Opinion: Phoenix Chamber sets 2016 legislative agenda

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce announced that its legislative priorities for 2016 will focus on restoration of funding for Joint Technical Education Districts, campaign finance reform, pension reform for public safety and a balanced state budget.

Mike Huckins

Serving as a unified voice for its 2,500-member businesses at each level of government, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s public affairs team looks forward to advocating at the Arizona Legislature for these key issues on behalf of its members:

• JTED funding restoration

Moving Arizona forward starts with education. Arizona’s Joint Technical Education District program offers focused training in various fields to high school students. JTEDs help students find career paths, provide important career options that don’t require a four-year degree and provide opportunities to learn a trade and fast-track into well-paying, skilled careers. Vocational schools provide students with training to succeed in an ever-changing workplace. The $30 million cut to JTED funding starting in FY 2017 will be detrimental to Arizona’s workforce.

• Updated campaign finance legislation

Arizona’s current campaign finance system is outdated and convoluted. Transparency is important to both the functioning of our democracy and providing citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.

The chamber supports Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s efforts to streamline state statutes, reduce the number of political committee types, provide clarifications on contributions and expenditures, and make enforcement action more predictable for businesses and other organizations.

GPCC is looking to support this proposed new campaign finance system as long as protections are included for the business community to participate in political-free speech.

• Public safety pension reform

Arizona’s pension system is complicated and needs a solution to fund current and future retirement payments. Case in point, some cities are paying close to 50 percent of public safety payroll into Arizona’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce supports

State Sen. Debbie Lesko’s proposal that will:

o Allow for some of the previous reforms struck down by the courts;
o Allow for increased employee contributions – 50/50 cost sharing for new employees;
o Provide an option of a defined contribution plan for new employees;
o Stop automatic permanent benefit increases (PBI) and allow for a pre-funded PBI system; and
o Reduce the cost to employers and taxpayers and decrease the unfunded liability of PSPRS.
• State Budget

The Greater Phoenix Chamber is looking for a “steady as we go” approach and supports a fiscally responsible plan that addresses key areas in workforce development, JTEDs and higher education while maintaining the implementation of key tax reductions that the business community advocated for.

This is not intended as an all-inclusive list, but is aimed at providing some general issues and measures that the chamber’s public affairs team is monitoring early in the 2016 session that supports a healthy business environment in Greater Phoenix.

The Chamber will have a significant presence at the state Capitol to strategically support initiatives needed to facilitate the attraction, retention and expansion of the region’s businesses and economy.
For more information on the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s legislative priorities, contact the Chamber’s Public Affairs Vice President Mike Huckins at 602-495-6474 or mhuckins@phoenixchamber.com. Representing 2,500 businesses across Metropolitan Phoenix, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce is Arizona’s oldest and largest chamber. The chamber supports the growth and development of business by offering networking and marketing opportunities, money-saving programs and a voice in government, keeping its members informed, connected and prosperous. The Chamber also enhances members’ success by promoting economic development, entrepreneurship and a connection to the community.

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