Arizona Center for Economic Progress

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The Arizona Center for Economic Progress is a new venture that brings together a coalition of community leaders from across Arizona to collaborate on nurturing good jobs and building strong communities. Former state lawmaker David Lujan will lead the new organization as its director and will tell us about how it plans to reach its goals.

TED SIMONS: THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS IS A COALITION OF STATE COMMUNITY LEADERS WITH A COMMON GOAL: TO GROW THE STATE'S ECONOMY BY CREATING A SOLID EDUCATION SYSTEM AND KEEPING AN EYE ON THE BUDGET. FORMER STATE LAWMAKER DAVID LUJAN IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW COALITION. HOW YOU BEEN?

DAVID LUJAN: I HAVE BEEN GOOD.

TED SIMONS: THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

DAVID LUJAN: WE'RE AN ORGANIZATION THAT IS ADVOCATING FOR BETTER JOBS AND BETTER ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL ARIZONA RESIDENTS. WE THINK THE TIMING COULD NOT BE MORE IMPORTANT. MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME IN ARIZONA DROPPED BY $7,000 SINCE 2009, 1-4 ARIZONA CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY SO THERE IS A LOT OF ARIZONANIANS ARE HURTING. SO WHAT ARE THOSE CONDITIONS THAT ARE GOING TO LIFT UP THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES WERE GOING TO BE ADVOCATING FOR.
TED SIMONS: LETS ASK THE QUESTION. WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS THAT ARE GOING TO LIFT UP THE ECONOMY?
DAVID LUJAN: LETS LOOK AT WHAT THE ONE ECONOMIC THING WEVE BEEN USING YEAR AFTER YEAR, THAT IS CUTTING TAXES HAS BEEN THE ONE STRATEGY THAT WEVE HAD IN ARIZONA BUT WE WANT TO LOOK AT THE OTHER STRATEGIES. WHAT ARE THINGS LIKE INVESTING IN K-12 EDUCATION, MAKING COLLEGE AFFORDABLE, INVESTING IN ROADS AND INFRASTRUCTURE. WE ALL LIKE LOW TAXES BUT ARIZONA WANTS TO SEE THOSE THINGS THAT WILL HELP THEM SUCCEED.

TED SIMONS: WHEN YOUR GROUP CALLS FOR A BALANCED TAX. DEFINE BALANCED.

DAVID LUJAN: I THINK IT IS A TAX THAT IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO SUPPORT THE SERVICES THAT ARIZONANS EXPECTS TO SEE. WE WANT A QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM. WE HAVE HAD MORE CUTS TO OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM THAN ANY STATE IN THE COUNTRY SINCE 2008 AND SAME FOR HIGHER EDUCATION. WHAT ARE THE INVESTMENTS WE NEED TO MAKE SO WE CAN HAVE GOOD QUALITY EDUCATION AND BUILDING THE STRONG WORKFORCE.

TED SIMONS: THE WORD BALANCE IS USED FOR BALANCED BUDGET POLICIES. AGAIN, BALANCE IT FOR US.

DAVID LUJAN: I THINK IT IS -- WHAT WE HAVE HAD SINCE 1990 IS CUT TAXES EVERY YEAR. WE WANT A LITTLE BALANCE ON THE OTHER SIDE. WE ALL WANT LOW TAXES BUT WHAT IS THE INVESTMENTS WE SHOULD BE MAKING TO GROW OUR ECONOMY.

TED SIMONS: INFRASTRUCTURE, ROBUST INFRASTRUCTURE. THAT HAS TO BE THE MOST PRESSING NEED.

DAVID LUJAN: THE AUDITOR GENERAL OFFICE CAME OUT WITH A REPORT SAYING WE WILL NEED $62 BILLION IN FIVE YEARS TO KEEP UP WITH THE ROADS WHERE THEY NEED TO BE. AND THE SOCIETY OF SYLPH ENGINEERS SAID OUR ROADS COST ARIZONA RESIDENTS $1.5 BILLION A YEAR IN VEHICLE REPAIRS BECAUSE OF THE CONDITIONS. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CREATING THE CONDITIONS TO LIFT OFF ARIZONA, WHAT WE ARE COSTING THEM IN VEHICLE REPAIRS WE SHOULD BE CREATING AND INVESTING JOBS INSTEAD OF LETTING THE ROADS GET TO THAT KIND OF CONDITION.

TED SIMONS: SOUNDS LKIKE THIS IS ALL LONG TERM VISION STUFF, ARE THERE SHORTER ANGLES?

DAVID LUJAN: WE ARE VERY MUCH A LONG-TERM FOCUS. BEING IN THE LEGISLATURE, I SAW IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY ECONOMIC STRATEGY WE HAVE IS WHAT ARE WE DOING FOR OUR NEXT ELECTION? WHAT IS IT WE CAN DO FOR THIS CYCLE? AND WE DON'T REALLY HAVE THAT LONG TERM FOCUS. WE ARE PURSUING THE LONG TERM FOCUS BUT IN TERMS OF SHORT-TERM GOALS I WOULD SAY WE NEED TO STOP DRAINING THE REVENUES SO WE CAN INVEST IN THINGS THAT WILL CREATE JOBS. WE CUT TAXES OVER YEAR SINCE 1990 AND IT RESULTS IN TWO BILLION LESS IN REVENUE TODAY. SO I WOULD SAY THAT WOULD BE THE FIRST THING WE SHOULD LOOK AT. LET'S STOP DRAINING THE REVENUE SO WE HAVE THE MONEY TO INVEST.

