economy – Arizona Capitol Times

Morning Scoop: Diving Into Arizona’s Water Management
Former Gov. Doug Ducey officially turned over the governor’s office to Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday, marking a shift in party power at the state’s highest office and the end of a lengthy and consequential era in Arizona politics. 
Ducey, 58, becomes Arizona’s first governor since Bruce Babbit, who left office in 1987, to complete two full, four-year terms on the job. In eight years in office, Ducey presided over profound changes that will continue to affect the state for years to come. 
The governor signed conservative policies into law on everything from economic policy to education during his time as the state’s top executive. Beginning next year, Arizonans in all income brackets will pay a flat 2.5% tax and many families will get taxpayer money to cover education expenses – both products of legislation backed by the governor. 
In other areas, the ground has shifted under Ducey’s feet since he took office in 2015. 
The “Red for Ed” movement that led teachers around the state to go on strike eventually led to pay increases for teachers that the governor approved in 2018. The Arizona Republican Party, now dominated by figures from the MAGA faction of the party aligned with former President Donald Trump, is almost unrecognizable from the state party that helped elect Ducey to two terms in the governor’s office. 
Ducey frequently says that he’s left the state “better than (he) found it,” and he invariably cites Arizona’s economy as the prime example of his success. 
“He did a great job with the economy. There’s no doubt about that,” said longtime Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin. Specifically, Coughlin said, Arizona has added jobs not just in traditional sectors like home-building and development, but in a diverse range of industries, particularly high-tech manufacturing. 
The new manufacturing projects include battery and electric car makers who have set up shop in Pinal County and a semiconductor manufacturing plant that’s under construction in North Phoenix. Even President Joe Biden flew into Phoenix to help celebrate progress on the chip factory in December. 
In terms of lawmaking, Ducey’s signature accomplishments mostly came near the end of his tenure, and they run the gamut of conservative policy priorities. 
In 2022, his last legislative session, the governor signed a massive expansion of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, better known as school vouchers. The law removed eligibility requirements from the program, allowing any Arizona family to get state funds to cover their children’s education expenses, including tuition at private schools. 
Also last year, lawmakers delivered a billion-dollar package based on the governor’s vision for bringing more water to the state: desalination. A board set up to administer the more than $1 billion investment (which will come out of state coffers over three years) has already taken steps that could lead to financially backing a desalination plant in Sonora, Mexico. 
And in 2021, with the governor’s support, lawmakers passed the state’s historic flat tax. 
Those moves were possible, in part, thanks to Arizona’s growing revenues and enviable financial surplus. In 2015, his first year in office, Ducey signed a slim $9 billion budget. In 2022, that figure had doubled to $18 billion, but still included provisions to top up the state’s rainy-day fund, which now comes to more than one billion dollars. 
Daniel Scarpinato, a former chief of staff to the governor, credited the fiscal belt-tightening of Ducey’s first year – when the state faced a $700 million deficit – for paving the way for future spending packages. 
“I don’t think that we’d be in the position today of being able to do all these things if that (the deficit) had lingered,” Scarpinato said. 
The tax cuts and voucher expansion were, predictably, partisan endeavors, while the water project ultimately received widespread bipartisan support. In another area – public school funding – the governor’s legacy may still be up for debate. 
Even though Ducey ultimately signed the 2018 law that aimed to increase public school teacher pay around the state by 20%, Arizona remains close to last in average teacher pay across the country and public school class sizes have continued to grow in recent years. Scarpinato said that the bottom line is that teachers got a significant raise while Ducey was governor. 
But Stacy Pearson, a Democratic strategist, said Ducey shouldn’t be applauded for effectively restoring education funding that had been cut by former Gov. Jan Brewer, while allowing the state to remain far behind its peers. 
“That he’s trying to get us to celebrate going from dead last to second-to-last, or third-to-last, is laughable,” she said. 
Another important piece of legislation signed by Ducey might have a counterintuitive impact. 
A 2022 abortion law (passed in anticipation of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade) bans abortion after the 15-week mark of a pregnancy except in medical emergencies, but it may actually have the effect of loosening abortion restrictions in Arizona. That’s because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last month that the 15-week ban supersedes a more restrictive state law that dates to the 19th century. 
Outside of lawmaking, Ducey’s second term was largely defined by the Covid pandemic. Phoenix was one of the first cities to report a coronavirus case in January 2020 and, in March 2020, Ducey signed a series of emergency orders that largely shut down the state – closing schools, restaurants, gyms and other businesses.
But the lockdown was lifted abruptly in May and, that summer, the virus began spreading rapidly through the state. Hospitals were overwhelmed and thousands died, but the governor resisted calls to impose health and safety measures like a face mask mandate, arguing it would damage the state’s economy and that lockdowns imposed a toll on mental health.
By the time Ducey left office, more than 30,000 Arizonans had died of Covid and the state had the unwelcome distinction of the highest per capita Covid death rate of any state.
On border issues, Ducey in some ways brought a more restrained approach than his predecessor Brewer, who signed the controversial “show me your papers” law, SB 1070. He forged a close relationship with former Sonora governor Claudia Pavlovich and emphasized economic cooperation. But he also took some aggressive action aimed at border security. 
He initiated the “border strike force” in 2015 – a program aimed at stopping drug trafficking that eventually came under criticism for failing to live up to its name. And in 2022 started busing migrants to liberal cities on the east coast and building a shipping-container border barrier without federal permission – until the federal government secured a legal agreement to take it down. 
Ducey had the fortune of working with Republican-controlled legislatures during his time in office, but narrow majorities did lead to some conflict. In his final legislative session, he signed a budget that got bipartisan backing and included concessions to Democrats in the form of more public-school funding, after some hard-right lawmakers refused to get on board with Ducey’s budget plan. 
Among other actions that will reverberate long after he’s gone, Ducey’s numerous judicial appointments mean his judgement will help shape how the state’s legal system functions for years to come. 
Most notably, he expanded the Arizona Supreme Court from five to seven justices, though he insisted the move didn’t amount to court packing. As he leaves office, five of the justices are Ducey appointees. (The other two were appointed by Brewer.) 
Even while Ducey was still in office, the justices had a hand in securing some of his most important policy accomplishments. 
In 2021, the Arizona Supreme Court effectively quashed Proposition 208, a voter-approved initiative that would have raised taxes on high-earning Arizonans in order to provide more funding for public education. (The Arizona Supreme Court sent the case back to a trial court, but with instructions that basically forced the judge’s decision.) Had it taken effect, it would have significantly altered the flat tax program signed into law the same year. 
Compared to Brewer, who fought bitterly with the legislature and memorably wagged an accusatory finger at then-President Barack Obama when he visited Arizona, Ducey took a more low-key approach and, at least publicly, didn’t pick many fights. 
Even Pearson, for the most part a critic of the governor, gave Ducey credit for that. 
“I may not agree with his policies, but the guy did exactly what he said he was going to do … and he did it without scandal,” she said. 
Even so, Ducey had his own clash with a sitting president, in a moment that underscored the political shifts underway during his tenure. 
In 2020, as he certified Arizona’s election results, he silenced a call from Trump, who at the time was ramping up his claims that the election had been marred by widespread fraud. That led to a rift between the two men and was part of a broader schism between Ducey and more hard-right elements of the Republican Party. 
One question that remained unanswered as the governor’s office changed hands on Monday is what Ducey will do next. He declined to run for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat last year against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, but he has reportedly expressed interest in running the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In interviews in recent weeks, the governor hasn’t offered hints about his future plans. 
Editor’s note: This story was revised on Jan. 9, 2023 to include a passage on the Covid pandemic. 
There are plenty of news commentators who say America’s workers are doing just fine. They see low consumer prices, low unemployment, and a booming stock market as signs that all is well. But out in the real world, things are more worrying. Millions of Americans are barely subsisting on retail work in shopping malls and restaurants. And the kinds of jobs available to them are now declining in quality.
Since 1990, the United States has been creating an overabundance of low-quality service jobs. In fact, new research shows that 63 percent of the production and non-supervisory jobs created in the U.S. over the past 30 years have been in low-wage and low-hour positions. That’s a major change from the start of the 1990s, when almost half of these jobs—47 percent—were considered “high-wage.”
For more than a year, a group of economists have been sifting through the nation’s jobs data. And what they’ve found in a new “U.S. Job Quality Index” is that in the past three decades the U.S. economy has grown increasingly dependent on jobs that offer fewer hours of work—and at lower relative wages. That includes almost 15 million non-management jobs in leisure and hospitality paying an average of $360 a week, and 13.5 million retail jobs paying roughly $506 weekly.
There are now 105 million production and non-supervisory jobs in the U.S.—83 percent of all private sector work. More than half of them pay less than the average weekly U.S. wage of $793. These are the best jobs that many Americans can find, and the most hours they can get.
So what’s driving all of this?
From 1970 to 2019, U.S. manufacturing employment declined from 22.6 percent of the workforce to only 8.2 percent. Those lost manufacturing jobs were often replaced with lower-wage work – and at reduced weekly hours.
Manufacturing once provided skilled, good-paying work, including health care and benefits. But Americans lacking a college degree now find themselves becoming progressively more underemployed. Almost two-thirds of America’s workforce – 65.1 percent – do not have a college degree. And so, 100 million Americans are watching their employment prospects gradually deteriorate.
There’s no easy fix for this. But the priority should be to restore wealth-generating industries, like manufacturing, that can spur middle-class job growth. That will mean tackling predatory trade with China, and fixing an overvalued dollar – to make American-made goods globally competitive again. These are necessary steps to create large numbers of jobs that can provide a path to the middle class. Anything less will mean an ongoing decline for America’s workers—and lower-quality jobs.
Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America.
In our highly charged political environment, the question of whether to incorporate more renewable energy resources as part of our overall energy infrastructure is—as with most issues—often viewed in the prism of being either “left” or “right.”  Unfortunately, this simplistic view distorts an increasingly important issue, and one that has much deeper significance than whether, from a political perspective, conservatives or liberals perceive renewable energy positively or negatively. In fact, transitioning to a more robust renewable energy portfolio has important implications for air quality, water supply, economic development, and national security.
Recently, representatives from our state’s utilities, business community, and political leaders met in a forum to discuss the value of expanding the sources that make up our electric grid, and the consensus was clear: the value of diversifying our energy portfolio and expanding our utilization of renewable energy options is not a left or right question, but an imperative that will have significant impacts on our state.
The forum was hosted by Greater Phoenix Leadership in conjunction with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber, The Western Way, and moderated by Pat Graham of The Nature Conservancy. The impetus for the forum was a visit by retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn of the CNA Military Advisory Board, who gave a compelling presentation on how additional renewable energy facilities can enhance the national security of our electric grid; essentially, the message was that by diversifying the number and types of sources we use for energy generation, we make it more difficult for those who wish to do us harm to target our energy supplies.
Aside from the national security imperative, it is clear that the promotion of clean energy (e.g. solar energy creation and storage, nuclear energy, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicle adoption, etc.) has significant positive impacts for Arizona from an air quality and water supply standpoint, not to mention augmenting economic development opportunities.  APS and SRP are committing significant resources to this end and should be commended for their aggressive approaches to Arizona renewable infrastructure.
Regarding air quality, we know that Arizona struggles with air quality problems, which results not only in consequences for public health but for Arizona’s economy as well. That is because, when a state is out of compliance with air quality standards—or close to that limit—federal environmental regulations limit opportunities for manufacturing and business growth and expansion unless the state can show how it will offset the additional emissions that economic expansion might produce.
Yet, by investing in renewable energy technology, Arizona’s businesses, both new and expanding, can pursue development opportunities while still complying with federal air quality standards. For example, when an Arizona business voluntarily institutes a program to incentivize its employees to carpool or drive electric vehicles to work, the reduction in vehicle emissions can be used as an offset toward obtaining the necessary air quality permit for expansion. In general, Arizona’s business community will be well served by promoting these types of emission reduction credits (ERCs), since there is no maximum limit on the amount of eligible reductions. In Maricopa County especially, air quality concerns are significant, and expanding the use of ERCs by, for example, installing workplace electric vehicle charging stations, will provide certainty that economic expansion will not be hindered by the federal environmental regulations.
With respect to water, recent analyses from various private and public entities continue to underscore the need to address Arizona’s current and future water supply needs. Although Arizona did significant work in 2019 to address surface water challenges through the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, it is clear that there is much work left to be done to address Arizona’s long-term needs. Here too, there is a robust nexus with renewable energy. Unlike traditional electricity generation, solar energy requires significantly less water. Continuing to invest in solar energy technology and other less water-intensive methods of electricity generation provides a real opportunity to accommodate our state’s growing energy needs while being mindful of our water usage.
Today’s political climate has become an all-or-nothing, zero sum game. When it comes to energy policy, too often those on the right ignore real environmental and conservation problems, and those on the left ignore legitimate concerns about loss of employment, economic growth, and individual freedom due to overburdensome government regulation.
It is time to move away from a polarized approach to renewable energy. Fortunately, Arizona businesses understand that a balanced approach to major policies facing the state is possible. Gov. Doug Ducey emphasized this point in his recent State of the State address, it is what we in Arizona call the “Arizona Way.” There is a genuine interest and commitment in moving toward, promoting, and expanding renewable energy development and usage.  Arizona is in a premier position to move past the “right vs. left” arguments and pursue policies that embrace a meaningful renewable energy platform that will benefit our great state for many decades to come.
Jaime Molera is a partner with Molera Alvarez and Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Arizona has seen a steady decline of manufacturing jobs spanning decades, but hopes are a boom in automotive research will bring it to an end.
Big corporations such as Uber, Lyft, Google, Waymo and Lucid Motors have committed to build test sites for their new cars and build large manufacturing plants in the desert over the last two years, turning Arizona into a live test track for autonomous cars and vehicles.
Just last month, Gov. Doug Ducey announced the Utah-based Nikola Motor Company will be moving its corporate headquarters to Arizona, while also constructing a truck-manufacturing plant in Buckeye with construction scheduled to begin in late 2019. Along with the plant, comes over 2,000 jobs for the city of Buckeye and an estimated $840,000 in direct and indirect revenues.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona has seen a 54 percent decrease in manufacturing jobs since 1970. With the introduction of companies like Uber and Nikola, Arizona is looking to improve that percentage and stop the consistent decline.
With all these corporations making the transition to Arizona, it brings up a commonly asked question: Why here?
Ducey is known for labeling Arizona as a pro-business state and is backed up in a report written by economists for Wells Fargo Securities in February of 2017 when it states, “Employers are attracted by Arizona’s lower business costs, particularly compared to other West Coast states.”
Even with these larger corporations reshaping the economy, it is still hard to predict where the market is headed.
Alan Maguire, an economist for the Maguire Company, said he expects Arizona to generally react to market trends and predicts the state not to favor one sector such as raw materials or big corporations over another in the coming years.
“I think some focus on further encouraging high-value, mid-skill employment could be very beneficial,” Maguire said.  “Things like lower property taxes on manufacturing facilities and encouraging skill based training and recruitment could help bring new manufacturers to Arizona.”
Maguire also said he highly encourages the improvement of manufacturing jobs and sees nothing the state is doing as negative toward improving the economy as a whole.
However, Jim Rounds, president of the Rounds Consulting Group Inc., said the state needs to address the issue of government funding before it starts to hold back the growing economy and make it a priority.
Rounds also said he is encouraged to see the state attracting higher and more well-known firms.
“In order to implement policies to improve the state’s economy,” Rounds said, “the focus needs to be creating more higher-wage jobs.”
Arizona has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship that has helped us grow from a Western outpost into a robust and thriving economy. While Covid has obviously had an impact, we are well-positioned for a strong recovery, in part because of the strength of Arizona’s clean energy, technology and innovation sectors. As we focus on our economic recovery efforts, it is essential that we identify and implement opportunities to support these sectors, which continue to diversify our state’s overall economy.  
With that in mind, last fall The Western Way partnered with the Arizona Technology Council to convene a group of stakeholders working at the forefront of technology and innovation here. Together, the group identified key policy priorities that, if implemented, can supercharge Arizona’s economic recovery and cement our state as a national leader in clean and renewable energy technology and innovation. Our joint report released in December 2020 gives policymakers a roadmap for incorporating the technology and energy innovation sector into Arizona’s economic recovery plan. We are so pleased to see two of our recommendations mirrored in bills currently before the state Legislature.  
 HB2153 sponsored by Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, goes a long way toward further incentivizing the adoption of clean and renewable energy technology in Arizona by providing an exemption from state and municipal taxes for machinery and equipment used directly for energy storage. Existing state law levies a tax on tangible personal property while providing an exemption for certain categories, including the retail sale of solar energy equipment and installation of solar energy devices. Dunn’s bill adds energy storage equipment to the list of exemptions. Further development and deployment of energy storage technology  and the jobs and economic development opportunities that come with it  is a critical component of our clean and renewable energy future. If passed, HB2153 would offer an important signal that Arizona is focusing on the future.  
Our report also recommended policies that support advanced manufacturing, including funding programs that enhance the talent pipeline from Arizona’s community college and state university systems into the clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors. HB2017 sponsored by Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, provides an appropriation from the general fund to the Arizona Commerce Authority to administer a grant program intended to cultivate STEM workforce development opportunities.  
 Arizona’s clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors are critical parts of our economy. They create jobs, support existing businesses and attract new ones to the state, and help ensure air quality and the environment are healthy for our communities. Investing in the advanced manufacturing and clean energy sectors by building a larger talent pipeline to support the growth of the advanced manufacturing and energy innovation sectors, as well as encourage new businesses to locate here, are essential if we are to continue to grow and innovate as a state. 
 As we look ahead to the future, we must find new and innovative ways to produce the energy we need to support our growing economy and the businesses and communities that call Arizona home. Fortunately, we have legislators prioritizing the clean energy, technology and innovation sectors by focusing on policy solutions that will have a real and positive impact on Arizona’s economy, both in the short-term as our economy recovers and for years into the future. 
