2014 Legislative Priorities

In preparation for the 2014 Legislative session, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce identified key issues of vital importance to the business community and the future economic health of the Greater Phoenix region. With the first few weeks of session behind us and roughly 85 days until the official (and very hopeful) Sine Die date, the Chamber will be at the state capitol strategically supporting initiatives business leaders believe are needed to facilitate the attraction, retention and expansion of the region’s businesses and economy.

1.      Education

Arizona has consistently had one of the lowest-ranked education systems in the country. This problem results in workforce issues for existing businesses and influences those companies looking to relocate to the Phoenix region.

For Arizonans and our business community to enjoy economic prosperity, it is vital that our state’s future workforce have the best educational opportunities at every stage in life to ensure that our state has a prepared, trained and well-rounded workforce that is able and ambitious.

The education system is a pipeline. It starts with early childhood education, moves through the K-12 system and/or post-secondary education at technical schools, community colleges and universities, and flows into the workforce pool of our region.

During the 2014 legislative session, our collective task is rallying support among our state’s leaders and policy makers for higher standards and subsequent funding so the State Board of Education can select a new state assessment that will align with the higher standards adopted across the state approximately three years ago. Other important and vital issues facing our students and educators include funding for early childhood education and parity funding for the universities.

Governor Brewer’s recently released executive budget proposal includes funding for a new K-12 assessment that aligns with the adopted rigorous goals our schools have established for our students and completes the parity funding for the state’s university system. Both of these items will help strengthen our state’s education system and, in turn, our economy.

While session moves forward and legislators work with the governor to adopt a state budget for the Fiscal Year 2015, it is important that the business community continue to vocally support education efforts, specifically funds for a new K-12 assessment that will provide meaning to an Arizona high school diploma.

Arizona’s education system must produce college or career-ready graduates to be globally competitive. The business community is presenting a unified front: Arizona needs to implement programs within the education system that best serve Arizona students, employers and entrepreneurs to set a strong foundation for the region’s economic future and develop students whose skills are ahead of our global competitors.

To join other businesses in supporting education, visit http://www.graduatepreparedaz.org/.

2.      Infrastructure

If the state is going to support the current population and economy, and continue pursuing ambitious economic development plans, maintaining and developing the state’s fundamental infrastructure—transportation, rights of ways and water resources—needs to be a priority.

Since 2001, over $1.7 billion has been diverted from Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) to pay for other government programs. This has resulted in a lack of funding for Arizona’s Department of Transportation and our cities and towns. The Chamber supports ending this practice and ensuring that money from HURF directly support highway maintenance and improvement projects in the upcoming budget.

As we continue to expand our transportation infrastructure, we must also be mindful of the burden we place on other forms of infrastructure—the technology backbone that supports almost all types of business activity today. The Chamber supports state policies governing use of public rights of ways that ensure fair access and reasonable regulation without adding costs that prematurely  – and perhaps unnecessarily – burden the rate payers of the public rights of way.

Additionally, the Chamber supports strategic planning for our state’s most basic building block for a strong infrastructure:  water. Water is our most precious commodity and we can’t overlook it when planning for the state’s future.

Protecting Arizona’s Colorado River allotment and effectively managing those supplies are paramount to any economic development efforts. Moving forward, policy, business and community leaders need to collaborate to craft sound water policy for Arizona’s next 100 years.  While water isn’t at the forefront of our issues for this legislative session, the Chamber wants to ensure that the business community participates and plays an integral role in future water planning to ensure predictable and stable water sources for Arizona’s growing population.

3.      Healthy Business Environment

The most basic and desirable quality of any metro region is a business environment that provides stability, predictability and does not unduly burden business owners with regulations or repetitive reporting requirements.

The Chamber supports legislation and regulatory policies which recognize Arizona’s unique characteristics, provide regulatory certainty, are based on clear statutory authority and are cost-effective, technically feasible, and not duplicative. We also support efforts to streamline government, reduce the current regulatory burden where appropriate, and oppose new regulations that would unduly burden employers and prevent them from growing and creating new jobs.

Last year’s Transactional Privilege Tax (sales tax) reform is an example of streamlining regulations and reporting requirements that ease the burden on businesses large and small.

This year, the Chamber supports similar efforts to streamline government processes and enhance efficiency. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s myDEQ portal is a prime example of innovation in the state’s regulatory environment that reduces the burden on businesses while enhancing government service and bringing reporting process into the 21st century.  ADEQ estimates that when the portal is completed, 70% of ADEQ customer transactions can be done using myDEQ.

State leaders and the business community need to continue to work together identifying areas of regulation that could be streamlined and create cost and time savings for both public and private parties.

Economic development efforts in Arizona are instrumental to a prosperous future. As the recession comes to an end, the state needs to evaluate the strength of its foundation and develop a strategic plan for investing in long-term projects that will attract people and businesses to the region, while also continuing to foster existing and new industries and innovation within Arizona. The Chamber believes this year and the coming years will be instrumental to creating the platform with which to grow a thriving business environment and strong economy for Arizona.

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