Impressive response by Arizona Business Leaders™ to the terrible budget

10 Mar 2015 02:45 am
Posted by: Donna

Photo: AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry announcement

By “impressive”, of course, I mean “pathetic”. The GOP led AZ Legislature dropped a turd of a budget in the middle of Friday night/Saturday morning that guts (among other things) university and community college funding and – because this is the cruelest session toward poor people that I’ve seen since I moved here in 1997 – cuts millions in Medicaid assistance, limits Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to an arbitrary lifetime cap of one year, and fails to fund child abuse and neglect prevention.

Conservative operative Shawn McCoy had some interesting observations about the budget process, one of which was this:

“This is a remarkable change from business-as-usual in Arizona,” said Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which took no position on the budget. “The governor ran as a businessperson and made it clear he’d get the state’s fiscal house in order. It’s been a very good two months in office for the governor.”

Hamer noted that everyone would rather see a situation in Arizona where there were huge budget surpluses. That’s not the hand Ducey was dealt. But he points to measures in the new budget to protect taxpayers, strengthen schools, and continue to phase in tax reductions. “The vast majority of the business community understands and appreciates that the Governor did the difficult work, brought the legislature together, worked for better K-12 education, and created a better business environment,” explained Hamer.

Someone should really take Hamer aside and explain what “taking a position” means. This isn’t the first time the AZ Chamber has been officially “neutral” on a controversial measure out of one side of its mouth while praising it out of the other or, as in the case of SB1070 in 2010, getting a major concession (to illegal employers) so as to go “neutral”. Seriously, Glenn and AZ Chamber members, enjoy the jumbo shrimp at that Scott Walker shindig, and your tax cuts.

I’ve had people accuse me of unfairly making the AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (which is a well-known arm of the GOP and of crackpot right wing supply-sider ideology) out to be the face of the business community in Arizona. I’ll say there’s some merit to that, as there are many business owners in this state who are forward-thinking progressives or moderates. But the AZ Chamber boasts a membership list and board that includes every major company in Arizona and is seen as the premiere lobbyist of their collective interests.

I also haven’t seen a whole lot of resistance from the more local Chambers. It’s been crickets from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and here’s what you get when you click on the Tempe Chamber’s (“recognized voice at state and national levels and regularly takes positions on legislation affecting the business environment”) link to their “latest state and federal agendas”:

So our local Business Leaders™ haven’t exactly been forthcoming with full-throated opposition to that harsh austerity budget. A notable exception is the Tucson Chamber:

At a press conference earlier this afternoon, there was a huge concern for the $30 million in possible cuts to Joint Technical Education Districts.

News of a budget deal between Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders arose late Monday, and today the heads of Tucson Unified, Sunnyside Unified, Vail Unified, Sahuarita Unified school districts, as well as JTED and representatives with the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, demanded legislators to vote against it and persuaded all voters to put pressure on the state government to stop the abuse, and realize (as if it weren’t obvious enough already) that education, business and economy go hand-in-hand—there is no way to cripple one without crippling the other.

Good on Tucson business people for recognizing that (duh) you can’t have prosperity without universal high quality education! Yay, them. Still, the overwhelming consensus coming from our Almighty Job Creators™ here has ranged from happiness over the shitty anti-public education and poor-punishing budget to a gaping yawn. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the idea that “pragmatic business leaders” are the best people to put in charge of our government.

“But Donna, what about SB1062?”

Yes, it is true that our sainted Business Leaders™ emerged (at the last minute) to put the kibosh on that bigoted pile of gobshite last year. But it was out of fear of boycotts and of being sued by individuals (a class that includes their employees). It was an immediate consideration of their profits and possible liabilities, not a far-reaching concern for the social and economic health of our state. It’s a mistake to see SB1062 as anything other than an outlier.

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