Doran Arik Miller is Arizona director of The Western Way and Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of Arizona Technology Council 
Arizona patients and legislators know the value of our doctors.
However, doctors aren’t just there when you need them for medical attention. Physicians also contribute to the community’s well-being outside of the exam room.
This year, the American Medical Association (AMA) published a study that demonstrates the significant economic impact doctors have locally and nationally. The Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) was pleased to partner with AMA to share the local results of the study.
The 2018 AMA Economic Impact Study found that Arizona physicians generated $33.5 billion dollars in direct and indirect economic activity for the state, with each physician supporting nearly $2.4 million dollars on average. In total, physicians across the United States produced
$2.3 trillion in economic activity for the country.
According to the AMA study, Arizona physicians supported a total of 198,921 jobs, including those in the medical field and across other industries. On average, that’s 14.2 jobs per individual physician – jobs which produce a local economy that stays in the state and even attracts investment from outside the state’s borders.
As the AMA study demonstrates, physicians not only safeguard a healthy community, they also provide for their community. The state’s doctors supported more than $1.2 billion in local and state tax revenues, with each doctor supporting $86,635 in local and state tax revenues. That’s money that goes directly to Arizona communities and infrastructure.
This report’s findings show that Arizona physicians go above and beyond for their communities, generating billions in state and local tax revenue and economic activity, while also creating more jobs that provide security, good wages and benefits.
Outside of the practice of medicine, we see job growth and societal benefits from our academic medical institutions and biomedical industry.
Despite the clear economic benefit Arizona doctors provide our state, there are still barriers in place that prevent recruitment. According to the AAMC 2017 State Physician Workforce Data Report, Arizona offers about 235 physicians per 100,000 population, which is well short of the national median of 257.
There have been efforts in recent years to boost investment in Arizona medical schools, and the state now has six schools that offer medical training. However, the number of slots for residency training, or graduate medical education (GME), have not significantly increased. Physicians tend to stay in the area that they complete their residency – we are able to keep about 74 percent of those who complete their residencies in Arizona.
Given the growth of medical schools and medical students in Arizona, as well as the growth in our state population, we need to see a corresponding increase in GME funding. We need to retain these new physicians, for our medical health and our economic health. ArMA is committed to exploring options to increase GME funding in Arizona.
The AMA Economic Impact Study shows the tangible value physicians provide. We want to do all we can to encourage more physicians to come to Arizona so that we can keep our state’s health and economy strong.
— Dr. Michael Hamant is a private practice family physician in Tucson and the 126th president of the Arizona Medical Association.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
No new taxes
Arizona’s economy is just starting to come back from a devastating spring and summer due to the pandemic shutdowns. The last thing we should do is pump the breaks on the recovery by putting in place the largest permanent tax increase in state history.
The proposed $1 billion-per-year tax increase is marketed as going to K-12 education, but how exactly will it be spent? Over the last few years, we have invested a lot in education in Arizona. In three years, enough money was designated to give teachers a 20% raise, and we currently allocate more than 50% of our state’s $11 billion general fund to support K-12 education. That percentage runs even higher if you add in funding for colleges and universities.
Like every campaign to increase taxes, the proponents of Proposition 208 brand it as only “a tax increase on the wealthy.” They are trying to conjure the image of making rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly, wearing a top hat and monocle and smoking a cigar with his feet on a desk, have to pay more in taxes. But the truth is that this tax increase will hit our greatest job creators the hardest, such as our small business owners and entrepreneurs.
It is an income tax increase that will nearly double the state income tax for individuals with income of over $250,000, including couples that take in over $500,000. While this sounds like a lot for most people, it does not take into consideration that many start-up companies and small business owners file their taxes as sole proprietorships—in other words, they file as individuals. If a small business is taking in less than $250,000 per year, they probably won’t be in business for long.
What’s worse, these are the very businesses that have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The last thing they need is an increased tax burden after months of diminished revenues. That could grind our state’s comeback to a screeching halt.
In the long term, this is a bad policy as well. We are trying to attract job creators to Arizona, not chase them away. High-tax states like New York have already seen this happen. In New York City, one percent of the population pays 50 percent of the taxes. When those people leave, the pain is very real. This led to the sad spectacle of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo begging wealthy residents to return, saying, “I’ll buy you a drink.” Ironically, thanks to the money they saved by moving, they are quite capable of buying their own drinks.
As Cuomo found out, these high income residents are “the most mobile people on the globe.” With remote work becoming easier, and even preferred, wealthy people can live anywhere.
Proposition 208 would make Arizona one of the 10 highest taxed states in America. If our tax structure signals to high-income individuals that they will be penalized for living in Arizona, they will simply choose to leave or not move here. Not only will we lose the alleged “Prop 208” revenue, we will also lose the taxes those individuals were already paying. Our economy will not benefit from the money they spend here, and the jobs they would have created will go elsewhere.
None of this will help our economy recover. A booming economy is the best way to make sure we can fund education. Proposition 208 would have the exact opposite effect than intended, which is why we must stop the largest tax increase in Arizona’s history and vote no on Proposition 208.
Dr. Kelli Ward is a family physician, two-term Arizona state senator, and the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Arizona. On Twitter: @KelliWardAZ
The Super Bowl. The Final Four. A new corporate headquarters. These are all huge economic wins that are touted by leaders across the state when secured. But, there’s an industry in Arizona that contributes at a greater scale, and continues to grow and thrive even during economic downturns. This is Arizona’s health care industry.
We often don’t think about the health care industry in the context of economic development. Hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals provide much needed care across the state, yet the impact goes far beyond the patient.
In 2018, Arizona hospitals produced nearly $30 billion in total economic impacts. To illustrate this further, hospitals help create a high wage ecosystem that affects more than 185,000 employees and contributes more than $800 million in state and local taxes.
Although the industry is doing well, we need to ensure that our health care delivery system is prepared to meet the growing demand for services. One concern is the current Medicaid shortfall that amounts to $1 billion a year. This shortfall means hospitals, physicians, dentists and other providers only get reimbursed at a portion of the cost for each Medicaid service delivered. Although the health care industry has been managing this shortfall since the economic recession, it’s no longer sustainable. By addressing this shortfall, health care systems and providers will need to keep pace with the services needed by residents, and will continue to invest in infrastructure, research, and technology.
That’s why we are supporting legislation (HB 2668) that addresses this issue with an innovative approach at no cost to the state or patients. The Health Care Investment Act will establish an outpatient assessment on hospitals in order to receive $1.1 billion in federal funds. These dollars will be used in a variety of ways to ensure that we can meet the health care needs of today and tomorrow.
An in-depth analysis of the Health Care Investment Act revealed a total economic impact of $2.3 billion annually across the state. Remember the Super Bowl we just watched on television? The Health Care Investment Act has the same annual economic impact as three Super Bowls all occurring in one year.
If business statistics are preferred, consider the following. It’s also the equivalent of a 5,800 employee high wage headquarters relocating to Arizona.
This economic activity is important for both urban and rural areas. In rural parts of the state, this high wage industry is responsible for a majority of a local area’s economy. The hospital’s presence impacts retiree recruitment, second home buyers, and business development opportunities. This is also true for urban areas, but additional high-tech and advanced health care research and development opportunities are also prevalent.
The state has grown over the past several years, in terms of jobs, income, and population. Now is the time to shift gears and grow our economic base with extra focus on high wage jobs. As we plan the vision of our state for the next decade, it’s critical that we recognize and leverage the economic benefits of the health care industry, and keep Arizona’s economy, and residents, healthy.
Rep. Regina Cobb is chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. David Gowan is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Jim Rounds is an economist and president of Rounds Consulting Group.
The state’s jobless rate is up a tenth of a point and stands exactly where it did a year ago.
And it’s now a full point higher than the national figure.
But the research administrator for the state Office of Economic Opportunity, in announcing the last set of numbers before Election Day, said this isn’t a bad sign for the Arizona economy that incumbent Doug Ducey says has been booming under his tenure. Doug Walls said Thursday there are “other metrics” that show how well the state really is doing.
On paper, the numbers are simple.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September is 4.7 percent compared to 4.6 percent in August. The 3.7 percent figure for the country, by contrast, is down two tenths of a point.
What’s affecting the unemployment rate, he said, is that the rate of job creation here is just barely matching the number of new people who are now looking for work, whether new graduates, new Arizona residents or simply folks who have not been working — and therefore were not counted as “unemployed” but decide now is a good time to start looking for a job.
It’s the number of jobs created — and not the unemployment rate — that Walls said provide a better indication of economic health.
He pointed out that private sector employment is up by 11,300 in the past month and by 79,000 in the past year. And year-over-year employment has now been in positive numbers for eight years, back into the administration of Gov. Jan Brewer.
Still, it’s hard for politicians to ignore — and not crow about when it goes down — a number that people understand.
“Just out: 3.7 percent unemployment is the lowest number since 1969,” President Trump tweeted out following the release of the national figures earlier this month.
And Ducey himself has used the number in campaign speeches, pronouncing as recently as last month that “the last time unemployment was this low people were renting their videos from Blockbuster.”
The disparity between job creation numbers and the jobless rate has to do with how the government collects the data.
One survey is of about a third of all Arizona employers: How many people do you have working for you. That includes full- and part-time workers. And it actually can count someone twice who has to work two jobs.
It’s that number that’s up by 11,300 last month.
The other checks in with about 1,200 households with two basic questions: Are you working and, if not, are you looking.
That second number becomes the number of unemployed, divided into the total workforce, meaning those working and those looking. After some seasonal adjustment to account for what normally occurs at certain times of the year, that produces the 4.7 percent jobless rate, the same figure as a year ago.
Walls deflected a question of whether this is the “new normal” for Arizona, a state whose jobless rate was at 3.6 percent in 2007.
“It’s not that we’re stuck and not going anywhere,” he said. “We have to look and gauge other metrics in order to get the entire picture.”
That includes the total number of people who are working, which shows jobs are being created.
“One indicator is not going to give you the entire picture,” Walls said.
In responding to the higher unemployment rate in Arizona, gubernatorial press aide Daniel Ruiz said the focus should be on those other numbers, like the year-over-year growth in employment.
There is another indicator, though.
Average hourly earnings last month in Arizona were $25.67, compared with $27.38 nationally. And one thing that affects earnings is demand: As the jobless rate declines, employers need to pay more to attract and retain talent.
The brightest spot in the economy continues to be the rapidly recovering construction industry.
It tanked in the wake of the recession as the housing bubble burst, with employment going from 244,300 — one job out of every 11 in the state — to just 109,300.
Another 1,200 construction jobs were added in September, bringing year-over-year growth to 16,500. That means one out of every five jobs created in the past year was in construction.
But Walls said there is no reason to believe that Arizona will once again become overly dependent on construction jobs which could dry up the next time the economy goes sour. He pointed out that total construction employment is 165,200, which is only two thirds of that 2006 peak.
Manufacturing employment also remains healthy, particularly in computer and electronic parts where employment is up 9.7 percent in the past year. And Walls said the state’s aerospace sector also is doing well.
At the other extreme, employment among retailers selling clothing and accessories shed another 1,000 jobs last month and remains below where it was a year ago. Walls said this industry is particularly susceptible to online competition.
There are two basic questions to ask about today’s unemployment assistance benefits: 1) Is $240 per week enough for a family to live on while unemployed?  2) Is unemployment supposed to be income replacement or a temporary safety net to bridge the gap and meet the needs of our employees and their families who find themselves out of work?
We could ask the nearly one half million people across Arizona who have applied for unemployment since the Covid pandemic began.
I’ve heard from so many constituents who have struggled after losing their job over the past year due to the pandemic and the associated government restrictions on businesses.
I fully believe it is the duty of state legislators to help hard-working Arizonans across the state as they struggle through this crisis.
That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation, HB2805, to provide much-needed, additional unemployment assistance to Arizonans who have been put in this terrible situation.
It raises the weekly unemployment benefit cap to $300, giving the people of Arizona the equivalent of one more assistance payment per month. Arizona’s benefit is currently limited to $240 – the second lowest in the nation – providing little help for a family when expenses average $1,120 per week for housing, food, health care, and more.
One of the most important changes in HB2805 will allow people to earn up to $160 per week from part-time hours while looking for a new job in the field to continue their career. This is a significant change from the current unemployment law, which punishes people for accepting part-time work by deducting their assistance after earning just $30.
This isn’t about a handout. Unemployment insurance is designed to help people during temporary periods of unemployment. It is one of the most effective policies for stabilizing an economy during recessions by providing money to people who need it most, while maintaining consumer demand.
Employers pay insurance premiums throughout the year. In fact, Arizona employers are asked to pay unemployment insurance premiums that average $148 per year, half of the national average. My bill asks Arizona employers to pay an extra $15 to $16 more per covered employee annually. In return, they will benefit when people receiving assistance immediately put that money back into the economy, covering their bills while looking for a new job.
Large and small businesses alike consistently say the most important aspect of a successful business is their employees. Businesses make significant investments to ensure the health and safety of their employees, such as offering added perks such as health and wellness coaching and gym memberships. I can’t imagine that a business faced with the decision to reduce their work force and lay-off workers would not want those people in the best position possible under the current circumstances.
I am proud to sponsor this important legislation with the support of 33 colleagues on both sides of the aisle – we are working together to respond to the needs of our constituents.  Let’s get this done.
David Cook is a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives serving Legislative District 8, which includes areas of Pinal, Gila, and Maricopa counties.
What drives an economy is well summarized in the opening paragraphs of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations – the other great work published in 1776. Smith writes that the wealth of a nation is the product of the labor of its people and their purchases from other nations. Its wealth increases in proportion to the ratio of its production to its population size. And that proportion is enhanced by the “skill, dexterity, and judgment” of the labor and by the proportion of those producing to those that are not. In short, the more people producing and the better their products, the wealthier the nation. With those simple relationships, the most powerful force in human history –modern capitalism – launched two hundred years of upward advancement for people around the globe.
Modern capitalist economies succeed and prosper when all three fundamental building blocks of free enterprise are readily available. These are 1) skilled people; 2) adequate and appropriate materials and supplies; and 3) sufficient capital – money and financing – to support business investment. Without all three an economy struggles and stagnates. (A note must be added that a functional legal structure that maintains the rule of law, enforces contracts, and provides stable, protected property rights is the essential foundation on which an economy can be built.)
The good news is two of the three are readily available. In the modern world, money and financing are globally available – for worthy endeavors. Similarly, materials and supplies can be sourced from anywhere in the world and delivered “just in time” given modern technology and transportation.
That leaves only the first – available skilled workers – as a challenge. And, it is a local challenge. Yes, some work can be accomplished remotely or outsourced to a distant, lower cost location. But, those solutions don’t build the wealth of a nation like highly productive, local workers. Building a plentiful, high quality workforce is the best way to drive an economy.
Skilled workers, especially mid-skilled workers, are at the core of an effective workforce. Mid-skill workers today, those from excellent primary and secondary education environments, who have added focused, specialized skills through post-secondary training, represent the future path to a thriving economy and attraction and expansion of high value-adding jobs. High quality, skill based training and education up through and after high school should be the key educational goal for parents, students, educators, employers, and political leaders, if they want Arizona’s economy to prosper and thrive like it has for the last half century.
There is another important lesson for parents, employers, political leaders from the CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton’s seminal book “The Coming Jobs War,” about the coming worldwide shortage of good jobs. Focus on those that create good jobs – the small and medium sized businesses that desperately need reliable, competent workers to help them meet the ever growing demands of their customers. Encourage them, support them, and they will create the good jobs we all want!
Doing those two things will drive Arizona’s economy for the next century.
— Alan Maguire is the president and principal economist at The Maguire Company, an economic analysis and public policy consulting firm in Phoenix.
Early in the pandemic, as commutes were replaced by working from home, the air over Phoenix cleared. The brown cloud dissipated.   
Sadly, it didn’t last. But those few months gave us an idea of what a clean energy future could look like. Bluer skies wouldn’t be the only benefit. A clean energy future promises quality jobs, improved health outcomes, a reduction in the heat island effect and a more sustainable water supply.   
Arizonans understand that the more quickly we transition to clean energy, the better equipped we are to reverse the damaging effects of climate change. Three of every four Arizonans surveyed by Gallup for The Center for the Future of Arizona ranked the transition to clean energy as important.  
Support grows from there: 
Leaders at Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power are on board. APS committed to providing 65% carbon-free energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050. TEP will deliver more than 70% of its energy from solar and wind and cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2035. Both companies’ goals are more ambitious than standards set by the Arizona Corporation Commission in May.  
Momentum toward a cleaner energy future is building. Despite fears that this means losing jobs and settling for a lower quality of life, the opposite is true.   
Three times as many Americans work in clean energy occupations as in fossil-fuel jobs. In Arizona in 2020, nearly 60,000 Arizonans worked in clean energy jobs, with 7% growth anticipated this year. They’re quality jobs, with an average annual salary of nearly $55,000, and benefits including health care, retirement savings, tuition assistance, and career paths for advancement.  
The numbers will only grow. Four electric or hydrogen truck and auto makers are starting operations in Arizona, and a fifth company builds kits to convert diesel and gas cargo vans to electric power. They’re joined by lithium-ion battery trailblazers such as KORE Power, which is building a 1 million-square-foot plant in Buckeye, and Phoenix startup EnPower, which makes batteries that charge three times faster than the current standard, have 70% more power and last longer. 
Solar abounds, from roof-top installers to the Agua Caliente Solar Project near Yuma and the Solana Generating Station near Gila Bend, which combined provide enough energy to power more than 165,000 homes. Retailers like Albertsons and Macy’s are going solar. Altogether, Arizona solar installations can power more than 810,000 homes.  
The state’s former clean energy standards were anemic, yet from 2018 to 2020 they delivered more than $2 billion of economic benefit to ratepayers and saved enough water to serve 44,000 people annually, according to a report from nonprofit Ceres.  
