With the sweep of her pen, Gov. Jan Brewer made 1070 one of the most talked about numbers in ages, a number familiar to Arizonans and Americans even when “Senate Bill” isn’t in front of it. The legislation that created the state’s controversial new illegal immigration law has even generated international attention, and is unquestionably the main factor that allowed Brewer to pretty much sew up the Republican nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race.
Illegal immigration is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed. But now, 1070 is overshadowing another number that is far more in need of our attention: 309,000.
That’s the number of unemployed Arizonans.
Directly related to this is Arizona’s foreclosure rate, the second highest in the nation, according to a June report from RealtyTrac. Arizona had 91,484 properties — one in every 30 homes — impacted by foreclosure in the first half of the year. Only Nevada posted a worse rate.
While the state’s economy is showing some glimmers of improvement — for instance, consumer and business bankruptcy filings for metropolitan Phoenix were down 3.9 percent in June, and statewide, filings were down for the third straight month — the Valley and Arizona have a long way to go to recover from a recession that ripped jobs, homes and financial stability away from too many Arizonans. Bankruptcies have dropped, but consumer confidence and job creation remain low.
This week, businessman Buz Mills dropped out of the Republican gubernatorial race, claiming that the stir created by SB 1070 had drowned out the issue that prompted him to run: the need to stimulate Arizona’s lackluster economy and create more jobs. State Treasurer and fellow Republican Dean Martin ended his campaign for governor the week before, leaving Brewer to face little-known, unlikely-to-win Matthew Jette in the GOP primary.
We’ll never know what would have happened if Brewer had not become the champion of SB 1070 and the darling of Arizonans and Americans looking to make illegal immigrants the scapegoat for all problems. But it has become clear that unless Brewer and state Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, speak up soon, there will be no real discussion and debate over economic issues before voters cast ballots in the November general election, let alone the Aug. 24 primary.
In June, Brewer signed an executive order creating a board of 34 business leaders, educators and state officials to advise the Arizona Commerce Department. Brewer wants the Legislature to OK her plan to transform the department into the Arizona Commerce Authority with more focus on economic development and finding ways to generate more high-paying jobs in the state. She has also pushed for business tax breaks.
Goddard would like to establish a private sector group to promote Arizona and work with the governor and lawmakers to enact policies that will help grow Arizona jobs and attract new jobs from out of state, according to his campaign website. But while Brewer is an advocate for tax breaks, Goddard supports the creation of a “deal closing fund” that assists new and growing businesses “with public infrastructure that will help them be more successful.”
The ideas of both candidates merit much more public discussion than they have received. But they face an uphill battle in claiming the attention of voters as Arizona prepares to implement SB 1070. Because of the landmark federal court ruling looming this week, and a debate on the issue in Scottsdale, we have our share of immigration stories in today’s Tribune. It’s hard to escape it. We’d much rather be writing about a detailed economic recovery plan set forth by our governor or a jobs creation bill that came out of the Legislature. Instead, lawmakers in the last session took up the oh-so important issues of legalizing sparklers, deciding when couples can divorce, and ensuring that Arizonans can keep their old-fashioned, incandescent light bulbs.
SB 1070 is a sweeping law with serious implications for law enforcement officials and legal immigrants, as well as those who are here illegally. It needs public discourse and attention.
But the immigration law and protests for and against it will not bring back to Arizona a robust economy that stimulates spending, creates jobs, bolsters business and gives our citizens the stability and quality of life they need and deserve. It won’t put 309,000 unemployed Arizonans back to work.
Only a sound economic recovery plan can do that.