Club Releases Joint Op-ed on Arizona’s Economic Prospects

Over the weekend, Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi and Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Steve Moore published an op-ed responding to the misleading “Job Creation Progress Meter” being touted by the Arizona Commerce Authority. Judging by the cherry picked data used in the meter, it is obvious they are attempting to downplay the current and future prospects of job growth in Arizona while pushing their agenda of more targeted incentives and crony capitalism.The fact is Arizona’s future is very bright. Here is the op-ed in its entirety:

Arizona is a High Growth State

By: Stephen Moore and Scot Mussi

Arizonans might be surprised by a new report which suggests that Arizona is limping behind other states in economic development and attractiveness as a destination.

A new report called “Job Creation Progress Meter” by the Arizona Commerce Authority and Center for the Future of Arizona (re: How Arizona Can do Better on Jobs) uses highly misleading data to suggest Arizona is falling behind on jobs and growth.

Sure there is a lot of room for improvement in the schools, the tax code, regulations, and the state’s treatment of job creators. The two of us have been dedicated to educating Arizona’s political leaders on how to improve business conditions and create more good paying jobs for years.But this new report gets the story wrong.  For example, one of the measurements used in their report is the state’s per capita income. While this can be a useful measurement, most economists recognize that you should take into account cost of living, since living in Arizona is much more affordable than living in states such as New York.

The “job creation” report fails to make this adjustment, thus making Arizonans’ living standard lower than it really is. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are portrayed by this measure as prosperous. But these three states that were once prosperous are now bleeding jobs, businesses and workers. Many of them have come to…Arizona. These newcomers apparently see more opportunity in Arizona than the academic researchers. Maybe they need to get out of the ivory towers.

Additionally, the “job creation” report seems to ignore every economic indicator that would portray Arizona in a favorable light. Nowhere does it include vital economic data such as population growth (Arizona ranks the 4th most attractive destination of any state in terms of domestic migration). The state’s tax burden is low (but should get lower). New business startups and relocations ‎into the state are high.

The report instead focuses on fairly obscure ratings that are interesting but not central indicators of growth. These include international exports and venture capital investment per capita, two very narrow data points that tell us little about the overall health of Arizona’s economy. Arizona is a major tourist state. So relatively, the state has fewer jobs in areas like manufacturing. That doesn’t make us poor.  Look at Florida for goodness sakes.

Incidentally, California does well in both exports and venture capital investment. Does anyone believe that we should emulate their policy model where the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor and the cost of living for the middle class is through the roof? We hope not.  The middle class is fleeing the Golden State in droves with many coming here.

The truth is that Arizona is headed in the right direction.  Arizona continues to have a pro-growth climate and ranks in the top five of states in terms of economic outlook according to ALEC, a membership organization of state legislators.  Recently, Forbes magazine ranked Arizona the best state for future job growth in the nation.

For Arizona to do even better in the years to come means building on our current successes and staying ahead of our competitors by continually improving the tax, regulatory and fiscal policy of the state.  It also means remaining focused on broad based reforms – like cutting tax rates – that benefit all taxpayers and employers, not targeted solutions that cater to a select few politically connected industries.

Stephen Moore is a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Scot Mussi is President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.