Other metrics remind us of how far is left to go.   
While Arizona alone can’t solve the climate crisis, we can contribute. For instance, the closing of the Navajo Generating Station and other Arizona coal plants resulted in a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2008 statewide levels. That improves air quality and saves water.   
What else can we do?  
Arizonans understand the benefits of transitioning to clean energy. Working together, we can make this part of the Arizona we want  
Sybil Francis is president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. 
I love Phoenix and Arizona. But I’m worried that the climate crisis and extreme temperatures are going to make it harder and harder to live here. If we want to protect and preserve our communities, our economy, and our environment, we must take bold action to address the climate crisis.
We currently experience an average of 50 extreme heat days per year, the second highest in the nation. We’re on our way to becoming the first major American city to hit an average monthly temperature in the triple digits. These are not distinctions to celebrate.
Every year, extreme heat kills more people than hurricanes, floods, or wildfires. The elderly, children, people with chronic health conditions, low-income families, and communities of color are at the highest risk of heat-related illness and death. Outdoor workers, who make up almost one-quarter of Arizona’s workforce, are also particularly vulnerable. Their risk of dying from heat exposure is 35 times higher than the rest of the population.
The extreme heat is even endangering our famously hardy and resilient saguaro cacti, which typically live up to 150 years. When temperatures stay too high, these majestic cacti can lose arms or die altogether.
In addition to the terrible human and environmental tolls, there’s an economic cost to climate change, which will cost Arizona more than $17 billion annually by 2100. If our state doesn’t lead on this issue that directly affects all of us, we’ll collectively pay the price.
Investing in clean energy means using fewer fossil fuels that pollute the air and water, which in turn means fewer health problems like asthma and heart disease that come from toxic pollution. Embracing clean energy also means avoiding the worst of the climate crisis outcomes.
Fortunately, we’re headed in the right direction. As of 2022, we had nearly 60,000 clean energy jobs in Arizona. So far, our state has created and filled more than 12,700 new clean energy jobs and more than $8.31 billion in investment since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. These are manufacturing jobs, engineering jobs, and construction jobs. Many of them don’t require a college degree. Almost all of these new jobs and new investments are in communities of color.
In fact, our state ranks first for the most new clean energy jobs in communities of color. This is something we should be especially proud of, just as we should be celebrating the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act will help protect our health and safety while saving us money.
Gas and electricity prices are top of mind for many Arizonans, and it’s critically important to me that any new policies we enact don’t leave behind people who are struggling to pay these bills. The IRA can save consumers up to $1,000 a year on energy bills by helping them upgrade to energy-efficient appliances and up to $950 a year on gas, by knocking $7,500 off the price of electric cars.
The one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act coincides with President Biden’s historic visit this week to the Grand Canyon, where he declared a new National Monument and talked about the benefits of clean energy and the good-paying manufacturing jobs that clean energy is bringing back to the United States. I’m proud that Arizona is establishing itself as a leader in this space, embracing policies that will strengthen our state’s electrical grid and make the United States more energy independent.
Resilience means adapting to changes and setbacks. I know the people of Arizona as resilient people. We’re going to work, caring for our families, and doing what we can to get by in this record-breaking heat. We also need to be looking ahead to how we can build a better future for the next generation, and that means making the transition to clean energy as quickly, thoroughly, and equitably as we can.
Oscar De Los Santos, a Democrat, represents Legislative District 11 in South Phoenix, Laveen and Guadalupe.
Since the recession that plagued the previous decade, Arizona has struggled to grow one of its biggest contributors to the economy: the construction industry.
“It continues to be a challenge,” said Connie Wilhelm, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. “It’s not just in Arizona either, this is a national issue as well.”
In a 2015 survey conducted by The Associated General Contractors of America, about 86 percent of construction firms throughout the nation reported having troubles filling hourly craft positions such as laborers, painters, carpenters and electricians. Many attribute this issue to the number of baby boomers retiring, the lack of young people interested in going into skilled labor, and the decline of migrants coming to Arizona, who used to make up a large portion of the labor source. The lack of new workers not only prevents these companies from expanding, but also raises concern as to if there will be enough laborers to help build the many projects the state has slated for the future.
More and more training programs are popping up across the state to try and attract more young pupils to learn the skills needed in the construction industry. Just one example of this is the Carpenters Training Center, which is operated by the Southwest Local Carpenters Union and reopened its doors In Tucson this month after a nine-year hiatus following the recession.
“We have targeted training programs for all kinds of people, ranging from young adults who don’t necessarily want to go to college, to veterans, to people who have been incarcerated and are ready to turn their lives around. This training center is a place of opportunity,” Fabian Sandez, president of Local 1912, told the Arizona Daily Star.
Over 100 participants entered the program to learn the ins and outs of carpentry, one of the biggest aspects of the business that has been hurting most for skilled workers. This same program also has locations in Phoenix and Flagstaff, and is privately funded through union dues of member companies.
Besides programs similar to the Carpenters Training Center primarily that attract graduates and veterans, there are others that go beyond that and reach out directly to students while they are still in high school. One such program called the ACE Mentor Program takes skilled workers in architecture, construction and engineering and pairs them with students from schools in the Phoenix area and nationwide to teach them about the many opportunities that can be found within and related to these areas. The program is primarily funded through sponsorships, and currently has 63 locations across the country.
Though programs like those have been somewhat successful in bringing in younger people and veterans to the industry, Wilhelm said that there’s still another, more effective way to combat the issue: prisoners. She says that her association has been working closely with the Governor’s Office to push for legislation that will make it easier for formerly incarcerated people to transition into the workforce.
“The inmates are released and they have done their time, and many of them work while they were incarcerated,” she said.
According to Wilhelm, there are a several ways prisoners can assist with the issue, both during and after their time spent in prison, that will benefit both them and the companies that need more skilled workers.
For example, in conjunction with Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), private companies are able to employ inmates and train them to fill the jobs that are most needed in any area of labor. This program, established in 1969 by the Legislature, is a financially self-sufficient division of the Arizona Department of Corrections, and operates completely without taxpayer funding. Since 2013, the program has employed around 2,000 workers that are still serving time to fill just some of the thousands more positions in the industry.
The way the program works is that ACI contracts typically non-violent prisoners to work five to six days a week. After going through thorough security checks, they show up to the job and earn wages like any other regular employees would.The compensation these men and women earn then go toward savings for their release, room and board offsets, and child support or restitution funds. After being released, they are then able to apply the skills they learned to enhance their chances of acquiring jobs.
Wilhelm said although countless other organizations such as the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Security have also been working on programs that help to train formerly incarcerated people to fill these needed positions in the construction industry, there is still no one solution to this issue.
“I think it’s incumbent to all of us to go out and talk about all of the career options there are in construction and other [related] areas. …Individual companies will have to get engaged to see what best serves each company,” Wilhelm said. “It’s all about the industry working together.”
Dear Editor:
I read the article on “Small business economy needs immigration reform” with interest and dismay. The distortion of the facts and misrepresentation of the feelings and attitudes of Arizonans is unfortunate. 
I was born in Nogales, raised 19 miles away in Patagonia. My grandmother and aunt were Hispanic. I have a pretty good feel and relationship with both border issues and illegal/legal immigration. As such let me counter a few of your errant points. 
Undocumented? Is this a politically correct way of saying “illegal”? My family (from Mexico, Ireland and Germany) all immigrated legally – followed the rules. This means they learned some American history, the language and what it was to be an American. I was under the impression “illegal” is criminal. It appears that the article is endorsing criminal behavior at the expense of undermining legal behavior. Today, if I were from a different country seeking to enter the USA, I would really question the effort required of me when there are so many who illegally sidestep the procedure. Words are important. Using “undocumented” as a euphemism for “illegal” is a disreputable evasion of the truth. 
The article says that “Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly should feel confident…”. I would not agree with that as both rate an F- on the immigration scorecard and do not represent the majority of Arizonan’s views. In fact, the opposite is true. According to the Rasmussen Report, Arizonans are unsatisfied with the current governments immigration and border policies “Barely one-fifth of Arizona voters support efforts by Democrats to include an amnesty provision for illegal immigrants in the “Build Back Better” legislation currently pending in Congress, and most would vote against a member of Congress who supports the proposed amnesty.” 
The premise that people here illegally help a worker shortage is just completely erroneous. Arizona’s labor force participation rate is a dismal 60.4 percent. In truth, the millions of people here illegally are taking jobs that would otherwise go to American citizens, Arizona citizens who both want and need the job. 
Cited are numerous financial figures that attempt to say the people living here illegally contribute to the economy. However, it fails to reveal the impact in terms of welfare, medical costs, state benefits, law enforcement costs, schooling, etc. which far exceed the “benefit” mentioned. Also not mentioned is the fact that thousands illegally cross the border and infiltrate the community without any regard for illnesses (Covid), criminal records or affiliations. And not all illegal border crossings are from immigrants. 
Duane Loftus 
Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey repeatedly throws around the phrase that Arizona is “open for business” as both a commercial for the state and as proof his policies are what’s driving the state economy.
But this week, in the second of two gubernatorial debates, Ducey found himself on the defensive for policies and laws he signed that ended up with the death of one pedestrian and thousands of Arizonans getting inaccurate blood test results.
And the governor’s claim that his policies have resulted in the Arizona economy doing so much better than surrounding states depends on what data are considered.
Ducey crows that since he took office in January 2015, the state has added about 242,000 private sector jobs. That does outstrip the 192,000 jobs added in the prior 43 months.
But at the height of the recession, the state’s jobless rate topped 11 percent. By the time Ducey took office, it already had fallen back to 6.4 percent. It’s now at 4.6 percent.
The governor uses the line that the last time the Arizona unemployment rate was this low “people were renting their videos from Blockbuster.”
For the record, that was in January 2008. Now just a single Blockbuster store remains in Oregon.
But the state appears to have settled into what could be a new normal, with that jobless rate having barely budged in the past year.
The unemployment figure also is higher than not just the national rate of 3.9 percent. But it also is higher than Utah, Nevada, Colorado — and even California whose regulation and tax policies Ducey repeatedly says is driving businesses to move to Arizona.
New Mexico’s rate matches Arizona.
And Arizona’s unemployment rate still remains a full point higher than its historic low of 3.6 percent in July 2007.
It isn’t just Ducey who is looking at the figures he wants.
During the debate, Democrat David Garcia claimed that at the end of 2017 Arizona’s rate of job growth was lower than surrounding states with the exception of New Mexico.
That’s true — as a snapshot of that period of time.
But there are more recent figures. And the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put Arizona’s current year-over-year job growth at 2.9 percent. While less Utah and Nevada have faster job growth, the Arizona numbers are better than California, Colorado and New Mexico.
There are some bright signs on the horizon.
Kiplinger Magazine predicts that job growth in Arizona this year will be the seventh fastest in the nation and that the jobless rate by the end of the year should hit 4.5 percent. And the writers credit “Arizona’s more flexible regulatory environment” as attractive to business.
U.S. News & World Report is a little less positive, putting Arizona at No. 14 in its list of the best states for growth. And USA Today lists Arizona at No. 24, citing the state’s high poverty rate and “below average educational attainment rates at both the high school and college level.”
That “flexible regulatory environment” has its own flip side.
Earlier this year a woman walking her bicycle across a dark Tempe street, away from an intersection, was struck and killed by an autonomous vehicle that Uber was testing. A video revealed the backup driver was watching a TV show.
Uber’s testing in Arizona was no accident. In fact it was directly related to the governor issuing an executive order in 2015 allowing designers of autonomous vehicles to begin testing them on Arizona roads with minimal state oversight and regulation. More to the point, Uber specifically moved its 16 test vehicles out of California in a high-profile move, complete with a photo-op for Ducey, because that state wanted the cars to be registered as test vehicle and have the company file various reports — things that Arizona did not demand.
Ducey said at the time that proves Arizona is friendlier for business than its neighbor to the west.
“The message today is Arizona’s open for business,” he said. “We’re welcoming this technology. We’re not pushing it out of our state.”
It took three more years for Ducey to actually issue some more specific safety rules, including that the vehicles have to comply with all traffic laws and the operator can be cited — even if the operator turns out to be the corporation that built the vehicle and there’s no one behind the wheel.
And only after the fatal accident did Ducey rescind Uber’s ability to test its cars in Arizona.
On Tuesday, the governor defended opening up the state to testing of autonomous vehicles, saying it needs to be seen through the lens of the larger goal of public safety.
“We lose over 800 Arizonans a year on our highways due to human error from drivers,” he said.
And the death of the pedestrian?
“What happened in that accident was tragic,” Ducey said. “But I want to see the 38,000 people that die in avoidable accidents across the United States, I want to see that problem solved.”
Then there’s Theranos.
In 2015, state lawmakers approved – and Ducey publicly signed – legislation to expand the kinds of laboratory tests that people can seek without a doctor’s recommendation. But the real point of the measure was to allow Theranos, which lobbied for approval, to market its unique method of doing accurate tests with just a minimal amount of blood.
Turns out the company’s claims were bogus, with Theranos subsequently admitting that more than 10 percent of the test results given to Arizonans by the company were “ultimately voided or corrected.”
Ducey chalked that up to “bad actors,” saying there ultimately was accountability – in the form of a consumer fraud lawsuit brought by Attorney General Mark Brnovich who got $4.6 million in refunds. And the company is now out of business.
But the governor was unapologetic for signing the legislation.
“We still want to be a welcoming place to medical innovations in the state of Arizona while protecting public health and public safety.”
And sometimes Ducey didn’t even bother to wait for legislation.
Shortly after taking office in 2015, Ducey fired the director of the Department of Weights and Measures.
The reason? Shawn Marquez had been enforcing laws regulating taxi cabs against Uber and Lyft. Those laws specifically require anyone transporting people for money to conduct background checks on drivers and have insurance coverage.
More to the point, Marquez told Ducey he intended to run a “sting” operation on the rideshare services as the Super Bowl was coming to Arizona.
Ducey did more than fire Marquez.
He appointed former House Speaker Andy Tobin to run the agency. And then Ducey, who acknowledged that the laws on offering rides for money actually applied to rideshare companies, told Tobin not to enforce those laws while legislators looked for a fix.
It actually took several more months of non-enforcement for lawmakers to actually approve a measure which provided parallel but somewhat different laws to govern the ridesharing services and the people who drive for them.
A new report from Fidelity Investments is yet another reminder of the white-hot American economy induced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. According to data from the second quarter of 2018, there are now more retirement accounts worth over $1 million than ever before — roughly 50,000 more than just last year.
That means more everyday Americans are able to retire comfortably without financial worry.
More evidence of success from the tax relief package are obvious and plentiful. Small business optimism is at a record high. Unemployment is historically low. Over 700 companies, including some of the nation’s largest employers, have reinvested their tax cut savings into worker compensation. And the most recent GDP growth figures reported that the economy is growing at a rate of 4.1 percent — quicker than most thought possible just a few years ago.
Meanwhile, over 90 percent of middle-class families are getting a tax cut, according to the left-of-center Tax Policy Center. The average family can expect roughly $2,000 in savings every year.
Yet, critics of the tax bill continue to pull dishonest attacks out of the woodwork.
First they tried to belittle the tax savings as crumbs. And when that didn’t work — unsurprisingly so since essentially everyone is benefiting in one way or another — they tried to spin the new standard deduction and lower rates for small businesses as a windfall for the wealthy. But anyone with eyes can see that the owner of the pizza shop on the corner or the general store down the street aren’t affluent millionaires.
Opponents of the tax cuts are throwing all the attacks they can conjure against the wall. But since the facts aren’t on their side, nothing will stick.
Unfortunately, they’re so committed to these tried-and-failed policies that they’ve stuck their heads in the sand to avoid all the good news about the federal tax cuts.
In a recent batch of headlines, the power of the tax cuts is unleashing American industry. Over 95 percent of manufacturers, large and small, feel good about their economic prospects — the highest level since the National Association of Manufacturers started measuring outlooks 20 years ago. Manufacturers are also raising wages, hiring new workers, expanding benefits, and purchasing new equipment.
CEOs say the tax cuts are spurring them to increase hiring and spending. Small businesses are also doing well. More small businesses plan to grow wages and operations than have in decades. Overall wages are growing faster and average base wages are up. Unemployment is low for everyone, but especially for minority groups compared to historical data.
Voters know the tax cuts work. Majorities have long supported the new code, approved of the economy, and expressed satisfaction with their opportunity to get ahead today. And consumer confidence remains strong.
All the griping from the critics hasn’t made a dent.
As the data rolls in, it’s clear that the tax cuts have produced such remarkable results while ensuring that the burdens of our tax code are well-balanced and fairly distributed. Nonpartisan experts estimate that high earners will pay more of the tax code burden this year than last and Americans in lower brackets will pay less.
Politics always gets heated in an election year. And Democrats and their well-funded activist army want to make tax cuts the wedge issue. That’s fine. While they try to ride their shopworn talking points to victory, Arizona voters will respond with something real that’s on the line: their bigger paychecks.
Drew John, a Republican from Safford, represents Legislative District 14 in the Arizona House of Representatives.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
The cities in the Valley of the Sun utilize just over 10 percent of all the water used in Arizona. Through smart planning and investment, these cities supply the water needs of both small businesses and large industries that contribute more than $200 billion, a conservative estimate, to Arizona’s gross domestic product (GDP).
In addition, these cities – Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe – provide clean, reliable water to more than half of Arizona’s population 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This has been accomplished while promoting a conservation ethic, which has contributed to an overall decline in per capita use even as the population increased.
The Phoenix area cities have been vigilant in preparing for this time of drought and looming shortages. While the potential for shortages on the Colorado River poses a challenge for Arizona, the Phoenix metropolitan area is certainly not in crisis.  As we face the first shortage on the Colorado River as soon as 2020, cities are protective of the investments they have made to secure water supplies for their communities. They know that water fuels the economy.
