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Smith proposes cabinet-level “competitive officer”

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith faces reporters while formally filing paperwork to run for Arizona Governor. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Scott Smith (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith plans to create a cabinet-level position for a “chief competitive officer” to help foster job growth if he is elected governor.

Smith, one of seven candidates vying for the Republican nomination, proposed the new position as part of his seven-point business plan to “build a better Arizona.”

The chief competitive officer would be responsible for reviewing tax policy, regulations, infrastructure needs, workforce training and other issues related to job creation and economic growth. The official would work closely with the Arizona Commerce Authority, which Smith said will focus on his top priorities of health care, education, energy, aerospace, agriculture, technology and tourism, or HEAT for short.

“As governor, I will focus the state on implementation of a strategic, forward-thinking economic development plan based on these industry and regional strengths,” Smith said of HEAT, which he described as the next generation of Arizona’s “Five Cs.”

Smith said the competitive officer and other provisions of his plan will help replicate the business-friendly atmosphere he fostered as mayor of Mesa, a position he held from 2009 to April of this year.

“I will work with our state agencies to adopt a ‘Facilitate, Don’t Regulate,’ governance culture. Conversations should start with ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No,’” Smith wrote.

If elected, Smith said his administration will review Arizona’s tax codes and regulations, and will eliminate state policies that infringe on local control of taxes. He described tax credits and incentives as “strategic levers” in economic development, but doesn’t want them to be a “hodgepodge of state giveaways.”

The former mayor proposed expanding some incentives, such as the Angel Investment tax credit and the Research and Development tax credit.

Smith said he wants to strengthen Arizona’s rainy day fund. The fund, which was depleted following the 2008 economic crash and subsequent budget crises, now has about $450 million.

Smith said water, energy and infrastructure are all critical to Arizona’s future. He said he would help advance major transportation infrastructure projects such as Interstate 11, the South Mountain Freeway and the State Route 189A port expansion. He also pledged to restore and stop sweeping Highway User Revenue Fund money, which helps cities and counties pay for transportation projects.

In education, Smith said he will push high K-12 standards, emphasize third-grade reading proficiency and work to recruit and retain good teachers. Smith said he will work to develop state trust land, which provides education funding, and increase trust land revenue to K-12 schools.

Smith also emphasized the need for immigration reform, and said he would advocate for an immigration solution that is compassionate, practical, pro-business and secures the border with Mexico.

“Arizona actually has the most to gain of any state from the development of a functional and fair immigration system,” Smith wrote.

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