Believe it or not, something good may be happening in Washington, D.C. Last week 12 local business executives, Tucson Metro Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Robert Medler and I visited Arizona's senators and representatives to advocate for our local community.
Industry sectors represented by our group were:
It was an interesting visit.
Over the span of two days our group met with the individuals below or their chief aides.
Senator Jeff Flake (R)
Senator John McCain (R)
Representative Tom O’Halleran (D), CD1
Representative Martha McSally (R), CD 2
Representative Paul Gosar (R), CD4
Representative Raul Grijalva (D), CD3
Representative Andy Biggs (R), CD5
Representative David Schweikert (R), CD6
Representative Ruben Gallego (D), CD 7
The top six discussion topics on our agenda were:
Defense and aerospace
Trade (including the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA and the Border Adjustment Tax – BAT)
Transportation and infrastructure
The purpose of our visit was to bring the voice of the Tucson and Southern Arizona business community to these elected officials. Looking back on our two very busy days, this was without question a “mission accomplished” experience.
Here are the top takeaways:
1) CENTRISM Believe it or not, there appears to be a growing group of center-left and center-right moderates who are talking about bi-partisanship and working together. The number of our DC representatives who expressed these views is far greater than we have experienced on our visits in 2015 and 2016. One Democrat even said that, “Sixty percent of Democrats are okay with negotiating” (on the subject of healthcare).
2) POLARIZATION Although the opposite of centrism, polarized positions (extreme and rigid left- or right-wing viewpoints) still exist. However, these views seem minimal compared to the voices who say they are willing to meet in the middle where some business can actually be done.
3) ARIZONA ISSUES Regarding issues that are Arizona-centric, our entire federal delegation seems to have unity regarding topics such as protecting Medicaid, preserving trade with Mexico, protecting our military facilities and promoting I-11, the Sonoran Corridor and improvements to SR-189 near the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.
4) TRADE Not a single elected official we met with favored repeal of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) or the enactment of the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) that would slap tariffs on goods entering the U.S. for sale. Repeal of NAFTA and enactment of the BAT are seen as having serious downside effects on our state’s economy and Arizona’s relationship with Mexico. One representative told us, “Free trade doesn’t do well in the campaign, but is the right way to approach the subject.”
5) IMMIGRATION/BORDER There is a high level of agreement that our border with Mexico must be secured as a first step toward immigration reform. For the record, the Tucson Metro Chamber is signatory to a four-point immigration reform framework created by The Real Arizona Coalition (RAC), a broad based group of civic, business, ethnic and faith-based groups. Securing the border is the first item on the RAC agenda as well. One official we spoke with even went so far as to say, “President Trump WILL sign an immigration reform bill.”
6) HEALTHCARE For the most part our elected officials in Washington see the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act as flawed. Finding middle ground will be a challenge, but then again there is a degree of centrism in play, so who knows? Fixing the ACA (and now AHCA) was the approach preferred by a wide majority of local business executives in a recent Tucson Metro Chamber poll.
7) REGULATORY REFORM It was reported that one federal regulation per day is being retired. The Chamber views this as a positive measure for promoting free enterprise and economic expansion. One federal official went so far as to say “we aren’t playing tiddlywinks anymore" with overactive federal agencies (BLM, EPA, Forest Service, etc.). As for changes to the Dodd-Frank bill that forces financial institutions to focus on regulatory compliance instead of lending, we were informed that Dodd-Frank will not come up for review for at least six months.
8) DEFENSE AND AEROSPACE We learned that it is likely that the new secretary of the Air Force will visit Tucson in the near future and that “light attack” aircraft and F-35s are a possibility in Davis-Monthan’s future. We also learned that there is pressure on the armed forces to improve their efficiencies as part of any new budget measure.
The Tucson Metro Chamber hopes you find this summary useful. We take our responsibility to advocate for Southern Arizona businesses very seriously. Your investment in the Chamber enables us to amplify your voice in the halls of government so you have a seat at the table, whether you can be there in person or not.
Michael V. Varney, President & CEO, Tucson Metro Chamber
About Tucson Metro Chamber
The Tucson Metro Chamber is a membership-based business advocacy and networking organization that represents 1,500 businesses, employing more than 160,000 employees in Tucson and Pima County. Small business makes up approximately 60 percent of Chamber membership. Visit TucsonChamber.org or call (520) 792-2250 to learn more about the Tucson Metro Chamber.