We agree that implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (LBDCP) in Arizona would strengthen the Colorado River system during this prolonged drought. In an attempt to protect the Colorado River system, LBDCP requires Arizona to take less Colorado River water, which will impose reductions on each water use sector in the state. The cities understand that this includes earlier cuts to our supplies as shortages progress than would otherwise occur without LBDCP.
Municipalities that have invested millions of dollars in Non-Indian Agriculture (NIA) water will lose half of that important supply with the first shortage stage under LBDCP, and all of it in the second. Cities will also pay higher costs for water delivered by CAP during the LBDCP in addition to the cutbacks of their water supplies. Even after paying this price for LBDCP, cities must continue their long-term preparation and investments for serious shortages on behalf of their citizens and businesses.
Valley cities want to be certain that implementing LBDCP does not weaken their federal contract rights or their ability to manage their water. This includes safeguarding the priority system that determines how Colorado River water is to be delivered via the Central Arizona Project canal. The Secretary of the Interior decided over three decades ago that in times of shortage, Colorado River water delivered by CAP would first be conveyed to Tribes and municipalities. This was in recognition of the stark reality that you can fallow fields, but you cannot fallow neighborhoods. The priority system provides access to excess supplies for low-priority users in times of plenty and protects the supplies of high priority users in times of shortage. The certainty of this priority system allowed our cities to plan, and to spend millions and millions of ratepayer dollars to invest in the water and infrastructure that is necessary to sustain our economy.
Arizona Municipal Water Users Association members — the cities of Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe — each have an Assured Water Supply to meet the needs of their residents and businesses for the next 100 years and beyond. As we face the first Colorado River shortage, we need to get it right the first time. Arizona needs to implement LBDCP in a way that strengthens and preserves the long-term water management that is critical to our communities and economy.
— Warren Tenney is executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
Gov. Doug Ducey is running for a second term amidst a political environment unlike any that Arizona has seen before.
As part of his re-election bid, Ducey sat down with the Arizona Capitol Times to discuss numerous issues, including education, Arizona’s economy, his re-election bid and the challenges he faces along the way to a second term. Here are the highlights.
When talking about education, Ducey touts his 20-percent teacher pay raise plan, passage of Proposition 123 and the extension of Proposition 301 as his major first-term achievements, and promises he’s not done investing in K-12 education.
But Ducey also points to a longstanding rift between state government and K-12 educators, and asks that he only be judged for his actions during his first term.
“I can’t be accountable for what’s happened the last 30 years,” he said.
One of Ducey’s accomplishments, which was touted shortly after its passage in TV commercials by the Republican Governors Association, was his proposal to grant teachers 20-percent pay raises spread out over three years. His initial budget proposal included a 1-percent pay bump for teachers this year.
Since Ducey signed the raises into law, he said lots of teachers have been grateful for the pay hikes that start this school year. His main focus now is making sure those dollars get to the classrooms, he said. He also said that with another term he wants to put more money into K-12 education, over and above inflation, but he would not specify how much.
But “Red for Ed” supporters opposed Ducey’s teacher pay proposal and representatives for the movement say teachers have an inherent distrust of Ducey and his administration because he has made empty promises before.
Ducey argues that distrust stems from before his time in office.
“I think there’s been a long history of conflict between state government and K-12 education,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard over the last three-plus years to not play divide and conquer, to not pick one section of our education system over another, but to say that these are all of our kids here.”
But K-12 education advocates have also criticized Ducey for his support of charter schools and an expansion of Arizona’s school-voucher program that he signed into law last year.
Ducey signed legislation to make all public school students eligible for state money to attend private and parochial schools.
Some parents and teachers say the expansion of school vouchers to any public school students, as opposed to just those who are disabled or attend failing schools, will starve public schools, causing public school students to receive a subpar education.
The voucher expansion also pushed Democrat David Garcia over the edge and into the governor’s race.
But Ducey attributes teachers’ opposition to charters and ESAs to misinformation from the Arizona Education Association — the teachers’ union that Ducey declined to meet with during the “Red for Ed” strike.
“That’s because people in the union are misinforming those teachers,” he said. “Our policies have put public districts and public charters on equal value in terms of the opportunities for improvement.”
Citing a growing economy and President Trump’s push to appoint conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ducey praised the president’s leadership.
Ducey pointed to growth in Arizona and across the country, which many conservatives attribute to Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a sign that Trump is working to build an economy of the future.
He also cited the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as proof the president is doing a good job.
But Ducey does not agree with Trump on everything. A supporter of free trade, he has spoken out against new tariffs imposed by Trump’s administration.
He also expressed some opposition to Trump’s zero tolerance, saying “no one wants to see families separated,” but he didn’t go as far as some governors who reacted by withdrawing National Guard forces from the border.
Ducey also wouldn’t say that he wants Trump’s endorsement this fall. When asked if he’ll seek the president’s endorsement in his re-election bid, Ducey sidestepped the question. Personality-wise, Ducey couldn’t be more different than the bombastic president.
It’s hard to know whether Trump’s endorsement would hurt or help Ducey. Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake have eagerly vied for Trump’s endorsement in an attempt to prove their conservative bona fides. But in an election year where anti-Trump sentiment is growing, a presidential endorsement could hurt more than it helps.
Ducey brushed off the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle, and seemed unfazed by his primary challenger, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
As talk grows of a “blue wave” hitting Arizona this election cycle, Ducey does not plan to sit back and rest on his laurels during the campaign.
“I think in any business, you want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that’s why we have that challenger’s mentality,” he said.
Elections are competitive and Ducey said he’s not taking his incumbent status for granted. Similar to his bid for state treasurer eight years ago and his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey plans to campaign across the state and tout his record.
But Ducey dismissed polls showing his favorability rating dropping. He also dismissed the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle because of anti-Trump sentiment and the continued opposition he faces from “Red for Ed” supporters.
“I think the media loves a horse race, so they would love to see a horse race,” he said.
As for his primary challenger, Ducey doesn’t see Bennett’s candidacy as a failing of his governorship.
“It’s a free country. The water’s warm. People are going to jump in and make their case,” he said. “The voters will decide on August 28.”
Ducey has refused to debate Bennett leading up to the primary, claiming his challenger’s comments about Sen. John McCain disqualified Bennett from public office. Ducey did not address the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the interview.
After entering office in a post-recession era wherein the state was still strapped for cash, Ducey takes credit for helping grow Arizona’s economy and lower the state’s unemployment.
He brought his business background to governing. Ducey, who slashed state regulations and cut taxes every year that he’s been in office, thinks the best move for government is to stay out of the way as Arizona sees unprecedented revenue and population growth.
The governor attributes the growth to Arizona’s tax and regulatory environment and the state’s infrastructure, education system and reliable water supply, among other things.
“We have a momentum that’s really building on itself,” he said. “It’s time to pour the gas on.”
Holding true to a campaign pledge from his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey still aims to reduce the state’s income tax to as close to zero as possible.
Ducey’s plan to lower the state’s income tax includes working with legislative leaders to revamp Arizona’s tax code around tax conformity and a recent Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for states to collect sales taxes from online purchases.
In essence, Ducey envisions a 21st-century tax code.
“It’s not one issue that you can look at in a vacuum, he said. “I mean, the idea of reforming or improving a tax code is ideally so that you’re bringing in more revenue because you have a state that’s growing.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey told a U.S.-Mexico diplomacy conference June 14 that maintaining good trade between the countries is important, and he expects the state to have a “seat at the table” in any upcoming trade negotiations.
Ducey’s comments, to a conference of business and community leaders from both sides of the border, come a month after President Donald Trump notified Congress of his plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever” and pledged to rework it to get higher-paying jobs for American workers and more economic growth for the nation.
Ducey and other Republican lawmakers in Arizona have praised the deal, which they said has brought billions in new trade to the U.S. While he backs “free and fair trade,” however, Ducey said he is not opposed to a revised version if the pact can be improved.
“The world has changed tremendously since the 1990s,” when NAFTA took effect, said Ducey, adding that he wants Arizona to take a look at the agreement to find areas where it can be modernized and improved.
But some state lawmakers say the pact has done a good job as is.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted that trade between the U.S. and Mexico increased from $50 billion to $500 billion – a 900 percent jump. He is running a social media campaign, #nafta4az, asking Arizonans to send him their personal stories in support of the agreement.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted that withdrawing from NAFTA would be “a disaster.”
Ducey said Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner and he sees economic growth opportunity at the border. But he acknowledged that there are problems and political realities Arizona has to face with Mexico.
James Jones, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said during the luncheon that relations between Arizona and Mexico were strained in recent years.
Arizona made headlines with its SB1070 law, the harsh “papers please” immigration law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants. Long lines coupled with intricate inspections at ports-of-entry caused truckers to drive to California or Texas – where inspection lines were shorter – bypassing Arizona entirely.
Ducey stressed the importance of a good relationship with Mexico that he said lets both parties “communicate and put problem solvers together” to jointly address any negatives.
Gov. Doug Ducey indicated Tuesday he’s not obligated to follow the president’s guidance on when to reopen the state’s economy.
Ducey said in a wide-ranging press conference that people can expect to return to some sense of normalcy “as soon as possible” and that could be as soon as May 1, depending on some conditions.
That’s when his stay-at-home order issued in March is set to expire, but that could be extended or shortened depending on what public health data shows and the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When that opening comes, it will come in stages, not all at once, Ducey said.
“As we get closer to that date, we will be tracking even more closely the data, and continuing to work with public health officials on what comes next,” Ducey said. “We also want to plan ahead and be ready for when the time comes to restart our economy.”
This comes after President Trump tweeted Monday that he had the “ultimate authority” to reopen states that have instituted “stay-a-home” orders, not governors. While Trump is aiming for April 30, Ducey said today that his goal isn’t based on what Trump is doing and that he will “make the best decision for Arizona.”
“When somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total,” the president said at a press conference Monday when asked about plans by some governors to start reopening their economies.
“And that’s the way it’s got to be,” Trump continued. “It’s total. And the governors know that.”
Ducey said he understood that Trump was saying he was in charge of federal guidance, but Trump said the president’s “authority is total” and “governors know that.” Ducey also said he didn’t “see the need” to join coalitions formed by Democratic governors, groups which coordinate health care supplies and share best practices and plan to decide together on when to open the economy.
Opening the economy is something that’s on his mind “every day” and that there’s “no way we can continue like this forever,” Ducey said, which is why he’s working with the Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Office of Tourism to field input from the business community for an economic recovery plan. This comes as the state faces a gloomy projected budget shortfall of $1.1 billion and continues to lose at least $35 million in state tax revenue and $1.2 billion in visitor spending from tourism, a field that has lost 40 percent of its workers.
Ducey again stressed that balancing public health and economic interests is tough and that there’s nothing “magical” about May 1 but that he wants to be hopeful. Whatever the state decides to do will be based on current public health modeling data, some of which Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ said she and her department are working to release after they simplify it for the public.
It’s unclear how safe it would be for the state to reopen come May 1 because the state and nation can only rely on projections that change by the day. That date coincides with some projected peaks for COVID-19 cases, but Christ downplayed the significance of that.
Christ said different models show different peaks and it’s not the only thing the state relies on when making those decisions.
“We will continue to make the decisions based on what we’re seeing in Arizona, based on the health of our health care system, the number and the rise of the tests that we have,” Christ said.  “There’s a lot of different information that we’re looking at, and we’ll continually make those decisions.”
Those decisions range from if and when to reopen the state economy, whether Arizona could host Major League Baseball games with no crowds, something Ducey said he’s open to, and how the state conducts its elections.
Ducey also issued three new executive orders aiming to curb the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, two of which expanded on previous executive orders. The orders expand telemedicine to workers’ compensation, require hospitals to report more COVID-19 related data and revised job training requirements for caregivers.
To date, Ducey has signed 24 executive orders aimed to expand the state’s understanding of the virus with more data that better informs other orders that increase social and economic interventions — like increased social distancing, closing businesses and amending social programs — and when to reopen the economy. These orders are temporary, Ducey said.
“When we get on the other side of this pandemic and we will get there it’s just a matter of time, these orders and authorities evaporate,” Ducey said. “We will be getting as close and as back to normal or better than normal, but this decision making and authority comes with the job, and I’ve embraced it.”
Water is life. Its management is a state trust responsibility. In Arizona’s arid environment, rivers, streams, and springs are vital to sustaining a diversity of plants and animals and are tied to the well-being of human communities and our state and local economies.
Sadly, unsustainable water use over the past century has dried up the vast majority of Arizona’s rivers, and our remaining flowing rivers are at significant risk, especially in the Upper Verde and the San Pedro rivers, which are threatened by surface water diversions, groundwater pumping, drought, and climate change. Arizona’s $21 billion-dollar tourist economy relies on healthy rivers and riparian habitat for wildlife watching, boating, hiking, hunting and fishing, and sightseeing, all of which will be harmed by continued diminishing flows in our rivers.
Despite this, concerns about flowing rivers have not even been on the table in the governor’s backroom invitation-only water meetings or with legislators. Instead, the focus has been on a power struggle between the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and the Arizona Department of Water Resources and how Arizona can temporarily avoid taking shortages on Colorado River water by leaving more water in Lake Mead. Even the discussions about the Colorado River itself do not include the need to consider the health of the river. What is wrong with this picture?
First, it ignores what is unique about Arizona. Despite its aridity, our state hosts wonderful, diverse desert rivers. If you have ever viewed these rivers from above, you have seen what a green ribbon of life they represent. Second, it focuses too much on what people and investors from other parts of the country think about Arizona rather than responsibly planning ahead for Arizonans. Third, it seeks to maintain a boom-bust economy, when we need a state that understands that vibrant 21st century economies—and the physical and mental well-being of our citizens—include establishing legal protection for our rivers.
Studies by federal and state agencies report numerous challenges to our water supply that threaten our future economy, our lifestyle, and our environment. The time to address these challenges is now. We must honestly assess if we can continue to afford to base our state’s economy on excessive growth and water-intensive uses without significant reform.
Growing numbers of countries are taking a forward-thinking path that places conservation of environmental/ecological flows in rivers at the center of water management practices. Maintaining Arizona’s rivers and streams is something that is fundamental to the future of our state, its economy, and its citizens. Ecological flows and living rivers are not distinct from or in competition with human uses, but rather, human uses rely on healthy flows in rivers and streams. This is recognized in two bills introduced this session, SB1475 and HB2581, which unfortunately did not get hearings. Water is life, including our economic life.
— Sandy Bahr is director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
Franchise owners are helping lead Arizona’s economic recovery.
Franchise employment grew nearly 10% in 2021 alone, creating an estimated 18,300 new jobs across the state. This year, we expect franchise employment will even surpass pre-pandemic levels. The job growth is evidence of a strong franchise community in Arizona, where the number of local and national franchises increased by nearly 4% in 2021 and is expected to do roughly the same this year – the 3rd-fastest growth rate in the nation.
This is one of the reasons Phoenix was chosen to host Franchise Expos West this month (editor’s note: March 18-19), where thousands of local entrepreneurs, franchisees and brand representatives gathered to explore new business ventures and realize the opportunities at hand.
At every rung of the economic ladder, franchises mean opportunity. While opening any business carries risk, entrepreneurs who work with a well-recognized brand increase their odds of success with additional resources and support from franchisors, plus an existing business model. The franchise model is also an equalizing force, opening doors to historically underrepresented business owners. People of color own nearly one in 3 franchises nationally, and 70% of brands have partnered with veterans.
But the benefits extend beyond owners and operators. Nationally, employees at franchises have – on average – 3% higher paychecks than employees at similar independent businesses. While less than half of small businesses offer workers health coverage, nearly two-thirds of franchise employees receive this important benefit. Likewise, more than three-quarters of franchises provide vacation time and sick leave, and there are ample opportunities for advancement as hard-working clerks and cashiers often are promoted into other roles. Many gain the experience required to open their own businesses in the future.
Of course, not every franchise is guaranteed success. It’s essential for potential franchisees to do their due diligence to reduce risk – including researching the brand, hiring experienced franchise counsel, and talking with current franchisees.
Still, against this backdrop of opportunity, headwinds to franchising are brewing in Washington, D.C. Instead of celebrating the advancement franchising provides for Americans, some politicians are working to limit that success story by threatening punitive and needless new regulations
Look at the nomination of anti-small business Dr. David Weil to be Administrator of the Wage & Hour Division within the Department of Labor, or policies such as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act – which the White House continues to voice support for despite steadfast opposition by bipartisan majorities in the U.S. Senate, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema here in Arizona. This legislation and heavy-handed administrators like Dr. Weil would threaten the very existence of franchising and discourage entrepreneurs and business owners like those who gathered in Phoenix this month from investing in this vibrant industry.
Franchising has provided the means for untold numbers of Arizonans to support themselves and their families. During this period of economic uncertainty, Arizona’s congressional delegation should be lowering – not building – barriers to franchising and similar opportunity.
Matthew Haller is President & CEO for the International Franchise Association
A veteran state lawmaker is moving to strip Gov. Doug Ducey of the powers he assumed when he declared an emergency 10 months ago.
The resolution by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, says that Ducey’s March 11 emergency order has interfered with individual rights. That specifically refers to the stay-at-home edicts the governor issued early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has since been allowed to expire.
But Ugenti-Rita said other actions by Ducey remain, including restrictions on how some businesses can operate, have wreaked havoc on the economy.
People out of work has all but depleted the $1.1 billion the state had in March in the unemployment insurance trust fund. Reduced business activity has also cut into sales tax revenues. And Ugenti-Rita said there are projections that up to a quarter of the businesses that shut down during the pandemic will never return.
The senator told Capitol Media Services on Wednesday that she is not disputing the governor’s decision to declare an emergency when the virus first exploded on the scene.
“I have no problem with a governor exercising their authority to issue an emergency,” she said. “But at some point there needs to be an end date.”
