Chris Mayes shuts down the ACA honeypot on gifts to corporate VIPs

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Democratic Attorney General Chris Mayes may have made it easier for the Republican-controlled Legislature to terminate Arizona’s commerce authority.

Mayes on Tuesday notified the suddenly beleaguered agency that it had violated the state constitution’s gifts clause with its various giveaways to corporate bigwigs.

It appears that taxpayer-funded stays at luxury resorts, comfortable suites, sky boxes from which to watch the Super Bowl and the Waste Management Phoenix Open, tickets to various concerts and prestigious events, and of course all the alcohol they and their buddies can drink, are and are not legitimate overhead expenses. .

Even a small portion of the people wining and dining eventually bring the (non-binding) promise of jobs to the valley.

“CEO Forums do not produce any public benefit under the gift clause,” Mayes wrote.

Freedom Caucus wants to stop the ACA

Well, oh.

And if you’re from the business community: Oh.

Mayes’ letter comes as Sen. Jake Huffman, head of the hard-right Arizona Freedom Caucus, leads a Republican revolt against public-private partnerships — ones created by Republicans in 2011 to recruit and expand companies in the state once. They are here.

It comes as Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and the business community are pleading with lawmakers to extend the partnership agency, which automatically expires June 30 unless the Legislature takes action.

newly State audit It found that the ACA has spent more than $2.4 million in taxpayer money since 2018 entertaining corporate VIPs and their guests at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the 2023 Super Bowl.

Just over $2 million of that amount was spent on sponsoring last year’s Super Bowl and the CEO celebrations that followed, prompting Hoffman to work for the agency.

Business leaders rush to defend ACA

He’s not alone. Senate President Warren Petersen told me that he believes most of the economic gains touted by the ACA’s mouthpieces would have been achieved even without millions of dollars in public relief.

“It’s clear that (the ACA) needs at least some reforms,” Petersen said after reading Mayes’ letter.

in Message to legislators On Tuesday, a coalition of 100 business leaders were quick to defend the ACA, crediting the agency with 1,209 project wins representing 272,803 projected new jobs averaging $60,808. That’s over $113 billion in capital investment – ​​if it happens.

“With the ACA’s help, Arizona has dramatically reshaped our economic outlook,” they wrote.

The problem for them is that conservative voters have dramatically reshaped the Legislature, with the hard right now in control rather than the traditional, business-minded conservatives who have long controlled the Capitol.

Hoffman and his crew are not wrong in denouncing luxury giveaways on public dimes. Tuesday’s message from Mayes appears to give them the torpedo they need to sink the agency.

“The ACA has demonstrated gross mismanagement and, at times, downright illegal activity through its gifts to corporate CEOs,” Hoffman told me. “As stewards of the public trust, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have a government that works for everyone, not just the wealthy, well-connected, or favored few.

“If Katie Hobbs wants to hang the problematic Affordable Care Act anchor around her neck, that’s her choice, but I will continue to fight for a government that works for every Arizonan no matter how much she opposes me.”

Arizona spent a huge amount on the Super Bowl

A spokesman for Hobbs, who was apparently busy biting his nails, did not respond to a request for comment.

In her letter, Mayes said the ACA has hosted 136 CEOs representing 118 companies at five CEO forums since 2018.

Of that, the state has received just 27 non-binding commitments to expand or relocate to Arizona, which would bring 15,000 jobs to the state and more than $2.35 billion in capital investment — if it actually happens.

The lion’s share of that spending spree came last year when Super Bowl LVII and the Phoenix Open were both held on the same weekend in early February, a month into Hobbs’ tenure.

Good things flowed during the four-day affair as 66 notable players and their guests were treated to first-class hotel accommodations, in-state transportation, skybox seating at the Open and the Super Bowl, and tickets to the NFL’s owner’s party, the Super Bowl Party. Tailgate and the Super Bowl experience – with many other theater tickets and miscellaneous goodies thrown in.

The ACA estimates it will spend more than $1 million on its 2024 CEO forums in conjunction with this year’s Phoenix Open in February and the NCAA Final Four in April, Mayes said.

or not.

Other expenses Mayes should consider

In her letter to the ACA, Mayes warned that she would go to court if the agency did not comply with her warning to cut it.

“My office intends to fully uphold the state constitution and will seek to prevent any future illegal payment of public funds to private entities by the ACA,” she said in a statement.

I? I hope you’ll then take a look at last year’s $15 million legislative gift to… Prescott Rodeo And another $1 million boost to Turf Paradise.

Or perhaps $400 worth of pianos, ski passes, and luxury driving lessons were purchased through Empowerment Grant accounts.

Why is the Republican Party: Totally wrong about school vouchers

But I digress.

Mayes is right to close the lid on the CEO lure trap.

The Republican Party is right, but tread carefully

And now Republicans — at least a fair number of them — appear poised to close the lid on the state’s long-term economic development strategy.

Will it work, by handing out millions in subsidies – the ones that come after wining and dining – to attract companies to a country that already has a decent, low-tax regulatory climate?

Would these companies and the jobs they create even exist without the work of the Arizona Commerce Commission?

maybe.

But then again, maybe not.

Unless they have a better idea, Republicans should proceed with caution.

Contact Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LoriRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on the Arizona Republic website: The Arizona Commerce Authority’s lavish gifts to executives may be the undoing

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