Business Advocates / Legislature

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Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and Farrell Quinlan, Arizona state director for the ‎National Federation of Independent Business, will tell us what they think the business sector will want to see from the Arizona legislature in the upcoming session.

Ted Simons: This week, we're hearing from a variety of leaders and advocates on their priorities for the upcoming legislative session which begins next week. We start with the business community, and here with us is Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona chamber of commerce and industry, Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the greater Phoenix chamber of commerce. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

Glenn Hamer: Happy new year.

Ted Simons: To you both, as well. Glenn, your priorities for the next legislative session. What are you thinking here?

Glenn Hamer: The special session that took place late in 2015 that referred, the education package that would inject $3.5 billion of new funding into our education system over the next 10 years, that was critically important, Ted, and probably the most important date this next legislative session will happen when voters go to the polls on May 17th, and it's critically important that voters pass prop 123 . And not just for our K-12 education system but for all of our budget priorities, including all of our tax competitiveness items.

Ted Simons: Your thoughts on prop 123?

Glenn Hamer: We strongly support it. It's vitally important. This is a brilliant idea. We're taking an underutilized asset in our state trust land. There's no good sense in allowing it to accumulate dollars without directing them to kids in need today and the beautiful thing about this, after 10 years it will have over $5 billion and we're going to have schools with a lot more funding, which is why really all of the major business and education groups support this and kudos to Governor Ducey for working with state education leaders and our state legislative leaders for putting this together.

Ted Simons: I know -- I'm sure the chamber supports it as well but you have been quoted as saying it's not a silver bullet?

Tod Sanders: It's what Glenn talked about. We look at the economy and we've had a year of our new economic development platform and what it's told us, what the data is telling us after talking to hundreds of business owners is that their biggest priority right now is creating new jobs in hiring and what they're going to need to do that is a qualifying workforce. So this is the centerpiece of an overall strategy. The governor has talked about this. Clearly, there's more we need to do in terms of the program, making sure that we have the ability to have stackable credentials, the universities, the community colleges are another really important part and I know the governor is not leaving that out as a way to do this in an organized fashion.

Ted Simons: But it's targeting certainly universities, $99 million in the last budget, and I think it's below what it was back even in, we're still not even to that level. What kind of message is that sending?

Tod Sanders: I think there was a fiscal -- there was obviously a big problem on the fiscal side and we had to deal with that. I think that's in the rearview mirror as we look forward. The message that we're sending to Republicans and to Democrats, if you want to create jobs, if you want to grow the economy, this has got to be a big priority to you and certainly to the voters when we're talking to our members and to our voters we're saying prop is critical.

Ted Simons: Is that message getting through? You're hearing -- we can't find the right people, we can't attract diverse industry here or diverse business because of x, y, are lawmakers getting that message?

Glenn Hamer: We have an excellent university system and we have a great talent pipeline. The thing is, Ted, we're in a battle with 49 other states and Arizona is a big state now. We just passed Massachusetts. We're the 14th largest state in the country. That surprises a lot of people when they hear that and, you know, we do need to do more to make sure that our university system, that they have the resources they need. We have some great private university options. It's very exciting what grand canyon university has done and all the different credentials that the university of Phoenix offers and we've got great technical schools in U.T.I. but we need to do more on education and that's why you see in poll after poll, the issue that rises to the very top is improving -- continuing to improve our educational system.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, what do you want to see the legislature do?

Glenn Hamer: I would like -- I like the precedent that they set last year, short and sweet is nice. We would like to see I think as Todd was getting to, there's some things that are very important that they do in terms of making sure that the funding formula works for career and technical education. We've got an excellent interim new superintendent at Phoenix union, and when you take a look at some of the statistics of those career and technical education programs, they're cartoonishly good, 99% graduation rate, 80% of those kids go on to a career or to college. I think of the kids in the program last year or so, $8.5 million of new scholarships. We need to make sure that we have a properly funded cte program and we need to make sure we're funding our top schools, particularly those schools that are serving low-income Arizonans.

