KINGMAN - State Attorney General Terry Goddard says he has a plan to pull Arizona out of its economic slump. Goddard, who is running for Arizona governor, stopped in Kingman Tuesday at the Miner and at the Beale Street Brews coffee shop during a statewide campaign tour.
"The budget is job No. 1 for whoever wins office," he said. "I don't think there are any magic bullets (to fix the budget).
"The question is, how do we get the economy back on track? How do we do it right?" Goddard told a room of about 30 people at Beale Street Brews. "I have a common sense plan to bring the state back."
The state has depended for far too long on the construction industry as its main economic resource, Goddard said. The state needs to diversify its economy by attracting other businesses, especially up-and-coming industries such as renewable energy, biomedical, pharmaceuticals and more.
"There is no reason why Arizona should not be the leader in solar energy," he told the Miner.
The state needs to invest in a robust K through 12 and higher education system in order to give residents the skills needed to get jobs in these industries, he said.
It needs a public/private economic development organization with venture capital to encourage new industries to move to the state. Arizona has one of the lowest venture capital funds in the United States, he said. Offering venture capital can be risky, but the payoffs can be incredible, Goddard said. "Arizona needs to be at the table," he said.
Another way to encourage business to move to the state is to offer tax cuts, Goddard said.
A recent study completed for the Legislature stated that targeted tax cuts for industries that would export 80 percent of their product could entice businesses to move to the state, he said.
The Legislature has a plan that would provide tax cuts to all industries in the state, as well as new industries, he said. That doesn't achieve the same effect. Businesses that export their goods constantly bring new dollars into their home state, he said. Businesses that hire and sell goods locally circulate the same pool of money. While the tax cuts that the Legislature has in mind may help keep businesses in the state, it doesn't improve the flow of new money, Goddard said.
"The Legislature really shot itself in the foot. It was a very dumb idea," he said.
At the same time, the state can't forget its economic basics, such as tourism, mining, defense and agriculture, he said. The Legislature and the governor cut funding to state parks and tourism, causing two thirds of the parks to close, Goddard said.
The parks and tourism bring in new dollars to the state from visitors. Closing state parks costs the state more money in revenue then it saves, he said. He also called for more bipartisanship in state government.
"In a recent poll, nearly 75 percent of residents thought Arizona was headed in the wrong direction," Goddard told the crowd.
The state used to have a history of bipartisanship, with legislators and the governor reaching across the aisle in the best interest of the state. It doesn't have that today, he said.
As an example, he pointed to KidsCare, Arizona's healthcare program for children of low-income families. The Legislature and governor recently eliminated the program.
"That leaves more than 38,000 children with the emergency room as their primary care physician," Goddard said, adding that it will cost the state and the taxpayers more.
In fact, the state may find itself scrambling to figure out how to reinstate the KidsCare program, he said. When the program was eliminated, the state lost nearly $97 million in federal funding for child healthcare.
The Legislature also cut nearly 300,000 people from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which will cause more than 4,200 people to lose their jobs, Goddard said.
"That's not going to build up Arizona," he said.
When asked about the lawsuit against the federal healthcare bill, Goddard said, "It's purely political. It's a continuation of the debate in Congress."
There are 29 Republican state attorneys general; only 11 have signed onto the lawsuit, he said. That's not even a majority.
Besides being a political statement and a waste of taxpayer money, Goddard wasn't sure that Arizona or any state has a leg to stand on with the lawsuit.
"It's an individual compulsion by the federal government," he said. Individuals are required to have health insurance and are fined if they do not. States aren't required to provide health insurance or make sure that people have it, he said. An individual might be able to sue the federal government, but he didn't think a state could.
Resident Curtis Bolton asked about the state deficit. "The state technically doesn't have a deficit," Goddard said with a smile. The Legislature needs a budget deadline. The Arizona Constitution has a balanced budget clause, but there's nothing to enforce it, he said.
"There's a lot of hypocrisy in the Legislature," he said. "These are people who have said that they will never vote to raise taxes, but they've cut funds so that cities and counties have to raise taxes. We're all serving the same people. We need to put partisanship aside and act like adults."