Members of the Arizona Legislature attended the monthly Marana Chamber of Commerce luncheon on May 19, discussing the recent session and the future of the state’s economy.
Attending the meeting were Sen. Al Melvin and Rep. Vic Williams of District 26. District 25 Sen. Gail Griffin also attended.
Prior to a short speech from each of the elected officials, the audience heard an overview of the recent legislative session by lobbyist group, Triadvocates, which called the session where 357 bills were signed into law and a balanced budget was passed, the most productive in 10 years.
While tough cuts were made by the legislature to the state’s health care and education system, the 2012 budget is the first balanced budget in four years.
Melvin noted the biggest priority moving forward is to create jobs. Arizona has lost 300,000 jobs, and the Republic-led legislature is making it a number one goal to get them back, he said.
Looking locally, Melvin said one way to get new jobs is to cut through the red tape and get the Rosemont Mine opened in the Santa Rita Mountains east of Tucson.
The copper mine is in its fifth year of trying to open.
Melvin said Arizona has copper, cattle, citrus and the climate working in its favor, and all must be protected by lawmakers.
Griffin agreed that jobs is a top priority, but it was hard work that created a balanced budget for the state.
Griffin called the new budget “structurally sound,” one that does not dig the state deeper in debt.
Living in Cochise County, Griffin said continuing to fight illegal immigration will remain one of her top priorities moving forward. The first-term senator said from her own property she has seen undocumented aliens passing through with loads of drugs.
Williams agreed with fellow Republican lawmakers on the importance of passing a balanced budget.
If the state had acted more fiscally responsible two years ago, Williams said, they wouldn’t have had to make such drastic cuts to public education. The state approved $183 million in cuts for 2012, marking the third straight year for major cuts to public education.
Williams said if they didn’t have to pay down debt accrued by the former Democrat-led legislature, education wouldn’t be suffering.
At the local level, Williams said he will continue to fight for funding for law enforcement in Pima County, noting that they have to fight for every dime to make sure it isn’t all spent in Phoenix and Maricopa County.
The Marana Chamber will host the next monthly luncheon on Thursday, June 16.