With Election Day quickly approaching, Southern Arizonans have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on Arizona’s economy— for better, or worse.
On Nov. 6, voters will have to decide on five ballot measures statewide, and three major measures locally. The measures cover a variety of issues: pensions, sales taxes, energy mandates, empowerment scholarships and clean elections funding. Voters throughout Pima County will have an opportunity to fund road repair, and those within the City of Tucson will have a chance to make a lasting impact on parks and their election system.
The Tucson Metro Chamber is the business community’s advocate when it comes to ensuring we have a continually improving climate for commerce in Southern Arizona. We champion issues that impact businesses of all sizes. Our 2018-2019 core policy focus areas include: Infrastructure and the ability to build and fund necessary assets; workforce development to improve and grow our current and future workers; and creating a business climate that is sustainable and promotes a prosperous community.
Chamber staff connect with the various campaigns supporting and opposing a ballot measure when possible, and we have our Public Affairs Council offer an evaluation prior to it going to the chamber’s Board Of Directors for a vote. This multilayered process ensures a reasonable look at each measure and, most importantly, enables direct input from our members.
Proposition 127, the grossly misnamed Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment, would require electric utilities to provide at least 50 percent of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. The amendment defines renewable energy sources to include solar, wind, small-scale hydropower and other sources that are replaced rapidly by a natural, ongoing process (excluding nuclear or fossil fuel). Currently, distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar, must comprise at least 10% of utilities’ annual retail sales of electricity by 2030. If the voters of Arizona pass the amendment, it would represent a drastic shift in the energy portfolio and policy for the entire State of Arizona. Requiring 50 percent use of renewables (specifically defined in the amendment) would be the largest and most aggressive energy generation requirement and would likely place Arizona at a substantial economic disadvantage. Tucson Electric Power, our region’s largest electrical utility, estimates the average increase per year would be a minimum $550 for residential customers, and $3,400 for commercial customers. Arizona is already a leader in this area setting the standard for taking advantage of solar and other renewal energy sources. We do not need out-of-state interests telling us how to carry out what we already do well and encourage. Funded by out-of-state investors, the amendment would not allow our own, elected Arizona Corporation Commission to adjust implementation of the new requirements, regardless of reason (i.e. safety, affordability, availability of technology, etc.). The potential unintended consequences could far exceed any benefits gained. It also would require the shuttering of numerous generating stations throughout Arizona prior to their expected lifetimes. Proposition 127 is bad for business and bad for Arizona as a whole.
The City of Tucson is asking voters to consider a $225 million Parks and Connections Bond to fund capital improvements and more. The bond package, Proposition 407, would fund improvements that will promote mobility, accessibility and safety at major parks, neighborhood and community parks, recreation centers, pools, splash pads and sports fields at 100 of our city’s 128 parks. Bond funds also would improve connections with greenways, shared-use paths, pedestrian safety features, sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Your taxes will not increase if you support this bond, as it takes advantage of the early retirement of existing bonds, giving the city the capacity to make these improvements without an additional rate increase. This bond package will go a long way improving our parks and recreation opportunities in Tucson. One of the top things on people’s lists for where they live is access to parks and things to do. As the chamber actively works on talent attraction efforts, employers wanting to enter our community have remarked the importance of parks and recreational opportunities for their employees. We must be able to compete. Additionally, this bond specifically includes upgrades to parks having a positive economic impact on our community as they host tournaments from all over the country. This bond is a good investment that will improve our way of life.
Finally, the Chamber has worked tirelessly as part of a broad coalition from Southern Arizona to improve our roadways. We’ve made strides, especially in the city, but there are still thousands of lane miles that need to be repaired countywide. We’ve hit a wall on every other funding option we’ve sought—Proposition 463 is the last option on the table. Pima County is asking voters on Nov. 6 to consider authorizing the sale of $430 million in general obligation bonds to fund the reconstruction, repair and preservation of existing public roads across the region. General obligation bonds issued will be repaid with property taxes. Pima County can afford to sell these bonds without increasing property taxes as previous bond debt is being paid off rapidly. The bonds would be issued with very short repayment periods, so that the debt repayment term will not exceed the useful life of the road repairs. Revenues from sale of the bonds cannot be used for anything but reconstruction, repair and preservation of existing public roads.
With Propositions 407 and 463 both on the ballot, there will be a discussion in our community about government spending and our tax rates. That discussion is important and it’s one we have regularly at the chamber. However, there is often a question voters don’t consider when deciding how they will vote. If we will not invest substantially in our own community, is it reasonable to expect others to?
Robert Medler is the Tucson Metro Chamber Vice President. The opinions of the Tucson Metro Chamber do not necessarily reflect those of Inside Tucson Business or Tucson Local Media.