Beyond that, Ugenti-Rita said that decisions about mitigation strategies and how funds are allocated need to be decided through the legislative process. And she said that, at some point, it’s no longer necessary for Ducey to have near-absolute powers to issue emergency edicts on everything ranging from how many patrons a restaurant can seat to when children can attend classes.
“This is a health crisis that can definitely be handled using the legislative process,” Ugenti-Rita said.
The governor on Wednesday made it clear he’s in no rush to end his declaration. In fact, he said it needs to continue.
“We’re in a state of emergency,” he said. “We’re going to continue in a state of emergency until that’s no longer necessary.”
Anyway, he said, the legislature is not currently meeting, having ended their 2020 session early as the virus spread.
“They won’t be in session until Jan. 11,” Ducey said.
Ugenti-Rita said that’s no excuse.
“We could have been around if he had called us back into session,” she said. “And we will be around in January.”
More to the point, the senator said that the whole purpose of having a legislature — and not a government run by a single person — is to ensure there is broad debate and broad discussion of the decisions being made.
“The public deserves a seat at the table,” she said. “And one way they have that is through their elected representatives.”
What Ugenti-Rita is proposing is exactly what the law contemplates.
It spells out that gubernatorial-declared emergencies go until the governor decides it is no longer necessary or until the legislature, by a majority of both chambers, votes to end it. That is what her SCR 1001 would do.
And as a resolution, it is not subject to gubernatorial veto.
Aside from trying to end this declared emergency, Ugenti-Rita also is looking ahead to the next time this happens.
She chairs a committee which is reviewing all the current laws dealing with emergencies, with an eye toward amending that to say that they self-destruct within a certain time — she’s not sure when that should be — unless state lawmakers reauthorize it. Had that statute already been in place in March, Ducey would have been unable to continue to issue orders for as long as he has without getting legislative approval.
Gov. Doug Ducey has to decide this week whether his executive orders limiting activity due to COVID-19 are worth the continued harm to the Arizona economy.
The governor most immediately has to act on his month-old stay-at-home order telling people they cannot go out unless they are engaged in an essential activity. That edict self-destructs at midnight Thursday night unless renewed.
Given Ducey’s cautious approach to enacting the order in the first place — at least two dozen other governors had acted before Arizona’s March 31 implementation — it is unlikely he would allow it to simply expire. Instead the expectation is for a loosening, perhaps tied to some advisories about social distancing.
And it won’t matter much, at least to the Arizona economy, unless Ducey also alters his list of what are “essential” business and services — and the more important list of what are not and must remain shuttered. There is no deadline for Ducey to act as that order on essential businesses remains in effect until he alters or rescinds it.
The governor’s orders already permit people to go out to shop at essential businesses. So easing his order to let people go out won’t mean anything if there’s no new places for them to go, whether to shop,  dine, drink or even have a picnic in the park.
But here, too, the governor was slow and deliberate about deciding what can remain open, even to the point of initially concluding that barber shops, hair salons, spas and tattoo parlors were essential until he finally acknowledged that there was no reasonable way to maintain social distance.
A similar loosening is likely to be in a stepped approach, providing additional opportunities for people to shop — with some controls.
That’s exactly the course being urged by Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a close political ally.
“As we thaw out parts of the economy that have been frozen, we need to do that safely,” he said. That starts with opening up smaller retail operations with “appropriate social distancing” and other safety protocols.
But all that is too slow for some Arizonans who want Ducey to immediately scrap both his stay-at-home and essential services orders.
Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, said he does not dispute that the orders — fewer infections and “flattening the curve” to preserve hospital beds — appear to have worked.
“The question is, to what extent?” he told Capitol Media Services after a rally last week.
“How long do we wait to get our economy back?” Farnsworth continued. “I think the majority of the people down here feel like the time has come, that the main point of danger has passed, that it’s time to reopen.”
All this occurs against the backdrop of additional hits to the Arizona economy, with even more people applying last week for first-time unemployment benefits. That puts the number of Arizonans who have lost their jobs since the outbreak — and his executive orders — in the half-million range.
But it also comes as questions remain about how extensive is the virus in Arizona and whether, without comprehensive data, it is premature to reopen segments of the state economy.
The health department reported Monday another 1,732 people had been tested. That brings the overall tally in the state to 66,543.
That is just 0.9 percent of the total population. Kaiser Family Foundation finds only Virginia with a per capita testing rate as low.
There have been some moves to improve that, including an order from state Health Director Cara Christ last week allowing those who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 to get tested.
And on Monday, Ducey announced what he called the Arizona Testing Blitz, aiming to get anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people tested every Saturday for three consecutive weeks, beginning this weekend.
“The testing is important,” said gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak, saying that’s why Ducey announced the blitz, though it won’t start before his boss has to make a decision on the stay-at-home order.
But Ptak said Ducey’s decision will be based on more than just test results.
“Other data is also important, like whether our hospitals are prepared,” he said. And Arizona got some good news, with the health department saying Monday was the first day in more than a month that no COVID-19 deaths were reported.
The governor separately has been promoting antibody testing to determine who already has had the virus — and may now be immune. And Ducey has made it clear that, too, will figure in the decisions he has to make.
“Antibody testing can be a game-changer in our fight against COVID-19,” he said in a prepared statement last week when Sonora Quest Laboratories announced it will offer such blood tests in addition to diagnostic tests to determine active infection. “This is another welcome expansion that will help provide certainty as Arizona looks to economic recovery at the appropriate time.”
Ducey also is touting a new program at the University of Arizona which is providing $3.5 million to test 250,000 health care workers and first responders to determine who has been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies. But the first testing won’t begin until later this week, and initially only in Pima County.
Hamer said the bottom line — and the message he wants the governor to have — is that businesses want to reopen.
“Arizonans want to work,” he said.
“We want to see people go back to work,” Hamer continued. “And we want to see our economy fully restored.”
Still, he said, it has to be done in a prudent and safe fashion.
“And it’s going to be done in phases,” Hamer said.
He said there are models out that that work.
“Protocols are going to have to be in place that limit traffic,” Hamer said.
That’s already being done in many grocery, home improvement and department stores, with a new customer being let in when one leaves. And he said that’s even more important as the rules for who can open are broadened.
“We can’t have a gazillion people in a small store when you have a pandemic without effective therapeutics and good treatment,” Hamer said. And he said there are likely to be other mandates and suggestions, ranging from sheets of plastic separating customers from cashiers to tape lines on the floor marking social distance for those waiting in line.
All this presumes that even if Ducey loosens the restrictions that Arizonans will be willing to foray out.
“Consumer confidence is the $64,000 question,” Hamer conceded. “It’s very important for the governor’s actions to continue to be consistent with the comfort level of the citizens.”
As we embark upon a new decade, it’s hard to miss the technological advances happening all around us. Arizona in 2020 is a state ripe with investment in cutting-edge technology, one where entrepreneurship is thriving and the breakthroughs of tomorrow are happening right in our own backyard.
Arizona’s autonomous vehicle sector is a prime example of how our state has positioned itself to be on the leading edge of the future. After all, it’s where The New York Times said “self-driving cars go to learn.”
While it’s easy to imagine a future zipping around the state in driverless cars, what hasn’t been simple is measuring the actual economic impact of this future for our state. But economist Jim Rounds crunched the numbers and recently released a report for the Arizona Chamber Foundation on the various models and assumptions for Arizona. One thing they all point to? By leading other states, Arizona is poised to reap a disproportionate share of the billions in economic growth and investment this new industry will bring.
Rounds estimates – conservatively – that a $6.1 billion investment in autonomous vehicle research and development would lead to over 75,000 new Arizona jobs across the industry itself and in supporting industries by 2026. To put this in perspective, the growth alone in autonomous vehicle-related work in the next few years will employ more than double the number of Arizonans working in state government.
Much of this growth can be attributed to the way Arizona has uniquely positioned itself among the states to provide a welcoming environment to innovators. For example, thanks to an executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey, the Arizona Commerce Authority now houses the Institute of Automated Mobility, a team that bridges government, innovating companies, and higher education institutions to facilitate the safe development of these technologies.
Higher education is actually a critical part of this consortium. By training students for a high-tech industry poised to grow here at home, Arizona’s colleges and universities are simultaneously meeting the industry’s demand and retaining Arizona’s best and brightest.
We are investing in a workforce designed to grow with the autonomous-vehicle industry, positioning our state as the top location for additional investments by companies working in this space.
In fact, Arizona’s universities are partnering with the firms pioneering this technology to graduate engineers and software developers. That means the students we are investing in at our state universities are staying here, working here, and keeping their economic contributions here in Arizona.
But it’s not just our universities. Community colleges in Phoenix’s East Valley and Pima Community College in Tucson have developed training programs in cyber-security and autonomous truck operation that are training Arizonans directly for high-demand jobs in the workforce.
With more Arizonans taking jobs in this promising, high tech field, and companies like Waymo and Intel – which in 2017 purchased Israel-based autonomous tech firm Mobileye – expanding their research, development, and manufacturing footprints to support that growth, there is also substantial benefit to the state and local governments in tax collection over the next decade.
If we continue to support the growth of autonomous-vehicle technology in Arizona, it will yield significant resources to state and local governments that can be re-invested in priorities like education and public safety. Rounds estimates that an additional $250-350 million in taxes could be collected by 2026 in autonomous-vehicle sector growth alone, using a conservative approach to modeling the calculations. Those are substantial resources for reinvesting in our state’s priorities.
Rounds’ calculations give us a clear vision for Arizona’s economic future if we continue on the path of welcoming the forward-thinking industry. It’s an Arizona with 75,000 more people working in good-paying jobs, an Arizona training our students for the jobs of the future, and an Arizona that’s reaping the benefits of a growing, successful tax base.
But perhaps more important than any of the economic growth that Arizona will gain by being a leader is the potential impact to road safety we stand to gain. Over 800 people die in fatal car crashes in Arizona each year. Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to bring that number down dramatically by reducing the human error that is the cause of so many accidents. It’s why groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Safety Council have partnered with Waymo here in Arizona. We owe it to ourselves in Arizona to welcome technologies that have potential to keep our roads safer and save lives.
As this new analysis methodically predicts, Arizona can anticipate a bright, safe, and economically prosperous future if we continue to welcome innovation and resist overregulation.
— Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the chairman of the Arizona Chamber Foundation.
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A team of engineering students and a professor, working in the laboratory, conduct several experiments that result in the discovery that prompts a new idea. The concept advances, is tested and re-tested and results in a product that provides a solution, a simplification or an acceleration. After testing, the product moves out to the marketplace and generates demand. Demand leads to the start of a company, perhaps on a shoestring or fueled by a small group of angel investors.
The start-up company refines and advances. It hires employees – not just engineers, but salespeople, marketers, finance professionals, administrative staff. Its need for certain services, vendors and infrastructure creates a supply chain. Those businesses flourish and hire more people. Momentum builds.
At Arizona State University’s Fulton Schools of Engineering, this scenario happens again and again. It fuels economic growth and activity – and spawns high-value, high wage jobs. Two examples of this are:
Zero Mass Water, a spin out company created by ASU Fulton Schools professor Cody Friesen that creates drinking water out of air and sunlight using solar-powered hydro panels. The foundational work for the company’s SOURCE hydro panels was conducted at ASU. The company now employs 91 people.
Benchmark Electronics, a company that provides technology solutions for medial, aerospace, industrial, telecommunications and IoT fields, moved its headquarters to Arizona because of the unique relationship it has built with the Fulton Schools and the proximity/access to a growing number of career-ready engineering graduates entering the workforce from ASU. Benchmark has 3,766 employees.
There is no doubt – these success stories can happen more frequently and at greater scale. With the New Economy, there is a growing market in need of engineers. We are confident, with the help of a public investment for FY 2021 proposed to the Arizona Legislature by the Arizona Board of Regents, engineers produced at ASU can help move the entire state economy in businesses of all disciplines, shapes and sizes.
This is the future – a new range of technologies that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds and that will impact all disciplines, industries and economies. Advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D technology, genetics, and biotechnology are complementing and magnifying one another and are changing the way we live.
The ripple effect of these disruptive technologies will be more profound and all-encompassing than anything humanity has ever experienced. Smart systems – homes, factories, farms, energy grids, or cities – will tackle problems from supply chain management to weather extremes. The rise in the sharing economy will allow for the monetization of everything from houses to cars, and even time. Big data will help businesses make smarter decisions faster – allowing them to take advantage of opportunities the moment they arise.
The examples are both ordinary – drones delivering FedEx packages to your doorstep – and extraordinary – solar panels extracting drinking water from thin air.
Some jobs are threatened by redundancy or obsoletion and others are poised for adaptation and certain growth. Nearly all occupations will be impacted by technology and will require New Economy skill proficiency requiring the reskilling or upskilling of many, many people in the workforce. To close the gap, Arizona State University is committed to rethinking workforce preparation; we are moving toward a lifelong learning approach – the universal learner – that ensures all individuals, regardless of age or socioeconomic background, have the knowledge and skills necessary to compete successfully in the workforce of the 21st century.
The state of Arizona, now recovered from the negative impact and long return to health from the impact of the 2008 recession, is in an enviable position to take advantage of this wave of change. While the state economy has stabilized, this is not the time to feel satisfied and relax. It is a moment in time where we can make investments that result in a stronger, more resilient economy for the long term that ensures we are not vulnerable to the economic volatility that defined the last decade.
Should the governor and the Arizona Legislature choose to make the kind of investment in engineering at ASU proposed by ABOR, the impact will be enormous and will extend far beyond the university and those who employ engineers. It will impact the economy favorably across the board.
There is a good reason to place our faith in engineers. They are designers. They take what hasn’t been done yet and turn imagination into something real. They are, in their own way, artists who see things most of us do not see and who have creative talents not everyone is so fortunate to possess.
As a result, engineers are the backbone of a range of industries – and thus, producing more is a good investment. They are the core of an innovation-centered economy, a catalyst to develop new things that change the world and that will make Arizona a globally competitive state for decades to come.
— This is the second in a three-part series from ASU President Michael M. Crow about the Arizona Board of Regents New Economy Initiative, a public investment proposal for the state’s FY 2021 budget. Coming next: What’s in it for me? The return on investing in ASU engineering.
From aerospace to health care, Arizona has a fast-growing, dynamic economy. As employers in the state, we are seeking talent to fill jobs available right now. This need is only going to grow as many of the jobs that today’s kindergartners will eventually hold don’t even exist yet. The shelf life of skills is only shrinking, and a troubling skills gap abounds as we move into a future in which technology touches every facet of our economy. Even now, more than two-thirds of information technology jobs are outside what is considered the tech sector.
In Arizona alone, there are more than 9,800 open computing jobs. With an average salary of $84,866 — 83 percent higher than the state’s average salary — these jobs present profound economic opportunity for Arizona’s citizens. But nearly half of Arizona’s K-12 schools don’t even offer computer science education. Add to that our state’s universities did not graduate a single new teacher prepared to teach computer science in 2016.
Of course, sustained economic growth requires more than simply preparing our students for the demands of today’s employers. It demands that we prepare all of Arizona’s students with the skills and knowledge they need to adapt, as well as to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. We must embrace new disciplines to provide our future workforce with the skills they need to compete. This is an opportunity we may squander if we don’t build the necessary capacity for schools to provide all students with access to a high-quality computer science education.
The Legislature approved $1 million in funding for fiscal-year 2019 to expand the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science pilot program, allowing schools to offer high-quality, rigorous training for hundreds of teachers who in turn can reach tens of thousands of students without access to computer science in their schools now. The funding is rooted in and supports the potential of our economy’s greatest asset: teachers. By funding this professional development, Arizona can rapidly expand access to computer science learning experiences for all of our students at a time when equity gaps plague our nation’s fastest growing fields. Consider this: Among high school students taking advanced placement computer science exams in Arizona, just 22 percent are female,
19 percent are Hispanic and less than 2 percent are black.
Having well-prepared teachers who can teach computer science to students throughout K-12 is key to improving access and helping close the talent gap that exists in Arizona. A female student is 10 times more likely to major in computer science after just one computer science course in high school. Black and Hispanic students are seven times more likely to major in computer science after access to a computer science course in high school.
For Arizona, investing in computer science education is more than an economic imperative. It is an opportunity imperative. And our legislators can now seize that opportunity to build critical capacity among our educators and new career pathways for our students. Together, we can ensure that our students are prepared for success today and the jobs of tomorrow.
— Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
Arizona has led the nation in economic growth for several decades. This success was not by accident. When confronted with the direst of economic challenges, our leaders pushed for policy changes that allowed the state’s economy to survive, then thrive. Once again, we are faced with such a situation.
Now is the time again to shift our focus to the economy. However, this time we need to invest in projects like the Arizona Board of Regents and public universities’ New Economy Initiative that yield a positive return on investment. The initiative is a catalyst for much more aggressive economic growth and follows the same basic business principles of investing in high ROI projects.
About a decade ago, the Great Recession impacted Arizona more than almost every other state. Our policy and business leaders made tough budget decisions, and implemented aggressive tax and economic development reforms. In time, regulatory reforms were implemented, various economic development organizations began coordinating, marketing of the state reached new heights and budget reserves were properly managed. The effort helped the state return to being in the top five nationally in multiple categories of economic growth.
We now face another challenge, along with an opportunity. Less than a year ago, we entered the Covid recession. Severe job losses initially mirrored those of the Great Recession. However, this time Arizona has recovered jobs more quickly than the nation as a whole. This stronger recovery is due to the public policy decisions that were made over the past decade.
In many statistical categories, the state is doing well. This is not the case with most other states. Our primary deficiency is not in our rate of economic growth. Instead, it is in the quality of growth. We need more aggressive efforts to support the private sector in creating higher-wage and high-skilled jobs. This is our best chance to shift the economic dynamics in Arizona and catch up to our economic development competitors.
Highly skilled and higher wage job creation translates into increases in productivity. This leads to increases in company profits, adds to incomes and directly translates into more robust tax collections that can be reinvested. The cycle can continue or reverse itself depending on what policies state leaders put in place.
