Governor Doug Ducey promised an administration that would move at the speed of business. His first legislative session proved true to his word.
The session was lightning-quick at 81 days, the fastest since 1968. Together the governor and Legislature passed into law over 300 bills, many of which will significantly enhance Arizona’s business environment, making our state’s tax, educational, regulatory and civil justice frameworks some of the best in the country.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proud to have helped foster the pro-business policy environment and to have worked to advance a shared agenda of growth and prosperity.
Here are (just) 10 things that got done that are good for business:
1) Tax reforms you can set your watch to. Governor Ducey and legislative leaders made clear early on in the 2015 legislative session that the tax reforms included in the 2011 and 2012 competitiveness packages would continue to be implemented without pause. That means the corporate income tax rate phase down from 6.9 percent to 4.9 percent, the business property tax relief, and the 25 percent reduction in the capital gains tax will continue to come online on schedule, giving Arizona job creators and taxpayers the certainty they need.
2) Avoiding backdoor tax increases. The governor in his State of the State address called for Arizona’s tax brackets to be pegged to inflation and made it a priority agenda item for his first legislative session. This is tax relief for small businesses that file as individuals under the tax code and for Arizonans who have earned a raise and have been bumped into a higher tax bracket. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Justin Olson, who has made this issue a priority for several sessions, responded to the governor’s call and sent him a bill to make this commonsense reform, putting Arizona in the company of 23 other states that index their tax brackets to inflation.
3) Putting downward pressure on insurance premiums. Speaking of dogged legislators, House Majority Whip David Livingston was successful in his push to send to the governor legislation that reduces the state’s insurance premium tax. Reducing this gross receipts tax insurers pay has been a priority for the Arizona Chamber for several years, and there was strong bipartisan support in the Legislature this year to pass this bill that phases down the tax from 2 percent to 1.7 percent over the next decade. We were thrilled that Gov. Ducey signed the bill into law, improving our insurance environment and even putting some downward pressure on premiums.
4) A stop sign in front of new regulations. It’s important that Arizona continues to reduce the regulatory burden on job creators in order to realize Gov. Ducey’s vision of making “Arizona the pace leader in the competition for the very best state in America to do business,” as he said in his inaugural address back in January.” The governor started things off on the right foot, making his first official act a moratorium on regulatory rulemaking and calling on his agencies to review existing regulations.
Also on the regulatory front, Rep. Warren Petersen worked with the business community to craft an amendment to S.B. 1241, which prevents cities from instituting bans on certain types of containers, such as plastic bags, and prevents cities from requiring building owners to make public their energy usage as part of so-called energy audits. Creating yet more regulatory burdens for business to comply with won’t grow jobs in Arizona, and we were pleased that Gov. Ducey signed the Petersen measure into law.
5) A focus on excellence in the classroom. Gov. Ducey and the Legislature made their first order of legislative business passage of the nation’s first American Civics Act, an effort led by Rep. Steve Montenegro, which will require Arizona students to correctly answer the same questions that appear on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics exam before graduating from high school. Lawmakers and the governor also established the Arizona Public School Achievement District, which will be focused on expanding and replicating Arizona’s very best educational models.
6) Tort reform that puts an end to “double dipping.” A landmark asbestos litigation transparency bill sponsored by Rep. Sonny Borrelli became law, which will help put an end to abusive “double dipping” by plaintiffs between asbestos trusts and trial courts. We’re now one of only five states with this important law on the books.
7) Maintaining high academic standards. Our most vigorous defensive effort this session was devoted to ensuring that the state’s high academic standards were maintained. The State Board of Education has now been tasked by Gov. Ducey with reviewing our existing standards and replacing them with higher Arizona standards.
8) Come fly with me. We averted unnecessary hassles to tourists and business travelers by seeing to passage legislation by Sen. Bob Worsley (H.B. 2609) that ensures Arizonans will be able to obtain identification that meets federal security standards to allow them to board commercial aircraft.
9) Opening up international opportunities. The fiscal year 2016 budget wisely calls for the continued funding of Arizona’s trade office in Mexico City, the capital city of our largest trading partner. And Gov. Ducey made a great call when he named David Farca as the new president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission Board of Directors. David’s the perfect fit for this outstanding organization.
10) Keeping pace with technology. Gov. Ducey signed into law a bill by Rep. Jeff Weninger and Sen. David Farnsworth that opens up the growing crowdfunding space to individuals looking to purchase equity in a startup. This is an important bill that ensures our laws are properly aligned with emerging technology.
Respected national rankings continue to take notice of Arizona’s moves to improve its jobs environment. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Rich States, Poor States report recently ranked Arizona number 5 for economic outlook. We made great progress this year, and expect to move up the charts again next year.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.