As we launch into this new year, Arizona community leaders have joined together to introduce the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.
This new venture will bring together the voices and knowledge of millennials and seniors, employers and environmentalists, entrepreneurs and rural leaders, arts advocates and urbanists to raise the economic power of all Arizonans. With this shared mission and focus on the long-term, we can advance policies and solutions to nurture good jobs and build strong communities.
We begin with a foundation of great strengths in Arizona, including incredible natural beauty; great weather; proximity to an international border; a low cost of living; and people who are diverse and independent with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. But we face unmistakable challenges as well. Arizona median family income has dropped by more than $7,000 since 2009 and one in four children are living in poverty.
Arizona cannot afford economic policies that will take our state backward. The Arizona Center will help us go beyond labels that merely sound good to get to the real foundations for economic growth: a strong and educated workforce and up-to-date infrastructure that works for business.
For too long, Arizona’s economic policies have focused on tax cuts alone. Governor Ducey and some state legislators have proposed phasing our state’s income tax down and out, saying it will stimulate economic growth. But the real-life experience of another Western state tells a much different story. Kansas has already marched down a path to eliminate the state income tax, with Governor Sam Brownback promising this tax cut would be a “shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” A new policy brief from the Arizona Center for Economic Progress shows that four years down the income tax cut road, Kansas is facing anemic job growth, historic budget deficits, drastic cuts to public education and other state priorities, and a stalled economy. Lawmakers who supported the tax cuts have found that the Kansas model is not only bad policy, it is bad politics. Based on his plummeting approval ratings, Brownback was declared the “most unpopular governor in America,” and eleven conservative lawmakers who aligned with Governor Brownback were defeated in the 2016 primary election.
Even though Arizona is not Kansas, the same economic principles apply. Kansas is learning that there is more to creating jobs and growing an economy than just low taxes. Many Arizona business leaders agree. In a 2016 survey commissioned by Alliance Bank, Arizona CEOs said the top challenges of doing business in Arizona are the quality of our education system and the quality of our workforce. These business leaders recognize that Arizona’s economic competitiveness depends on education. And Kansas has shown us that phasing out state income taxes means dramatic disinvestments in public schools, community colleges, and universities.
With a diverse group of partners, the Arizona Center for Economic Progress will identify the best recipe for growing Arizona’s economy. It’s up to us to engage our policymakers in becoming true champions for Arizona’s taxpayers.
— David Lujan is director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.