Attorney General Terry Goddard unveiled his jobs plan, saying Gov. Jan Brewer has done little to ease Arizona’s massive unemployment rate.
“The No. 1 job for the next governor of Arizona has got to be restoring jobs and restoring our economy,” Goddard said Aug. 19 at his new campaign headquarters, a former architect’s office on Third Avenue near Roosevelt Street. “It should’ve been the No. 1 job for the current governor, but she didn’t get the memo.”
Goddard slammed his Republican rival in the governor’s race for the 125,000 jobs Arizona has lost since she took office a year and a half ago. He said his plan, titled “Making Arizona Work Again,” would give temporary tax breaks to new small businesses and lower business taxes across the board. He said the state’s property taxes in particular are “very anti-competitive.”
“Just about every outside observer, every analysis that I’ve seen of Arizona taxes, says that we’re not competitive. We’re very low in some areas, very high in others. Business, especially, feels the pinch,” he said. “With relatively minor changes we can become in the top two or three, especially in the Rocky Mountain states. That’s our major group of competitors.”
The loss of state revenue, he said, would be offset by eliminating about $1.5 billion in tax loopholes and exemptions. He said the there are about 200 exemptions worth about $11 billion, and Goddard said he would put together a group of stakeholders to examine the loopholes. Any that don’t create jobs and have no humanitarian purpose should be repealed, he said.
“It’s got to be a zero-sum game,” he said. “We’re not in a position to give away money to business. We are in a position to change the load that they have to bear. Their property tax load is twice what any residential consumer has to pay.”
Goddard also said he would require every state agency that regulates businesses to streamline its regulatory process so businesses could get permits more quickly. He said each agency would be required to set a “meaningful and realistic” timeline for any permits or approvals needed by businesses.
“My goal is to have approvals for business processes – startups in particular – in Arizona be faster than in any other state in the nation,” Goddard said.
In addition, Goddard said he would eliminate burdensome or unneeded regulations on business, though he did not specify which regulations he would do away with. Brewer enacted a moratorium, which is still in effect, on new agency rulemaking shortly after taking office in January 2009, which Goddard said should have only been a first step while she determined which regulations to scrap.
Goddard also said he would immediately reopen all rest stops and state parks that have closed under Brewer. The state relies heavily on tourism, he said, and rural areas are especially dependent on visitors. By closing parks and slashing funding to the Department of Tourism, he said Brewer has “virtually declared war on rural areas.”
Goddard focused primarily on taxes, regulations and tourism during his press conference, but his 11-point plan contained a number of other proposals. The plan called for some new incentive programs, such as a venture capital fund that would be started with seed money from the state. He said he would promote economic development in rural areas by expanding broadband Internet access.
Brewer spokesman Doug Cole said Goddard’s plan was largely a rip-off of proposals already implemented by the governor, such as a deal-closing fund for businesses considering moving to Arizona, a public-private partnership focused on job attraction, a recommitment to Science Foundation Arizona and the elimination of burdensome regulations.
Goddard’s campaign “is guilty of political plagiarism, as it borrows extensively from what Gov. Brewer has already proposed and implemented, and from what Gov. Napolitano proposed but never implemented,” Cole said. “This plan is full of fluff, and offers practically nothing new or innovative.”
One provision in Goddard’s plan called for the creation of more renewable energy jobs. He said he wants the Arizona Corporation Commission to increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, which requires utility companies to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. He said he was unsure how much the standard should be increased, or whether the timeline should be pushed back beyond 2025.
“Having been involved in the first standard and the criticism that surrounded that, I know these kinds of things can’t be done lightly or overnight, and obviously require the active participation of the Corporation Commission,” Goddard said. “But I do believe it’s a goal that will make Arizona stronger economically.”
The goal, he said, is to create 100,000 new energy-related jobs in the next four years.
Goddard said his proposals would cost a maximum of about $20 million. The state doesn’t have the money for larger-scale incentive and infrastructure programs, he said, but there are more affordable ways to spur job creation.
Goddard said he would unveil his budget plan next week.