TUCSON -- Below is the short speech I presented today to a large and influential audience of southern Arizona business leaders, fellow lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer at the Tucson & Marana Chambers of Commerce legislative wrap-up event at the El Conquistador.
Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us here today, it is time to focus our attention and energy to the needs and the ideas of our economy and business community here in southern Arizona.
Throughout my years as a community advocate a state lawmaker, I have strongly supported issues that are very close to home, specifically, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the U of A’s Science and Tech Park and the U of A Biotech Park, all in my district 29 on Tucson’s south and southeast sides.
I continue to stand opposed to the drastic higher education cuts that were signed into law by Governor Brewer. In this challenging economic climate, we cannot afford to decimate our higher education system here in Arizona. Without a strong higher education system, we will not attract businesses to relocate to our state.
Arizona’s current dire economic situation makes it vital that we approach a solution with sound business sense. Unfortunately, we have seen at the state level, Arizona continues to move backwards both in supporting infrastructure development and choosing budget cuts over investment. In this challenging economic climate, we cannot afford to decimate our higher education system here in Arizona with the massive cuts Gov. Brewer has implemented.
Without a strong higher education system, we will not attract businesses to relocate to our state. The vision for our economic recovery needs to be just that, a vision. We can no longer afford to be short sighted when planning for our future as a state.
Here in southern Arizona we have taken that vision and turned it into a reality. Not only did we see the need for an aggressive and creative transportation plan, but we are building our own light rail system here in Tucson. Though it might seem like a small step, it is a step in the right direction toward an effective transportation plan that will not only work for southern Arizona, but for the whole state.
At the state level in Arizona, very little funding is actually dedicated to multi-modal transportation needs. Most of the leadership – and funding – comes from the local level, as evidenced by what has happened here in southern Arizona.
One of the most frightening examples of the legislative majority’s wrong track approach was evidenced when efforts at the capitol to provide matching funds allowing Arizona to access millions in federal funding to pay for commuter rail between Tucson and Phoenix were defeated.
Investment in the transportation infrastructure of our state would immediately create jobs in the construction sector, which has faced a devastating blow from the economic collapse of the home construction industry in our state.
The lack of vision continues with the legislature persisting in half-hearted efforts to create incentives for renewable energy companies to relocate to Arizona. Though this year we passed House Bill 2700 which continues targeted tax credits for installation of solar energy devices, any efforts made in the past few years to plant the seeds for the creation of a biotech research economic sector have hit roadblocks and barriers.
It is time for Arizona’s governments – at all levels – to make an investment. An investment in our present - with an eye towards our future. As we rebuild our economy, we need to have the strength to see beyond our immediate challenges to a greater vision for what our business community will look like and the infrastructure it will take to get us there. Thank you.