It’s a wrap. Arizona voters have spoken. Despite some major disappointments, business and industry saw some major wins, too.
First the new president. President-elect Joe Biden’s victory could prove favorable for Arizona when it comes to trade, immigration and border policies, said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which represents some of the largest employers statewide.
Business and industry now hope to see an end to the punishing trade wars and tariffs of the past four years.
“I don’t think we’re going to see tariff threats on our allies like Mexico and Canada, and for a state like Arizona that relies heavily on trade, that’s a positive going forward,” Hamer said.
Border issues should improve
He predicts improved relations for trade and cross-border tourism, major financial drivers for Arizona. There’s also hope that restrictive visa policies that have made it difficult to hire workers and attract top students from other countries will improve.
“COVID-19 precautions must be at the front of the line in moving forward, but we need to get our borders up and running with our friends and allies and North American neighbors,” Hamer said. “Snowbirds from Canada need a haven from their brutal winters. In terms of Mexico, many of our border communities are integrated and border closures have been devastating.”
Keeping new tariff-free trade pact secure
Hamer is also confident that the new administration will keep the new United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) secure. The free trade deal is bringing cross border commerce into the modern age with new provisions that include guidelines and protection for e-commerce and intellectual property that will benefit Arizona.
“I’m very bullish that the next administration will expand on this tremendous agreement and further cement our trade ties,” he said.
Tax and regulatory agenda cause for concern
Hamer’s organization was a vocal supporter of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which he argues was essential to the country’s pre-pandemic economic expansion.
“We won’t support a rollback of the tax reductions that unlocked one of the most vibrant economies the country’s ever known,” Hamer said. “We’re counting on job creators to help us recover from the current downturn. Saddling them with higher taxes and more regulatory red tape won’t grow the economy.”
Hamer says the outcome of two U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia in January will be pivotal.
“These races will determine not only which party controls the Senate, but also the extent to which policies that help create jobs will either be retained or rejected,” he said.
A much needed healing message
Biden hit all the right chords in his victory speech, said Hamer, who immediately sent out a tweet congratulating the president-elect:
“It was uplifting and unifying. We are a good people and the greatest country in the history of the world. We are the UNITED STATES of America. It’s time to heal,” Hamer wrote.
Voters retain pro-business, pro-tech, pro-education stewards
At both the national and state level, Arizona voters retained a majority of candidates endorsed by business and trade groups who have worked to build the state’s economy and future.
At the state Legislature, the GOP held onto majority control. While the chamber endorses candidates from both parties, keeping the status quo provides needed certainty right now, said Garrick Taylor, executive vice president for the Chamber.
Under the state’s leadership, Arizona has watched its economic strength grow exponentially, and it’s experiencing a faster recovery from the pandemic than many other states.
“We’re less concerned with partisan affiliation than we are with making sure the Legislature is committed to strengthening the state’s competitiveness,” Taylor said. “Ensuring that there is a strong majority of pro-jobs, pro-growth legislators is more essential than ever.”
Proven record for moving mountains
Among those re-elected to their respective state houses are dozens of lawmakers who have successfully led Arizona to increase teacher salaries and funding for education to the tune of $1 billion more per year, promote policies to attract a wide range of industries and high paying jobs, and take on a major battle with Mother Nature.
Last year, Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and other legislators helped smooth a sometimes contentious process to update the seven-state Drought Contingency Plan to protect one of Arizona’s most important water resources, the Colorado River.
A new U.S. senator
One person who was essential in moving the historic water pact forward was Arizona’s U.S. Senator Martha McSally, who lost her bid to retain her Senate seat against astronaut and fellow military pilot Capt. Mark Kelly (D).
McSally, lauded as one of the hardest working public servants in Congress, received strong support from business groups including chambers of commerce, trade associations and small business groups. Earlier this year, McSally received the U.S. Chamber’s Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award for her record of bipartisan pro-job, pro-free enterprise work.
Arizona business leaders are now eager to forge a similar relationship with Senator-elect Kelly.
“Arizona’s job creators congratulate Capt. Mark Kelly on becoming the state’s next U.S. senator. We look forward to working with him on policies that will strengthen the country and state’s economies,” Hamer said. “Many Arizona businesses are struggling during this pandemic-induced downturn, so there is much work to be done. Sen.-elect Kelly can count on us as willing partners.”
Two serious blows to small business, industry
Two state ballot propositions that were widely opposed by business and trade groups statewide also received voter approval. Both were heavily funded by out-of-state groups.
Most daunting was the narrow passage of Proposition 208, the “Invest in Ed” measure. The new law imposes a high personal income tax on the state’s top earning individuals to fund education. Forgotten in the frenzy to help educators, voters did not realize it would impact tens of thousands of small businesses as well.
“This is a job-killing tax that threatens to destroy Arizona’s reputation as a pro-business, pro-job creation state,” Hamer said.
The new law could stifle Arizona’s ability to compete with other states. Neighboring states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have lower or zero income tax rates. Other states are rejecting similar measures. Colorado voters elected to lower that state’s income tax.
Passage of Proposition 207 was another blow. The new law makes recreational marijuana legal in Arizona. Business groups fought its passage for a number of reasons, including a fear of more workplace injuries and accidents and less productivity on the job.
Despite some major disappointments, voters resoundingly cast their ballots for dozens of public servants who have made Arizona a business-friendly state.
“Arizona is now counting on their leadership to develop the policies necessary to emerge from the pandemic just as we entered it—with one of the nation’s strongest economies,” Hamer said.
This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.