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Apple, Tesla and jobs: Two economic development bills ready for Brewer

This June 22, 2012 file photo shows a Tesla Model S driving outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Electric-car company Tesla Motors has filed notice it intends to sue New Jersey over a ruling that would stop it from selling its vehicles in the state within two weeks. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla claims it was unfairly targeted in March 2014 when the state Motor Vehicle Commission amended its regulations. The regulations require new-car dealers to have franchise agreements before they can be licensed. That prohibits companies from using a direct-sales model as Tesla does. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

This June 22, 2012 file photo shows a Tesla Model S driving outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Electric-car company Tesla Motors has filed notice it intends to sue New Jersey over a ruling that would stop it from selling its vehicles in the state within two weeks. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla claims it was unfairly targeted in March 2014 when the state Motor Vehicle Commission amended its regulations. The regulations require new-car dealers to have franchise agreements before they can be licensed. That prohibits companies from using a direct-sales model as Tesla does. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Lawmakers gave final approval to two economic development bills, including one that is a top priority of Gov. Jan Brewer.

The Senate approved SB1413 and SB1484 on near-unanimous votes on Tuesday, shortly after the House approved amended versions of the bills. Both are aimed at providing economic incentives to manufacturers and attracting them to the state.

SB1484 would provide a $1 million tax credit to manufacturers that invest at least $300 million in the production of renewable energy to power their plants. The bill survived a 34-21 House vote, with nearly half of the chambers Republicans joining the minority Democrats. The vote was far smoother in the Senate, which approved an amended version of the bill 24-3.

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who sponsored SB1484, said he’s confident that Brewer will sign the bill.

“They’ve been supportive from the beginning on the bill,” he said.

Both chambers easily approved SB1413, which passed 51-3 in the House before passing unanimously in the Senate. The bill, which was championed by Brewer in her State of the State of address, would eliminate sales taxes on energy usage by manufacturers.

There was no debate on SB1413 in either chamber, and the Senate was silent as it passed SB1484. But several lawmakers voiced their opinions on the renewable energy bill in the House.

Several Republicans decried SB1484 as crony capitalism or government picking winners and losers.

“We as conservatives have got to step away from this crony capitalism style of development,” said Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro valley.

Critics have alleged that the bill is a favor for Apple, which plans to generate renewable energy for the plant it’s building in Mesa. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, raised the issue, though she didn’t mention the company by name.

“This is a tax break for, may I say, one specific business, and maybe one more. And with that, I vote no,” Lesko said.

Some opponents focused on intent language in the bill stating that the Legislature’s goal is “to provide incentives to manufacturers that are committed to reducing their carbon footprint,” and likened SB1484 to government subsidies for solar panels and renewable energy technologies.

Worsley emphasized that the aim of the bill isn’t to reduce manufacturers’ carbon emissions in Arizona. It’s to accommodate companies that have internal corporate policies of reducing their carbon footprints.

“If we don’t want to be friendly to that, we will see some of the companies that are healthy and vibrant and growing rapidly in the country not come to the state, because they will see other states that are more open and friendly to that,” Worsley told the Arizona Capitol Times after the vote. “Some of these states leaving California have corporate mandates to reduce carbon-heavy electricity, and we should make it easy for them to come to Arizona to do business.”

In the past, Worsley has denied that the bill was targeted specifically at Apple. He cited a Pepsi plant in Casa Grande that produces renewable energy from biomass and suggested that SB1484 could help attract Tesla, which put Arizona on a short list of states where it is considering opening a new plant for the batteries that power its electric cars.

Some lawmakers spoke in defense of the bill. Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, said SB1484 will help expand Arizona’s tax base. He noted that the company his colleague alluded to – a reference to Lesko’s comments – would create 6,500 jobs and millions of dollars in investment in the state.

“Frankly, I want that in my state. I want that in my city. And having an intelligent recruitment policy allows us to do that,” Orr said.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said the bill has nothing to do with tax credits rooftop solar panels or the companies that manufacture them. It’s about attracting manufacturers, he said.

Thorpe said he’s not a fan of solar power or tax credits. But he said the state will get a significant return on its investment if it passes SB1484.

“I think when we’re talking jobs, jobs, jobs, when we’re talking about growing Arizona, there’s a lot of potential here,” Thorpe said.

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