TED SIMONS: AND YET, I KNOW THERE ARE SOME VIEWERS CONSERVATIVE AND REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS THAT WILL APPEAR ON THE SHOW SAY THAT IS $2 BILLION GOING BACK TO THE POCKETS OF THE ARIZONA RESIDENTS WHO USE THAT MONEY TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY. ARE THEY WRONG?

DAVID LUJAN: EVERY YEAR IF YOU WILL TOOK A SOUNDBYTE OF BITE -- SOUND BYTE OF WHATEVER LEGISLATURE WAS ADOVCATING FOR THAT WOULD SAY THESE ARE GOING TO BRING JOBS AND BE A BOOST TO OUR ECONOMY. SO IF WEVE BEEN DOING THAT EVERY YEAR SINCE 1990 WE SHOULD HAVE THE MOST PROSPEROUS ECONOMY AND JOBS AND CORPORATE HEADS HERE. WE ARE NOT SEEING THAT. I THINK PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO SEE THAT IN ARIZONA. ALLIANCE BANK DID A CEO SURVEY ASKING WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE THING STATE GOVERNMENT CAN DO TO CREATE AND IMPROVE OUR BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT AND THE ANSWERS IN THAT POLL WERE EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION. NUMBER ONE THING THE STATE GOVERNMENT COULD DO IS INVEST IN STATE EDUCATION AND IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR WORKFORCE. SO THERES ARE THE OTHER STRATEGIES THAT WE WANT TO START LOOKING AT.

TED SIMONS: WE HEAR THIS AND AS FAR AS THE LEGISLATURE IS CONCERNED YOU HAVE BEEN DOWN THERE. YOU WERE ONCE A LAWMAKER. IT IS GETTING MORE ATTENTION. BUT WE ARE STILL IN THE 40s AS FAR AS EDUCATION PER PEOPLE FUNDING. HOW DO YOU GET THESE IDEAS FROM YOUR GROUP PAST THE WHITE PAPER STAGE AND INTO ACTION?

DAVID LUJAN: I THINK AN ORGANIZATION LIKE OURS, THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS CAN BUILD COALITION. WE LAUNCHED THE CENTER ON JANUARY 5TH AND HAD AN EVENT WHERE WE BROUGHT ORGANIZATIONS FROM ALL OVER THE STATE. THERE WERE ORGANIZATIONS THAT WERE NOT TYPICALLY IN THE ROOM TOGETHER. YOU HAD EDUCATION GROUPS, CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT GROUPS, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, ALL RECOGNIZE WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO GROW THE ECONOMIES. I THINK IT IS BUILDING THOSE COALITIONS BUT IT IS ALSO, I THINK, WE CAN TELL THE STORIES AND I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT JUST ANECDOTAL BUT THE BIG PICTURE STORIES ABOUT HOW THESE BIG CUTS ARE IMPACTING THE ECONOMY.

TED SIMONS: I KNOW YOUR ORGANIZATION LOOKS TO HAVE A DIVERSE GROUP OF ANALYSTS. WHO DECIDES WHO GETS TO ANALYZE FOR THE GROUP?

DAVID LUJAN: I THINK YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT BUILDING COALITIONS. I THINK ARIZONA GETS TO DECIDE. WHAT I HAVE SEEN AS WE STARTED THE WORK FOR THIS IS THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE VERY INTERESTED IN BEING A PART OF THIS. A LOT OF PEOPLE SEE WE HAVE TO TAKE A DIFFERENT DIRECTION WHEN IT COMES TO OUR ECONOMY IN THIS STATE. I THINK PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, THESE DIVERSE GROUPS ARE COMING TOGETHER ON THEIR OWN. I DON'T THINK WE NEED TO DECIDE. I THINK PEOPLE ARE MAKING THOSE DECISIONS THEMSELVES.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE LIST OF LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES, WHAT IS AT THE TOP THERE? AND AGAIN HOW DO YOU PLAN ON GETTING IT PAST LAWMAKERS AND INTO ACTION?

DAVID LUJAN: FOR EXAMPLE, WE DON'T HAVE A LEGISLATIVE AGENDA THIS SESSION. WE ARE LONG-TERM FOCUS IN TERMS OF CREATING THOSE IDEAS. THOSE ARE THE ONES I SAID INVESTING IN K-12 EDUCATION, HIGHER EDUCATION, INFRASTRUCTURE. I WOULD POINT TO FOR THIS SESSION LOOKING AT SOME OF THE DECISIONS THAT MAYBE ARE NOT IN THE LONG TERM. I WILL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. LAST YEAR THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE LAID OFF 52 TAX COLLECTORS AND AUDITORS. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT HAVING TO RAISE TAXES IN THAT SITUATION. THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE'S ONLY REPORT SAID EACH AUDITOR BRINGS IN $1-$2 MILLION A YEAR. THAT IS $52 MILLION IN REVENUE THAT IS OWED TO THE STATE. WE WANT TO POINT OUT THINGS LIKE THAT IN TERMS OF THE LONG-TERM DECISIONS THAT WE SHOULD REALLY BE FOCUSED ON SO WE HAVE THE RESOURCES TO INVEST IN PRIORITIES.

TED SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. FRIDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, IT'S THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. COUNTY RECORDERS ACROSS THE STATE ACCUSE THE SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE OF BEING INEFFFECTIVE AND DISRESPECTFUL. AND REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS WANT TO CHANGE WHAT THEY CALL AN OUT OF CONTROL BOARD OF REGENTS. THAT'S ON THE NEXT JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. THAT IS FOR IT -- THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I AM TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING. ARIZONA "HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF AZ PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU. SUPPORT FOR AZ PBS COMES FROM VIEWERS LIKE YOU AND FROM...

David Lujan: Former State lawmaker

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