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My View: Valley tech community has common ground with Arizona’s new governor

Phoenix Business Journal

Having a constant in your life can be both energizing and reassuring. That’s especially true when it means that constant is the person who holds the highest office in the state.

I’m talking about the relationship that the Arizona Technology Council has maintained over the years with the sitting governor of the state of Arizona.

For starters, our annual signature event is called the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation. While I like to think the audience can’t wait to spend an evening with me, I realize the cachet of the governor’s participation is hard to beat.

Then there is the Arizona Commerce Authority, a key member of the governor’s administration. Headed by longtime friend President and CEO Sandra Watson, the Authority has become a critical partner of the Council as our agendas overlap to ensure a bright future for our state and its economy.

As Gov. Katie Hobbs begins the first days on the job, I already realize there are some common areas with the Council as her own agenda takes shape.

She named education as a top issue for her administration. The governor proposes investing in community colleges and dual-enrollment programs so no matter where a student lives, they have opportunities to earn college credit or get a good-paying job.

My reaction? Bravo! In the Council’s 2023 Public Policy Guide released late last year, we recommended the Legislature increase dual enrollment utilization by addressing key issues of tuition assistance and the availability of qualified teachers. Data clearly shows dual enrollment increases high school and postsecondary completion and supports early talent development, helping to ensure the talent needed for the innovation economy Arizona wants, as well as economic and personal prosperity for its citizens.

The governor also has promised to rebuild and reinvest in Arizona’s public schools, getting resources to school districts and rewarding hard-working teachers. Near the top of her list is addressing the spending cap, saving Arizona’s schools from a forced $1.3 billion budget cut due to an outdated aggregate expenditure limit.

Again, we are on the same wavelength. In our Public Policy Guide, we ask lawmakers to update the aggregate expenditure limit. State funding also should be maximized to ensure competitive salaries attract, reward and retain teachers and staff, including an emphasis on difficult‑to‑fill positions and diversifying the teacher workforce. We support policy that respects and rewards teaching as a profession.

On another front, Hobbs acknowledged that reestablishing the Governor’s Energy Office is a priority for communities across the state. In response, she said she will relaunch this entity as the Governor’s Office of Resiliency, which will focus not only on energy but water and land-use solutions.

The Council has been a supporter of a state Energy Office to ensure energy policies and investments are strategic, comprehensive, and coordinated both within Arizona and regionally throughout the West, as well as to coordinate and maximize grant and federal funding opportunities.

While we’re not entirely opposed to the governor’s approach, we hope energy doesn’t get lost in a crowd of priorities. This is the time to implement strategic, forward-looking policies that support our state’s advanced energy sector. Arizona is emerging as a national leader in technology and innovation, including developing and adopting clean and renewable energy solutions for our advanced economy in a $64 billion market.

As you can tell, we already share some common ground with our new governor. We look forward to continuing a tradition of working with the governor to help guide Arizona toward an even better future for all.

Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.


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