This is where the term ROI comes into play in relation to the New Economy Initiative. Third-party reviews of such proposals from the universities identified a positive ROI for the state taxpayer in much less time than would be typically expected. It is abundantly clear that workforce productivity and a focus on high-skill, high-wage job creation are among the most critical drivers of economic growth.
This is not a criticism of recent policies – it is quite the opposite. As previously noted, the past policies enacted after the Great Recession are what made us more resilient during the Covid recession.
Instead, this is a call to action to lawmakers and the business community to support policies like the New Economy Initiative that will allow the state to reach top-tier status when it comes to economic activity. Now is the time for our leaders to again be aggressive with policy planning and allow the state to not simply grow, but to flourish and surpass our economic development competitors.
Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican, represents Legislative District 20 and Jim Rounds is an economist and public policy adviser.
Just last month, Governor Ducey announced the launch of SkyBridge Arizona at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The SkyBridge project is a game-changer for Arizona that will result in 17,000 direct and indirect jobs and $230-million investment in infrastructure. This project offers e-commerce companies access to millions of consumers in Mexico and South America, while providing an efficient alternative to our busy land ports of entry. While the competition for investment continues to grow both domestically and abroad, Arizona is leading the nation in attracting businesses that are driving innovation and job creation. Arizona’s success is the result of a combined effort to build a more diverse, innovative and collaborative economy supported by the vision and leadership of Gov. Doug Ducey. In addition, Arizona has been among the most effective states in leveraging its proximity and strong relationships with Mexico.
In other sectors, companies like Nikola and TuSimple are revolutionizing the trucking industry, bringing innovative technologies that will offer efficient and environmentally responsible practices to supply chains — and they have chosen Arizona as their home.
Under Governor Ducey’s leadership, we have seen the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) work directly to make our borders safer and more efficient. New inspection procedures by ADOT enforcement along with the historic CBP Unified Cargo Processing program that was first tested and perfected in Arizona, have resulted in a border that is second to none. Our border wait times have dropped dramatically. While ports of entry in Texas, New Mexico and California measure the truck crossing times in hours, Arizona’s are measured in minutes!
And we are not done yet. Arizona continues to push the envelope to support other key industries for Arizona’s economy such as tourism, with new binational initiatives such as the implementation of a safety corridor for travelers from the Arizona-Mexico border to the beaches at Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco). This is a direct result of a joint agreement signed by Governor Ducey and Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, implemented by ADOT, the Arizona-Mexico Commission and their Sonoran counterparts.
Certainly several challenges remain, such as the need to modernize our border infrastructure, secure additional staffing for Customs and Border Protection at the border and continued promotion of the Arizona-Mexico corridor as a preferred alternative for products destined to the west coast. And we must remember that our corridor works in both directions, affording new business opportunities for Arizona and U.S. companies that are looking at Mexico as a market of opportunity for their goods and services.
But it’s these challenges that drive Arizona’s collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit and what will help Arizona continue to lead an increasingly connected 21st century economy. It’s in that same spirit that we can land innovative solutions like SkyBridge Arizona that address the needs of our business community and position our state at the forefront of growing international markets.
This multifaceted approach being implemented by Governor Ducey to leverage key partnerships through organizations like the Arizona-Mexico Commission and others is working. Getting the right people together from the public and private sectors, in Arizona and abroad, is supporting Arizona’s work to lead in international trade, tourism, among many other sectors.
Arizona is a leader in welcoming new technologies and partnerships, while removing the barriers of government to drive Arizona’s economic success. #AZAwesome
— Jessica Pacheco is president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.
While the economy is booming, some nonprofits are seeing a downturn in donations – a worrisome trend.
An Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits survey of 501c3 organizations statewide showed year-end and tax-deadline donations are down. We attribute this decline to the federal changes, which were, in principle, designed to save taxpayers money.
The new law nearly doubled the federal standard deduction for single and married taxpayers, eliminating the financial incentive to donate to nonprofit organizations because taxpayers can’t claim – and don’t need – the deduction on their federal returns.
We are encouraged by Arizona legislators’ efforts to adjust Arizona tax laws to allow individuals to deduct donations to nonprofit organizations even if they don’t itemize their tax returns, but we believe it’s important to understand the actual impact of federal tax laws changes on those organizations.
And, it’s not good.
Two Arizona nonprofits underscore the challenge.
Phoenix-based Feed Our Babies USA works with school districts to provide nutritious meals to low-income children and their families who are not eligible for public funding or food boxes from state-mandated food banks. Children and families are identified by school staff, and food boxes are brought to the schools for delivery to the families.
The Creighton School District, where 5,000 of the 6,000 children are on free and reduced lunch, is among the districts Feed Our Babies USA serves.
This all-volunteer organization operates on an annual budget of less than $120,000 and helped more than 20,000 families last year with support from more than 150 volunteers Valleywide.
Feed Our Babies USA is funded solely by individuals and corporate gifts. They organized a bake sale on May 11 to benefit their Thanksgiving Box event and Arizona school pantry programs. Two years ago, Feed Our Babies USA generated $15,000 in donations. This year, the total was $7,000.
“The loss of funding was huge for us, said Founder and Board Chair Joni Navarro Sucato. “We cut down our weekend lunch program to once a month because we didn’t have the funding. We’re a very small organization and we rely on every single dollar we get to buy food.”
Junior Achievement of Arizona serves 83,000 students statewide with programs designed to prepare them to succeed in work and life by teaching them how to manage their money, be ready to enter the workplace and think innovatively.
Donations to JA dropped 13 percent from the previous 12 months.
“Our cost average is $30 per child. For every $100 we don’t get, three children don’t get served,” said JA President Katherine Kemmeries Cecala.  “The number of kids we serve is directly tied to donations we receive. We are providing life-changing programs to kids and our programs are proven to make a difference. Our kids are 34 percent more likely to graduate college and will earn 20 percent more.”
JA relies entirely on donations and its 9,000 statewide volunteers, and the organization doesn’t charge the schools they work with.
Feed Our Babies USA and Junior Achievement are just two examples of the impact we’re seeing on nonprofits because of the tax-law changes. There are many, many more.
Our sincere hope is that our legislators continue on the path they’ve taken to adjust Arizona tax laws to benefit both the taxpayers and the nonprofit organizations they stand behind.
Kristen Merrifield is chief executive officer of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits..
The most difficult time to accept a new challenge and embrace change is when things are going well.
At the start of a new decade, people who live in Arizona have every reason to be pleased – 2020 looks a lot better than 2010 did. Leaders in government and business have worked hard to manage through the challenges that came with the Great Recession and in its aftermath. The pathway has been difficult and they have every right to feel proud of what they have done and what Arizona has to offer.
As tempting as it might be and as much as we may feel we’ve earned it, now is not the time to breathe a sigh of relief and relax. Competitive forces are fiercer than ever.
Arizona has climbed out of a hole and it is standing on stable ground. That is encouraging and important given the rapid advance of technology and its dramatic impact on businesses, the workplace and the kinds of jobs that will be needed – along with jobs that will disappear.
Arizona has the opportunity to build on its current economic health and to make sure the state economy never suffers again the way it did in the decade following the Great Recession. It means moving the Arizona economy from being fragile and highly vulnerable in times of volatility, to one that is resilient that thrives and grows when exposed to uncertainty, disorder and stress. The Arizona Board of Regents have wisely offered a proposal for public investment in the FY 2021 budget that signals the way forward.
What ABOR has proposed is a strategic investment with a focus at all three state universities on areas that will yield a positive return on investment for taxpayers with an emphasis on high value, high wage industries that are central to the New Economy. It is a focus designed to advance more new business location and expansion opportunities and additional small business development. It is accomplished by using universities to partner with industry to produce a pipeline of talent and an environment of research, discovery and entrepreneurial activity.
At Arizona State University, that means an emphasis on engineering and technology. For those of us at the university, it means accepting the assignment to educate and graduate more students, to find new and innovative ways to partner with the private sector, to produce knowledge and discovery and to push it into the marketplace, and to provide the workforce needed for Arizona businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Because as well as the state of Arizona has done by reducing regulation, tax burdens and being welcoming and in spite of the fact that our quality of life is second to none and that barriers to entry are few, we still see data that tells us we are not expanding economically at the rate of our competition in the region. Personal economic expansion is still greater in states like Colorado and Oregon – and that’s not what we want.
Arizona still must develop the self-generating, knowledge-driven economic center where we are creating from whole cloth new knowledge enterprises that produce thousands of scientists, engineers and designers who make things happen. Not trends we capitalize on, but new things we create to sustain the economy of the future.
The foundational technologies we operate under today will all be replaced. The economy will continue to churn. Think back to 1990 – just 30 years ago. Our present economy looks nothing like that. Our biggest and most important companies were born, grown and totally transformed in that period of time. Think, Apple. Think, Google. Think, Amazon.
This isn’t going to stop. It’s going to happen even faster. Arizona institutions like Intel know this is coming. They know they must adapt, or die.
Arizona needs to be at the leading edge of economic transformation. We are well positioned to do so, but not if we are content with recovery and where we are today.
The Board of Regents proposal calls for ASU, working with the private sector, to lead the emergence of the greatest engineering school ever built, at scale with diversity and creativity, planting the seedlings for new industries and new opportunities.
It is an investment in laying seed for the New Economy by doing three things:
– Continuing to operate America’s most innovative university built on access and quality, welcoming all those at every stage of life who want an education.
– Building the greatest engineering school in the world – the largest, the most creative, the most innovative; and,
– Creating new Science and Technology Centers that will accelerate our opportunities to do research, make discoveries, push ideas into the marketplace advancing the businesses that already exist and spinning off new ones, ready to make their mark.
We are asking for this investment from the state. We accept the assignment. And we will deliver.
— This is the first in a three-part series from ASU President Michael M. Crow about the Arizona Board of Regents New Economy Initiative, a public investment proposal for the state’s FY 2021 budget.
Few need a reminder that we are in the middle of an economic contraction and a sustained public health emergency. But apparently, some Republican officials do. Communities across Arizona are in desperate need of support, with many residents struggling to find work and some still battling Covid, and yet conservatives have maintained distracting – if not entirely counterproductive – postures on a host of partisan issues.  
Instead of focusing on recovery, Attorney General Mark Brnovich continues to push a partisan agenda, launching several attacks against climate change reform, immigration policies, the American Rescue Plan, and technology companies. While his constituents suffer, Brnovich is busy pushing Trump-era talking points.  
 Just this month, Brnovich sued President Biden over an executive order to fight the climate crisis, arguing that it was a “massive expansion” of federal regulations. Despite polls showing that the vast majority of Arizonans believe that state and federal governments need to take more action in combatting climate change, Brnovich is keen to seize on an opportunity to fight the administration’s agenda from day one.  
 Brnovich also recently extended a federal lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for its ban on deportations. He dangerously conflated immigrants with criminals in his announcement, claiming that the DHS was allowing people “that have been convicted of crimes” or “accused of crimes” to stay in our communities. But there is, of course, no evidence to support his statement. On real matters of law enforcement, including soaring violent crime rates situating Arizona among the highest in the nation, Brnovich remains predictably quiet.  
 Our AG has even attempted to block the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, suing the U.S. Treasury over a state tax provision and potentially delaying much-needed relief. This is not the time to play partisan politics and lean on tired conservative positions on tax policy, and it is certainly not the time to hold up access to critical funds.  
 And over the past year, Brnovich has filed a number of lawsuits against technology companies, mirroring much of the anti-tech Republican posturing taking place across the country, largely fueled by Trump- and Bill Barr-driven allegations of “anti-conservative bias” online. These frivolous, taxpayer-funded lawsuits are not only a waste of time, but a waste of precious resources in our state’s top law enforcement office. One such lawsuit, being led by Brnovich’s counterpart in Texas, is costing taxpayers $43 million alone. We should be concerned that our state is wasting similar resources on issues that couldn’t be further down the priority list of hard-working families across our state.  
 This partisan agenda makes clear that Brnovich is more concerned with furthering a Trump-era agenda and exacting political revenge than he is with delivering real leadership for Arizonans.  
 Arizonans appreciate that resources and capacity are strained in government offices at all levels during this turbulent time. Using these limited resources to sue the administration and bicker with technology companies is irresponsible. As more and more residents receive their Covid vaccinations and we all continue the hard work toward recovery, policymakers must adjust their focus and address the real issues facing our communities. 
Arizona voters are increasingly realizing that conservative principles no longer serve the best interests of our state, evident in an historic election for Democrats this past cycle. As new officials take up office, and other Democrats plan for critical statewide and local elections in the months and years to come, we should remember that the Brnovich playbook must be left behind. Giving credence to this partisan agenda, during a critical phase of recovery, should be avoided.  
Julie Gunnigle is a lawyer and former Democratic candidate for Maricopa County attorney. 
It’s been more than a decade since the Arizona Corporation Commission approved the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff, requiring Arizona utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
So much has changed since the Republican-led commission in 2006 moved our state toward a healthier and more prosperous future in clean energy.
Indeed, Arizona was a trailblazer for this forward-looking policy. But sadly, we’ve fallen behind. Over the past year, many other states have begun moving towards higher renewable energy standards.
The commission is once again poised to discuss its renewable energy policy, and it’s unclear whether commissioners have the wherewithal to increase it, let alone keep it in place.
Here’s a fact: If Arizona doesn’t get on board, we will be sidelined as spectators watching other states reap the economic benefits of solar, wind and other clean resources.
Why? Renewable energy resources have become readily available and are now more affordable than their fossil-fuel counterparts like gas and coal. Study after study from credible, independent sources show that solar and wind are the cheapest technology for producing electricity.
Thankfully, SRP has responded to these lower costs with plans for 1,000 megawatts of solar. In contrast, APS plans only 100 megawatts of solar and will buy energy produced by natural gas, imported from other states.
In fact, APS’s 2017 annual report shows its ownership of solar to be less than 10 percent of the total power they sell. APS ratepayers and Arizona citizens deserve better from our largest electric utility company in the state.
Other states are shutting down natural gas plants and replacing them with cheaper solar and batteries. Yet, APS is paying a third party to produce our power with natural gas. That production and the vast majority of those jobs reside out of state.
While renewable energy has proven to offer lower emissions, we must also consider the significant impact it has on in-state job growth, economic development and benefits for large and small businesses. As more renewable energy practices are established and implemented in Arizona, more jobs will be created. From construction to advanced technology jobs, Arizona employment will see an immediate uptick.
As a ratepayer, I would like for the power I use to be clean, cheap and healthy. And made by Arizona workers with abundant Arizona sunshine. Raising the renewable energy standard to meet or even exceed the goals of other states should be strongly supported. Raising our standards not only means getting on board with the goals of other states, but also sends the message that Arizona is an economic leader.
We all know that implementing higher renewable energy standards in Arizona will help reduce emissions, diversify our energy and set the stage for a sustainable future – and that’s important.
But, investing in the business of renewable energy is crucial for supporting a growing Arizona economy.
Fred Davis is a concerned Arizona resident. 
Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have an opportunity to help keep our state’s economy and business climate strong so we can continue creating jobs and improving local communities. To do so, they must stand up against economically harmful policies that some of their colleagues in Congress seem intent on pushing.
The “Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” ironically referred to as the PRO Act, would be devastating for Arizona’s economy. Fortunately, both our senators had the foresight to recognize the harm this legislation would cause to a state like ours and have so far withheld their support. Continuing to listen to local business leaders representing a variety of industries will make it clear that outright opposition to the policies within the PRO Act is the right choice for Arizona.
First, the PRO Act would undermine Arizona’s current competitive economic climate and our ability to attract a broad range of businesses and industries to our state. It would do so, primarily, by nullifying right-to-work laws here and in the more than two-dozen other states that have also passed them into law.
This means Arizona workers could once again be forced to pay union dues even if they didn’t vote for unionization. Not only that, but overturning our right-to-work laws would undermine the momentum Arizona has spent years building to attract companies away from less-business-friendly states like California and bring them to our cities and towns. Ultimately, that would mean fewer jobs and less economic opportunity.
Part of the reason Arizona has built such a strong economy over the years is because we have fostered a positive environment not only for business, but also for labor. That has helped us shore up manufacturing in our region, creating highly skilled, well-paying jobs that support hardworking Arizonans while spurring further business growth and development. This has led to a positive economic cycle that improves the quality of life and prosperity in communities across the state.
Policies like the ones promoted by the PRO Act would pile new costs and liabilities on Arizona businesses while increasing regulation, making it harder for them to expand their operations and workforce or invest in local projects. Moreover, we would have a harder time bringing new businesses to our state.
Ultimately, this legislation and policies like it threaten to unravel the progress Arizona has made in weaving together a strong, vibrant economy. Particularly after the past two years of economic turbulence and uncertainty, that is the last thing Arizonans need right now.
Instead, our collective priority should be to protect our competitive edge so we can continue growing a stronger, more resilient economy that benefits businesses and workers. As long as Sinema and Kelly continue to do what is in the best interest of Arizona’s workers, businesses, and our economic future we can carry forward our positive trajectory. Opposing the PRO Act and any of its misguided policies, whether in the PRO Act itself, or any provisions that may be covertly slipped into other, unrelated legislation, will be key to maintaining our momentum.
Suzanne Kinney is president & CEO of the Arizona Chapter of the NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. 
On the day he took office, President Joe Biden proposed legislation that would radically change our immigration system.
Some of the president’s ideas — such as granting work permits to 11 million people living here without legal permission and expanding visa programs — would hurt U.S. workers by hugely expanding competition for jobs. The legislation could hit particularly hard in Arizona, as we reel from the economic fallout of the pandemic. Here, only 66% of jobs lost last spring have been replaced, and unemployment remains stuck at 7.5 percent, above both its pre-Covid level and the current national rate.
Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema may be our last line of defense against further economic pain — both for Arizonans, and Americans at large. In the closely divided Senate, the two moderate Democrats will have an opportunity to cast decisive votes against the president’s plan.
The problem is that while the U.S. immigration system needs an overhaul that protects U.S. jobs, Biden’s proposal won’t do that. It would grant amnesty to over 11 million people who are living here illegally — not just long-time residents, but people who arrived as recently as December.
Members of this group would be eligible to apply for green cards after five years. Once they have those green cards, they could sponsor family members to join them here in the United States. That means we would be setting ourselves up not just for more immigration now, but for successive waves of future arrivals.
In addition to granting amnesty to people living here without legal permission, Biden’s plan would increase legal immigration, removing per-country visa caps and expanding the number of work permits issued to foreign residents. It would even allow the return of certain people who were previously deported.
It all adds up to millions more people chasing jobs in an economy already weakened by the pandemic. Even without an increase in immigration, some of the sectors most hurt by the Covid recession — among them manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality — could take until 2025 or beyond to fully recover, according to a McKinsey analysis.
A new wave of mass immigration would disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable Americans. People without high school diplomas earn about $25,000 per year. Over the two decades ending in 2016, immigrants increased the size of this low-skilled workforce by about a quarter, according to Harvard economist George J. Borjas. That, in turn, decreased the wages of U.S.-born low-skilled workers by $800 to $1,500 each year.
Mass immigration also creates a surplus of labor, allowing firms to pay lower wages. Data from the past 50 years shows that a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with a given skill set lowers wages in their field by at least 3%. Moreover, new immigrants generally pay less in total taxes, because of their lower incomes, and use welfare programs at higher rates than native-born Americans, imposing a cost on the government.
We are no doubt heading into months of debate over how to reform immigration. Fortunately, Sens. Sinema and Kelly both have reputations for constructive bipartisanship and prudent border policies. Sinema worked with Republican colleagues to propose Operation Safe Return, a program aimed at speeding up the process for asylum seekers on the southern border. Kelly says he supports strong border security and preventing “big corporations from exploiting migrant labor and undercutting American wages.”
They’ll soon be able to cast votes that reflect those principals. When Biden’s plan becomes a Senate bill, Sinema and Kelly should reject it, protecting workers across Arizona and the United States.
Rusty Childress is a Phoenix-based nature photographer and founder of United for a Sovereign America, which works to promote border security and comprehensive enforcement of immigration laws.
Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly should feel confident leading the nation to provide pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the Build Back Better agenda that is pending on Capitol Hill. As the founder of a statewide organization representing nearly 3,500 locally owned businesses, I know that legalization and citizenship will strengthen Arizona’s economy, be good for small businesses and entrepreneurship, and help address our critical labor shortage.   
Arizona was once a battleground of anti-immigrant policies, but that time is thankfully behind us. Today, legalization and citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, and essential workers has shifted in the public opinion realm. In a recent bipartisan poll, sponsored by the American Business Immigration Coalition, only 10% of U.S. voters, including just 17% of conservative voters, believed that the priority for fixing our immigration system should be deportations. Here in Arizona, four out of five voters support pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the Build Back Better plan.   
Arizona’s economy is fueled by small businesses, but we are facing a critical labor shortage that is the result of a perfect storm, including significantly changing career interests, Covid recovery, and years of anti-immigration policies. This has caused an extreme shortage of workers in the trades, hospitality, farms, and transportation, among other areas, all of which are essential for a strong Arizona economy. Our state currently has 181,000 open jobs that we simply don’t have the workers to fill. Providing permanent status for undocumented workers is not a panacea for solving this problem, but it’s an urgently needed piece of the puzzle.  
According to one analysis, legalization and citizenship will increase economic activity nationwide by $121 billion annually, including adding $31 billion per year to federal, state, and local tax revenues. About a dozen states will particularly benefit; Arizona’s economy will increase by $3 billion per year.  
New businesses are the drivers of job growth and we are fortunate that Arizona is home to more than 70,000 immigrant entrepreneurs. The household income of our state’s undocumented immigrants is $5.1 billion per year. They pay $556.5 million in taxes and have a spending power of $4.5 billion annually. The bottom line is that Arizona is stronger when we are inclusive and welcoming to all people.  
Kimber Lanning is founder of Local First Arizona, a statewide organization with nearly 3,500 business members working to strengthen Arizona’s economy and a member of the American Business Immigration Coalition. 
Covid 19 stock
Gov. Doug Ducey’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order to mitigate the COVID19 pandemic has dramatically “flattened the curve,” reducing spread and protecting our hospital system and health care professionals. But, the order was set to expire April 30. As Arizona looks toward re-opening, it is important to consider how we re-enter without jeopardizing the gains achieved by a month in lockdown.
In an ideal world, states would re-open only after a sharp and sustained reduction in new COVID19 cases. We would exit lockdown armed with widespread testing to detect new infections, infrastructure for contact tracing and antibody testing to determine those who have been infected, recovered, and now have some immunity to the virus. But we are far from the ideal situation. Arizona’s largest counties are just approaching the peak in new infections. Testing for infection has not yet been extended beyond those who are sick. Without testing and contact tracing, we lack the classic tools deployed in tamping down pandemics.
In an ideal world, the decision to re-open would be driven by data. But the data are not coming fast enough to inform decisions and SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay. Until there is an effective vaccine or antiviral, we will not be free to resume pre-pandemic life. Further, controlling the COVID19 pandemic poses unique challenges due to its propensity for asymptomatic spread (possibly up to 25% of all infections), making infections difficult to identify and isolate. We must learn how to find a new normal to re-build life and the economy amidst the pandemic.
Social distancing (6 feet of separation), restricting the size of gatherings and diligent hand-washing must continue as a primary means to combat spread of SARS-CoV-2. Return to work needs to be a primary focus for re-entry to bolster the economy. But we must have a phased strategy to put the workforce back in place, starting with jobs where social distancing is possible for risk management, then gradually working up to jobs where distancing is less attainable.
Face coverings are critical in communal or public spaces, especially where 6-feet distancing is not possible. Work hours need to be staggered and flexible to minimize contact, and activities that can be done remotely should remain remote. Implementation of each successive phase should be separated by two weeks to assess the resulting rise in cases. When numbers of new cases spike, restrictions will have to be reinstated.
The relaxation of restrictions should be slower and more controlled in more densely populated cities, which are at greater risk than more sparsely populated rural areas. Activities that draw high densities of people together, such as concerts and sporting events, will remain a tenuous proposition for many months to come. Travel too remains a large source of risk.
A recent Washington Post poll shows that Americans are twice as worried about opening the country too fast than too slow. This suggests that the majority of people are concerned about the risk of COVID19. This level of concern will hopefully translate into sustained attention to social distancing and hand washing.
Whether or not we can safely exit lockdown amidst the pandemic – in the absence of testing and tracing – remains a big question. The lockdown has come at great economic and personal expense. It is important that the sacrifices made in the interest of public health are not for naught. For Arizona to roll the dice and re-enter society requires a well-designed plan to lift, monitor and re-implement restrictions once we have gone too far.
Felicia Goodrum Sterling is a virologist, president-elect of the American Society of Virology, and a professor and scientist at the University of Arizona. James Alwine is a virologist, a fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology, and a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting professor at the University of Arizona.
Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday he’s not worried that a stock market in disarray and fewer visitors will undermine his call for lawmakers to approve a new tax cut.
“Of course we’ll be factoring in the situation of what’s happening in the economy,” the governor said when asked about plans, both his and by Republican legislators, to cut taxes. Those plans were unveiled before COVID-19 became a worldwide issue and patients in Arizona have become infected.
He said the economy has been “robust” until now.
“This is, of course, affecting the economy,” Ducey continued. “There’s no doubt about it.”
But the governor said the state is in far better financial condition now than it has been in years. He also cited the $1 billion available in the state’s “rainy day fund,” about 8 percent of his proposed $12.3 billion spending plan for the coming year.
Ducey also said he is resisting various legislative proposals for tax cuts that would reduce revenues by $300 million or more, measures that already have been approved by Republican-dominated House and Senate committees.
Instead, he is pushing his own proposal – the one he trotted out during the State of the State speech – to eliminate all income taxes on pensions paid to retired military. And the price tag on that is only about $43 million a year.
“That’s the budget we’re going to pass,” he said.
The governor’s comments came during a staged event at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix to urge Arizonans to respond to questions that start going out this week from the U.S. Census.
It even featured newborns and infants wearing T-shirts with a “Babies Count” message to buttress Ducey’s argument that children under age 5 are the most undercounted. And that, he said, threatens to lose Arizona needed state aid, saying a 1 percent short count loses Arizona $62 million a year in federal aid for the next decade.
Most of the questions for Ducey, however, were about the outbreak of the virus.
The governor brushed aside comments by President Trump who called some of the outbreak numbers and death rates “fake.”
“I’m going to be held accountable for the communication of what’s happening in Arizona,” he said.
“We’re focused on what the facts are,” Ducey continued. “And that’s what we’re communicating.”
Anyway, the governor suggested that Trump’s comments may not matter as long as the administration is focused on the problem.
“I just spent 90 minutes (on the phone) with the vice president and the world’s top medical experts,” he said.
“I have their direct phone numbers,” he said. “And they’re all-in on this.”
And what of the economy?
“My concern’s for public health,” he said. “Stock markets go up and down.”
But a decline in the stock market would directly affect state tax revenues as investors not only have no capital gains to report but actually book their losses against other income.
Then there are concerns about how a wider virus outbreak might affect travel plans.
All this comes as Ducey and Republican legislative leaders are engaged in closed-door negotiations to come up with a spending and tax-cut plan. Still, the governor acknowledged the potential economic impact of the virus.
“We are factoring that in to our decision making, of course,” he said. “We are going to put forward a responsible budget.”
Ducey said lawmakers – the ones who have voted for deeper tax cuts – know his position.
“I send a message every year when I release my budget,” he said of his $12.3 billion spending plan and tax cut for military pensions. “That’s the budget I want to pass.”
Still, he acknowledged that doesn’t mean he will get his way.
“We’ll have the appropriate to and fro and back and forth discussion and debate,” he said. “And of course we’ll be factoring in the situation of what’s happening in the economy.”
It looks like efforts by the Federal Reserve Board to cool the economy are working – at least here in Arizona.
New figures Thursday from the state Office of Economic Opportunity show that 38,865 Arizonans filed for unemployment insurance last week, the most recent figures available. That is up 30.5% from the same week a year earlier.
At the same time the “hires rate” – the number of people being brought on board by employers, is at its lowest level since early 2021. And the number of job openings is also down.
Overall, the private sector lost 11,400 jobs between June and July. That compares with the pre-pandemic average of a loss of about 7,000 for this time of year.
All this comes as the Fed has steadily increased the cost of borrowing as it moves to move the national rate of inflation from 9.1% a year ago to its target rate of 2% – and do it with a “soft landing” for the economy.
The situation has been more dire in Arizona where inflation in the Phoenix metro area – the only area of the state which is measured – peaked at 10.0% and is now down to 4.4%.
“We are starting to see slower year-over-year growth nationally as well as here at the state level,” said  Doug Walls, the agency’s labor market information director.
And some industries are more affected by the higher interest rates.
“We saw the slowdown in construction,” he said, though that sector of the Arizona economy still picked up 1,700 jobs in July.
More pronounced has been a slowdown in financial activities, a sector that includes those involved in issuing mortgages.
“A large part of the increases could be attributed to the federal funds effective rate,” said Walls.
The figures about the rates of hires and openings also may support the idea that employers, concerned about where the economy is headed, are being more cautious about bringing workers on board.
“That could be one possible answer to the numbers that we’re seeing, certainly with the ‘hires rate,’ that certainly has come down to a rate that looks more in line with pre-pandemic rates,” he said. But Walls said the numbers are about where they were in 2019.
One other indication about what employers are thinking, said Walls, is there has been a decrease in the number of people working for temporary help agencies. He said that is a sector of the economy that tends to boom when times are good and companies are looking for a quick source of new help.
“Those could be indications that employers don’t want to get out in front of their skis,” Walls said.
“They’re being more strategic in their hiring,” he said. “And we’re watching that play out in the numbers.”
Overall, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point in July, to 3.6%.
And while the state shed about 11,400 private sector jobs, overall private sector employment is still 45,400 more than a year earlier.
One of the weakest sectors of the economy is retail trade, which lost 3,000 jobs in July, nearly a full percentage point. Walls said this appears to be part of a post-pandemic trend.
When people couldn’t go out, he said, they bought more products. That was reflected nationally as more than 42% of what people were spending in early 2021 was on goods.
Now, he said, people are more interested in services they can buy. And that percentage spent on goods has dropped to 39%.
Among the employers losing workers in July were warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise retailers.
Elsewhere, employment at bars and restaurants dropped by about 3,200, something that is not unusual for most of the state this time of year. And there was a small drop in manufacturing employment.
Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Arizona to tout the administration’s tax overhaul plan and attend a political reception.
The Republican landed in Phoenix Tuesday afternoon and was met by Gov. Doug Ducey. He’ll join Ducey and local business and community leaders for a discussion on the need for tax reform.
Pence plans to attend a political reception in the evening and spend the night before leaving the state Wednesday morning.
The tax cut proposal unveiled last week would cut corporate tax rates and double the individual income tax exemption. 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unemployment job application
This past year the pandemic has subjected our economy to massive, unprecedented challenges in nearly every sector. We’ve heard from countless constituents who struggled after losing their jobs due to the pandemic and the associated government restrictions on businesses. Hundreds of thousands of hard-working Arizonans have been affected, and nearly one half million people have applied for unemployment since the Covid pandemic began.
Unemployment assistance benefits exist for this singular reason: to provide a temporary safety net to bridge the gap and meet the needs of Arizona’s working families who find themselves without a source of income. We fully believe it is the duty of state legislators to help hard-working Arizonans across the state as they manage the impacts of this crisis.
Arizona’s unemployment insurance benefit is currently limited to $240 – the second lowest in the nation – providing little help for a family when expenses average $1,120 per week for basic needs like housing, food, and health care. Unfortunately, current unemployment law also punishes people for accepting part-time work by reducing their benefit after earning just $30.
That’s why we introduced bipartisan legislation, HB2805, to provide much-needed, additional unemployment assistance to Arizonans who have been put in this terrible situation. This legislation raises the weekly unemployment benefit cap to $300, giving the people of Arizona the equivalent of one more assistance payment per month.  It also allows people to earn up to $160 per week from part-time hours while looking for a new job without a reduction in their weekly benefit.
In 2019,  Arizona employers were asked to pay unemployment insurance premiums that averaged $148 per year, half of the national average.  Our bill asks Arizona employers to pay an extra $15 to $16 more per covered employee annually. In return, they will benefit when people receiving assistance immediately put that money back into the economy, paying their bills while looking for a new job.
Large and small businesses alike consistently say the most important aspect of a successful business is their employees. They make significant investments to ensure the health and safety of their employees. While working on this legislation, we spoke with several business owners who made it clear:  when faced with the decision to reduce their work force and lay-off workers, they want to ensure that their former employees are in the best position possible to provide for themselves and their family under these extreme circumstances.
This isn’t about a handout. Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective policies for stabilizing our economy during recessions by providing money to people and families who need it most, while maintaining consumer demand. This legislation was developed to safeguard Arizona’s working families from financial disaster, support the state’s economic stability and recovery, as well as ensure our business community is not bearing the weight of this crisis.
We are proud to have passed this important legislation, which is on its way to the Senate after passing the House with strong bipartisan support. We’ve worked together in this to respond to the needs of our constituents.  We will continue to work together to get this meaningful legislation across the finish line. We look forward to welcoming our senate colleagues to this bipartisan effort to get this legislation to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.
David Cook is a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives serving Legislative District 8, which includes areas of Pinal and Gila Counties.
Randall Friese is a Democratic member of the Arizona House of Representatives serving Legislative District 9 in Pima County.
Carbon footprint and nature
A sustainable future is what Arizonans deserve. We must recommit ourselves to protecting our beloved state, its people and workforce. Fortunately, through science and technological breakthroughs, there are solutions available to drastically cut carbon emissions, while spurring Arizona’s local economy. It will take bold leadership from both the public and private sectors to enact strong, sound policies in order to accomplish these goals. 
 The United States is eyeing a transition to sustainable energy, electric vehicle adoption, and making climate change a key issue in domestic and foreign policy. Earlier this year, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change and will set new targets to limit harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Just last month the federal administration announced its plans to make an ambitious push for a national clean energy standard, a major stimulus for electric vehicles, a revamped power grid, and investing in new jobs to help workers dislocated by the transition.  
At the local level, states and cities across the nation are also setting their own climate goals, car manufacturers are committing to more electric vehicle production, large corporations are making commitments to going carbon neutral, and companies like Amazon and FedEx will soon make their deliveries using electric fleetsIt’s one of the reasons that we support the 2030 District Challenge For Planning and joined Arizona Thrives. We are committed to working together, across our state, in a way that works for Arizona. 
 In Arizona, we have an abundance of natural resources, making our state a prime location for becoming the nation’s leader in clean energy production. And it’s not just big corporate companies leading the way to a clean future, as many of our state’s locally-owned small businesses are leading the charge, making commitments to business practices that promote carbon neutrality to clean up our state’s air.  
 Local First Arizona members are committing to running their businesses while reducing their carbon pollution. Support through our programs such as SCALE UP and the Arizona Green Business Certification ensure that larger carbon pollution reduction goals are met. This is also possible on a larger scale with the support of our leaders and enacting climate policies that will help businesses adopt sustainable practices.  
 SCALE UP (Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance) is an award-winning program that offers a comprehensive seven-week workshop series for locally-owned and operated independent businesses and nonprofits in the greater Phoenix and Tucson areas. Supported by the state of Arizona, each cohort offers the unique opportunity for businesses to go from education and collaboration to planning, financing, benchmarking and implementation in one accessible package. With Covid, SCALE UP is an opportunity to re-build with an emphasis on equity and sustainability. 
