1.3 billion in local and state revenue, which pays for everything from public safety to parks to libraries.

“When you look at the taxes generated, (tourism) saves every Arizona resident $1,000,” Henry said. Her agency, which was created in 1975, is responsible for marketing the state as a whole with multiple programs: advertising, public relations, community outreach, trade and media, and digital and social media, to all domestic and international visitors.
“(Travelers) have a lot of choices, so it’s important your destination stays in top of mind,” Henry said.

Part of the money for tourism outreach comes from tribal gaming. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, tribal gaming revenues contributed $5.5 million to the state’s Tourism Fund. That comes from the $79 million total they deposited to the state, with another 12 percent of their annual revenue of almost $1.7 billion going to cities, towns and counties.

In addition, said Melody Hudson, public relations manager for Gila River Gaming Enterprises, “We have a deep and wide reach as far as our philanthropic activities, too.”

Tourism weaves through the fabric of our economy in ways that aren’t always obvious. Jesse Thompson, director of sales and marketing for the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, gave a list of local businesses that the hotel supports. Zuzu, its on-site restaurant, gets a good deal of its ingredients from local purveyors such as Red Bird Farms, McClendon Farms, Duncan Farms, Crave Artisan Ice Cream and Hickman Family Farms. Audio-visual contractors, limo and taxi drivers, independent conference planners, beverage distributors, decorators, and even the company that launders their linens – sheets, towels, tablecloths, spa robes – would all be affected if business dropped.

However, Thompson is proud that revenues at the 230-room Hotel Valley Ho increased 21 percent in 2011 over 2010, and he expects an 8 percent bump from 2011 to 2012. None of the 240 to 250 employees has been laid off in six years, despite the downturn. He attributes the increase in going after more group bookings.

Another way tourism boosts Arizona’s entire economy is by making the state not only an appealing place to visit, but to live. People might come to see auto shows, sporting events or festivals and decide to make a permanent move.

“People who visit Arizona often fall in love with Arizona and plot ways they can come to work here or bring their businesses,” said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It’s a gateway opportunity to sell the state of Arizona.”

Because the business community recognizes the importance of both visitors and tourists who become permanent residents, they work to bring major events such as the Super Bowl to the state. Hamer calls it a “showcase for our state.” In addition, the Super Bowl generated $500 million in economic impact in 2008. He expects the number to be at least that much when the Super Bowl returns to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in 2015.

The business community also supports sports tourism in general, including spring training baseball, college football bowl games, the baseball All-Star game in July 2011, the NBA All-Star game in 2009, and amateur events such as marathons, triathlons, bicycle tours and student sports meets. And it pushed for the 2008 expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, now one of the top 20 such venues in the nation.

“Our convention business is an important part of our tourism economic engine,” Hamer said.

Unlike other industries such as manufacturing and technology, Hamer said, much of the tourism industry can’t be automated or outsourced. And thanks to the state’s natural and man-made attractions, it appears to be an industry that’s sustainable.

“Arizona as a whole relied so much on construction,” said Heather Ainardi, director of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, “and in the next 10 years, tourism is going to be one of the drivers of Arizona’s economy.”

Arizona tourism industry: Economic impact of major winter Valley events

College football bowl games
(Fiesta Bowl, BCS national title game and Insight Bowl)

Economic impact: $354.6 million in 2010-11
2010-11 attendance: nearly 200,000 at all three games

P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Economic impact: $59 million
2011 attendance: about 30,000 runners

Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show

Economic impact: $52-58 million
2011 attendance: about 250,000

Cactus League baseball

Economic impact: $360 million
2011 attendance: More than 1.47 million

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Economic impact: $180 million (estimated from 2008, when attendance was 538,356)
2011 attendance: 365,062 (event impacted due to weather)

Arizona Business Magazine January/February 2012