Tod Sanders: What I'll say, the nice thing about this is that the business community is willing to be part of the solution. Part of what we're working on is taking cohorts of kids through programs that will allow them to finish the 11th and 12th career and then go into a career and using the community college system as a way to stack credentials and really to start to build a career. So we want to meet the legislature halfway as far as the cte funding is concerned and be a partner to say how do we leverage that and put some of our own resources in to really enhance the economy?

Ted Simons: There's much talk about Arizona and Phoenix rebranding itself, getting a new brand out there, selling itself. What do you make of all of that?

Tod Sanders: It's interesting. We're talking to so many businesses out there and what their focus is how do I grow my business? How do I create new jobs? When I talk to people in other states, I talk about places like banner's Alzheimer's institute, one of the foremost research institutions in the world. Probably, most likely, a cure for Alzheimer's is going to come out of Arizona. And that's -- those are the kind of stories that we want to talk about. You're going to be talking to Bob Meyer, talking about an incredible project that they're going to be working on. These are the stories we want to focus on.

Ted Simons: I can understand why you would want to focus on those but the Phoenix business industry had a story about a couple of companies that were looking to move out here and they saw education and immigration problems and this is the Phoenix business industry story, it has to happen, how do you keep that from happening?

Glenn Hamer: When you take a look at -- I'll tell you, when you take a look at the fact that the population trend, 14th largest state, Forbes says the top state in terms of job growth, you take a look at what we've done -- we have a terrific workforce. A diverse workforce and you take a look at the things that we are doing in terms of now improving our trading relationship with Mexico, the leadership that Governor Ducey has taken, the head of the Mexico commission and Greg Stanton, all the great work he's doing and we're seeing that translate into new jobs. We have great educational options in the state. Do we need to do better? Absolutely. But I'll close on this point on education. There's no state in the country as far as we can tell that has a plan to inject $3.5 billion of new dollars into its system over a -10 year period without raising taxes.

Tod Sanders: And I'll tell you what Glenn and I talked to our colleagues around the country, this isn't an Arizona story, this is all around the country. Think about your smart phone. The one you buy today or got for Christmas, two years from now, it's going to be obsolete, so the amount of knowledge and the amount of innovation that's happening in industry is so quick that we're struggling, all states, all countries are struggling to keep up with demand.

Ted Simons: If I want to expand Ted's hamburger outlet to Arizona, I'm going to be looking at certain things and saying what's going on here?

Glenn Hamer: Have them call Todd or myself. We have two of the best 2 charter school networks in the country. These are better schools. My kids get a better public school education than my sister's boys who go to public school in New York where the Clintons live.

Ted Simons: And yet I'm seeing public funding and investment in education at , , , . I'm seeing the 40s and the 50s as far as education. What's happening out there?

Glenn Hamer: We need more dollars but it isn't simply dollars. We'll be making a huge mistake if we fall into that trap. Look at Detroit, look at New York City, look at Washington, D.C. Resources are part of it, no doubt about it, but we have to make sure that we're funding the school systems that work and we've got, you know great traditional public schools. I mentioned the great work at Phoenix union, Mesa public schools, Chandler, gilbert, Scottsdale and there's some terrific public schools in southern Arizona.

Tod Sanders: And I told my members when they asked us this question, the legislature and the governor said just a month ago, and that's going to give business owners the confidence to come here and to expand their businesses.

Ted Simons: I want to get small business in here. There's a lot of concern for corporate tax breaks and these sorts of thing. Does the little guy get lost in this?

Tod Sanders: I think it's sometimes, especially with the media looking at the legislature, they'll pick one or two things and that will be the thing they're focusing on. If you're down at the legislature on a day-to-day basis, there are hundreds of issues they're working on and they run the gamut, everything from education to environmental law and I can tell you because we have small business owners that represent -- they have champions at the state legislature.

Glenn Hamer: The small business community is represented by the chambers. We've been operating under a regulatory moratorium and we know that regulations hurt the smaller guy a lot more than the bigger businesses and on the tax front, all the different things we've worked on apply across the board. So you know, more work to be done to be sure but we are always concerned about making sure that our policies benefit all businesses of any size.

Ted Simons: Good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tod Sanders: Thank you very much.

Glenn Hamer:president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Todd Sanders:president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

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