 Our transition to a more sustainable future is a catalyst for economic growth. We have a growing electric-vehicle manufacturing base in the state anchored by Lucid Motors, a maker of high-performance luxury cars, and Nikola Corp. for heavy duty trucks in Pinal County. UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries is planning to establish a factory in Flagstaff to supply electric-vehicle manufacturers, while ElectraMeccanica Vehicles announced it will build an assembly and engineering center in Mesa. Recent analysis shows that on average, electric vehicles adopted through 2030 are estimated to add $4,100 per vehicle to the local economy.   
 The federal government is considering up to $2 trillion in spending on efforts to boost the economy, including rebuilding aging infrastructure like highways and bridges, and investing in technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s critical that Arizona’s entire congressional delegation leverage any potential federal funding to only grow our state’s clean energy economy. 
Michael Peel and Peter Dobrovolny are founders of Tucson 2030 District and Peel is the Statewide Sustainability Director for Local First Arizona.  
Arizona’s economy is booming. Even with the Covid economic downturn, Arizona’s economy is making steady gains. 
recent study by University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management found that Arizona’s recovery from the pandemic gained significant momentum in the second quarter of 2021, with jobs, home sales, and construction showing strong upward trajectories. The positive outlook predicts Arizona jobs to regain pre-pandemic peak in the fourth quarter of this year, and the long-run outlook calls for continued strong growth with Arizona forecasted to generate job, income, and population gains outpacing the rest of the nation.  
Over the next 30 years, Arizona’s population is expected to surge to 10 million people, and the state is expected to add at least 1.5 million jobs in that time.  
As we experience this tremendous population and economic growth, we need to make sure we have sufficient energy to power our economy. That said, we all recognize that there are environmental impacts to traditional methods of energy generation. Innovation in renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, as well as other clean sources such as hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture, and advanced energy storage, are demonstrating that there is a path to a low-carbon future, and that those methods of clean and renewable energy generation also help drive economic growth and create jobs. 
To put this in perspective, renewables represent a $64 billion market in the United States. In Arizona, we are witnessing the growth of this market. Our state is emerging as a national leader in technology and innovation, including developing and adopting advanced energy solutions for our advanced economy. From solar energy to zero emissions vehicles to research in sustainability and infrastructure improvements, Arizona’s economy is benefiting from this industry.  
Some of Arizona’s largest businesses, including Apple, PepsiCo, and Target, have applied positive pressure on Arizona utilities to provide them with clean and renewable energy options, and Arizona’s three largest utilities have now committed to generating most of their energy from carbon-free sources in the coming decades. 
Arizona has become a hub for the zero-emissions vehicle industry, with companies like Lucid Motors, Nikola Corporation, ElectraMeccanica and others within the supply chain establishing a strong and growing presence in the state. Nikola is also spearheading research and development in the future of the hydrogen economy. We have companies like First Solar taking an innovative and sustainable approach to solar power, and Kore Power is doing the same with battery storage.   
The clean energy and innovation sectors are already playing a significant role in driving Arizona’s economy. But if we want this trend not just to continue but to accelerate, we need a coordinated and strategic statewide approach that not only recognizes the role clean energy plays in economic development but also leverages the leadership and innovation of the private sector. That is going to require the right policy framework, incentives, and opportunities for public private partnerships, including updated and modernized energy rules from the Arizona Corporation Commission; incentives for greater adoption and deployment of energy efficiency measures and technologies; coordinated investment in statewide infrastructure projects for zero emission vehicles and other types of renewable energy infrastructure; and investment in research, development, and commercialization of new technologies. 
It is also imperative that Arizona has a comprehensive statewide plan for other impacts of the changing energy landscape. That means developing a coordinated approach on issues like electric vehicle infrastructure and energy storage to ensure that rural Arizona has a seat at the table and that new technologies can be rapidly adopted by consumers and utilities alike.     
Arizona is witnessing tremendous success in expanding our economy. While a competitive business climate with low taxes and limited regulatory intrusion has drawn businesses to our state, now is the time to examine how better coordination and leadership from our businesses and policymakers at all levels can lead to even greater success.    
Doran Arik Miller and Jaime Molera are the Arizona directors of The Western Way, a nonprofit organization that builds support for commonsense market-driven solutions to environmental challenges that support the economy and improve the environment.   
Since 2000, with 560,000 new jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona ranks fourth in the nation in job creation.
This is not just a function of a thriving economy creating new jobs, it is also a function of limiting the damage of Covid-19 to our current economy. While states like Michigan, New York and New Jersey lost over 24% of their jobs and have regained less than half that loss, Arizona lost less than 10% and has already regained half of those jobs lost.
Many states now have fewer jobs than they had in the mid 1990s, some have even been thrown back into the 1980s. Arizona’s setback was less than a few years, one of the lowest in the country.
In the mid 14th century, the most famous plague in history hit the world, the Black Death, also known more accurately as the Bubonic plague. Countries like England saw more than half their population wiped out. The U.S. is currently suffering a death rate of 600 deaths per 1 million population.  In the Bubonic plague, England suffered a death rate of over 600,000 deaths per 1 million population.
Bubonic plague history gives a strong cautionary message concerning our current situation.  Although we patiently wait for the virus to mutate to a less benign form or to simply go away, the Bubonic plague ravaged Europe for over six years after hitting Florence in 1348.
Then, horribly, it returned 15 times in the next 135 years, an average of once every nine years.
Simple fact – we don’t know what the Covid-19 future will bring. We need to mentally prepare for all possible outcomes.
Early in the outbreak, a Wuhan (the infection epicenter) hospital administrator ran a random control test of masking to forestall infection. The group wearing N95 masks incurred zero infections. Informed by this research, all 42,000 surge workers pouring into Wuhan to deal with the infection all wore N95 masks. They also incurred zero infections.
This research and knowledge built upon knowledge that we first received from Hong Kong following the SARS infection in 2003 and again in the research following H1N1.
We know now, from laser light research and other research, that many types of masks do not provide complete protection, neither to the wearer nor to the people around the wearer.
The U.S. has a $21 trillion economy with about $3 trillion in idle capacity. Yet, we have no retail N95 mask market. This is now nine months after we first received word of this infection – yet we have a bizarre middle ages economy of individual people building their own masks on home sewing machines. Many of these masks are ineffective, not much better than nothing and in some cases, worse than nothing.
If the CDC had simply said go!!!!!, we would have been swimming in N95 masks by the end of April. Unfortunately, CDC was peddling the idea that mask wearing by the public would propagate infection all the way till April 3. The die was cast by that time, we already had over 260,000 infections.
The CDC’s malfeasance also turned masks into an ideological issue, a near religious issue. This should never have happened.
Lessons can also be learned by studying the tip of the iceberg. While two typical zip codes in Arizona have a combined 230 infections, we have several pairs of zip codes with over 4,000 infections. These top ten zip codes intrigued me such that I drove to several of them in Maricopa County, stopping at over 40 retail establishments to see if the problem was masks. No. By the first week in August, these high poverty, high minority zip code were close to 100% masked up. The only exception being very small retail shops.
The evidence suggests that most infections are taking place in the homes and that household density is now driving these high infection zip codes.
This suggests that getting people out of those homes is the most effective way to reduce infection rates low. Opening schools, if principals and teachers can maintain the discipline of wearing masks at all times, will reduce infections in those zip codes, not increase it. Properly managed schools will be the safest place for people to be.
The governor and counties have done their jobs. The infection rate in prisons and jails are miniscule.
We should consider this pandemic a baby trial run knowing that a much bigger monster is on the horizon. Anti-biotic resistant bacteria will inevitably break out before long, expected to kill over 10 million per year by 2050. And, another more lethal virus, perhaps a mutation of Covid19,  is certainly waiting out there.
John Huppenthal is a former state senator from Chandler and former state superintendent of public instruction.
Painterly Republican and Democratic Stickers
I’ve noticed a curious trend this summer in Phoenix. Moving trucks, dozens of them. Plenty of folks love to move here, but it is unusual to see this many when temperatures are regularly topping 110 degrees. I’ve also noticed far more cars than I typically do with California, Oregon and Washington license plates.
Of course, these states are the ones that have been under siege the past few months from overly aggressive pandemic-related lockdowns, not to mention endless rioting, looting and arson. Even before that, residents were fleeing these states’ high taxes and burdensome regulatory regimes.
There is a real exodus of West Coast professionals coming to Arizona, which would generally be a good thing. However, I am concerned that these blue state refugees are also bringing their extreme liberal politics with them.
Are any of the political pundits tracking this? We already know that November is likely to be one of the most unpredictable U.S. elections ever thanks to the pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding mail-in voting and the fact that President Donald Trump has out-performed polls in the past. Signs also point to a very high voter turnout this year, with both bases highly motivated. Only a half dozen or so states will really matter this cycle, Arizona among them. What impact might the mass relocation from the West Coast have on Arizona’s elections? Considering that many states are likely to be won or lost by margins of 1% or less, are we missing a massive political shift that could swing the election?
I firmly believe Arizona remains a conservative state. I realize demographic changes have been turning us purple, but our citizens, new and old, still tend to share the same values. Until now, I thought it would be another decade or two before we genuinely became a swing state. In 2016, I watched as Democrats tried in vain to “expand the map.” Now those efforts might be coming to fruition.
Thanks to the unprecedented volatility of 2020, thousands of new economic refugees from the left coast may upend our electorate.
Arizona is not alone.
New Yorkers are fleeing the city under Democratic Mayor Bill DeBlasio. United Van Lines and Mayflower movers told the New York Post they had made 1,000 out-of-state moves from New York City since March, with 28% of those residents moving to Florida and California, and 16% to Texas and North Carolina.
Recall that in 2000, Florida was decided by just 537 votes — that sort of narrow margin could be erased by just the households those two moving companies serviced. In 2008, North Carolina was decided by a little over 14,000 votes. Is it possible that several thousand new resident households with two transplanted voters could tip the balance in the Tar Heel state?
On the other hand, President Trump could win New York, given his strength upstate. He does well in polls upstate in suburban and rural areas around Buffalo, which more closely resembles Pittsburgh or Cleveland than Manhattan, where home sales have plummeted 56%.
Pollster’s presumptions about Trump’s support have already been changing since he outperformed the 2016 results. But pollsters could still easily undercount Trump’s popularity.
What else are researchers missing? Much has been made about the mythical secret Trump supporter. But given how polarized our politics are today and how aggressive the Cancel Culture has become, it isn’t difficult to imagine someone lying to a pollster if they are in earshot of a stranger in a checkout line or if their spouse is the next room.
Now add in the fact that a pollster may be contacting someone who was previously registered in Chicago but just moved to Dallas and it’s easy to see how trends in voter sentiment could be missed.
The economic news is not all that bad, the stock market is red hot, and President Trump’s approval numbers on the economy are still pretty good. Voters may grumble about how he’s handled the pandemic, but overall, they believe he has been good for their economic outlook — and that, above all else, is what November’s election hinges on.
The race between Trump and Biden has already shown signs of tightening. The latest jobs report will give us a better sense of how the economy is going. Even the littlest uptick in good news would benefit the president with less than two months to go to Election Day. Of course, the opposite is also true.
We should expect the unexpected on November 3.
Dan K. Eberhart is CEO of Canary, LLC, an oilfield service company. He is a Trump supporter and a resident of Phoenix.
Gov. Doug Ducey faced a new conundrum this legislative session: Where to best spend available state dollars.
In the end, Ducey got nearly everything he wanted – slightly more money for teachers, a huge university bonding plan and several controversial education programs like universal vouchers and performance funding for schools.
He also flirted with the idea of negotiating with Democrats on a budget plan when Republicans initially didn’t line up to support his initiatives, though the GOP ranks eventually coalesced around his spending priorities after some pot-sweeteners came into the mix.
You seem to have struck a “compassionate conservatism” tone this year. Where is that coming from? And how much of it plays into next year’s election? What’s the impetus?
Right at the beginning, we talked about opportunity for all. And I think many of our most affluent citizens have enjoyed and experienced a lot of opportunity. So, I’m always thinking: How do we help those that are the most vulnerable, those that are on the first rung of the economic ladder, those that are in a school where they’re not learning what they should be learning? So, I think the theme has been consistent. It’s just we’re in a different position today. Three years ago, we didn’t have any money in the state. We had a one billion dollar deficit.
Was it easier to cut spending or add spending?
When you don’t have any money, the decisions are difficult, but clearer. When there are available dollars, there’s competing interests as to what people would like to do.
You signed a couple bills that led to referenda. Does that mean those were bad bills? Do you intend to defend them if they come to the ballot?
Let’s see what comes to the ballot. I think election season can be way too long. Whenever you sign a bill or veto a bill, some people are happy, some people are upset. I’d rather see what’s in front of us before I make comments on that. People are certainly welcome to participate in the constitutional process and bring things to the ballot and participate in the election cycle.
This year’s budget focused on education. Do you think the state is doing enough to fund and support education? And if not, what would enough look like?
I think the state needs to do more on education. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past two years… I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction. We also have some evidence that we’re getting results and outcomes… This is a state responsibility. This is a primary focus of this administration. It’s something the governor can lead on and it’s something we intend to do more of.
You’ve been called the education governor. What do you think of that moniker?
I wake up every day and think about education. My campaign was built on bringing our economy back and improving K-12 education and focusing on the reputation of the state. This is never going to be a box on our administration’s agenda that you can check off and move on from.
Your national profile also continues to grow, with some prominent conservatives writing about you recently. Does that mean you’re going to be leaving Arizona anytime soon?
I love Arizona, and I plan on staying in Arizona.
Yes. I wasn’t born here, but I plan to die here. I love it. My wife is a native. I just think we live in the best state with the best quality of life… I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and trying to do my best on behalf of the citizens of the state of Arizona.
Which group is worse: out-of-state special interests that run ballot measures or trial lawyers who sue the state?
They’re equally bad.
What’s the most underrated bill that you signed this year?
I think the teacher accreditation bill is the most underrated bill that I signed this year… I think there are a lot of people with a lot of talent and experience in our state that would like to help kids at the K-12 level.
One of your vetoes, on student journalists, struck a negative chord with some. Do kids not get full First Amendment protection until they’re 18?
Kids have full protection under the First Amendment. The First Amendment applies to everyone in our country. This was a bill that, while it may have had good intentions, was written to solve a problem that happened over 20 years ago. Today, we have social media. We have Facebook. We have Twitter. We have Instagram. If a kid wants to get a message out to the student body, there’s plenty of ways for them to do that. We didn’t need to pass another law to allow them to do that.
You really like the sharing economy. Do you ever take Ubers in your real life? Or have you ever stayed at an Airbnb?
I used to take Ubers in my real life. I don’t take a lot of Uber today because I’ve got these terrific individuals from the Department of Public Safety who drive me around. But I used Uber before that. I think it provides a lot of convenience to citizens and to families. My wife is a fan of Airbnb. I’m more of a hotel guy.
Do you ever get used to people being around you or yelling at you all the time in press huddles? Because you were just a normal person before becoming governor.
I think I still am a normal person. I do my best. I will say dealing with the press has been the biggest learning curve coming from the private sector into entering public life.
I recently found out that you use emojis when you text people. What’s your favorite emoji?
I probably use the smiley face, thumbs up and American flag. They’re tied for top three.
Arizona is a frontier state. In the 19th century, Arizona was a place with wide-open spaces where opportunity beckoned. In the 21st century, it still is, but with a fresh twist on the meaning. This is a state where wide-open opportunity inspires people seeking to build new technologies.
We have embraced and promoted this modern frontier. In the past two legislative sessions, I’ve partnered with my colleagues in the Legislature to pass legislation that makes it clear Arizona continues to welcome pioneers.
Last year it was the FinTech sandbox bill, which cut red tape and fees for technology companies testing new, more convenient ways to provide financial services. It created a “sandbox” in which visionaries and entrepreneurs have the freedom to test new ideas and products.
This year, we passed the PropTech bill, which does the same for qualifying companies pioneering new ways of developing, selling and leasing residential real estate. The Wall Street Journal recently called Phoenix “the future of housing” because of the innovations taking flight here. “It’s the dawn of e-commerce for real estate. Phoenix is ground zero,” said Zillow CEO Rich Barton.
And ground zero is a good place to be. The PropTech legislation, HB2673, encourages consumer centric convenience, with safeguards for both the developers and end-user. We expect to attract even more innovators working across all industries, whether they’re developing new software, creating new hardware or materials, or exploring new ideas in construction. Zillow, for instance, is integrating their instant-buying and selling program with an online mortgage service.
What else might be coming down the road? That’s the beauty of PropTech: By encouraging innovation, we will see new applications that don’t exist today.
This is a boon for consumers, who don’t have to wait for cutting-edge products to arrive in Arizona, choosing convenience over convention. The important thing is that our approach will allow us to diversify the local economy, further safeguarding from the negative consequence of a future downturn.
It’s also a boon for Arizona’s tech industry. Our reputation is growing as the place for high-tech companies forging new trails. Tech companies consider many factors in choosing where to locate, but a prime consideration is the local ecosystem – importantly, how fully new ideas and innovators are supported.
Arizona puts its words into action. We were the first in the nation to pass groundbreaking 5G technology to ensure our communication infrastructure is some of the best in the country. We passed FinTech and now PropTech legislation. Arizona does more than put out a welcome mat. We toss the doors wide open and shout, “Come join us!”
Tech jobs pay well, boosting our economy. A critical mass of tech companies encourages innovation across sectors, increasing choices for us all and raising the quality of life.
PropTech keeps the momentum going. I thank Gov. Ducey for his leadership and the Legislature for the bipartisan support to keep Arizona’s frontier heritage alive for the high-tech pioneers of the future.
State Rep. Jeff Weninger is a Republican from Chandler representing Legislative District 17. He chairs the House Commerce Committee.
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