Blue light special is a phrase Kmart used to use to draw attention to certain sales merchandise. It became synonymous with a discount or bargain, as in bargain basement.
“It’s difficult to remember…” writes Nikelle Murphy on CheatSheet.com, “that Kmart was once the envy of Walmart founder Sam Walton.” Experts say the problems with Kmart’s business model include a lack of focus on the core brand and that Kmart didn’t invest in updating its stores, giving a dated feel to the brand. Sound like Arizona?
Governor Ducey’s and our GOP Legislators’ focus on tax cuts, corporate welfare, and privatization of our state resources, is attracting exactly that kind of company–low-tech and service industry jobs, that don’t provide stable, long term investments in updating our state’s infrastructure, and don’t look to participate in building thriving communities. They are offering Arizona as a “blue-light special”.
Take the recent $20M tax cut legislation championed by our Rep. Mark Finchem, to subsidize the failing business model for the Navajo Coal Plant. Governor Ducey allegedly approved it in hopes of finding a buyer for it. For his part, Finchem said “Solar and wind energy get tax breaks and compete with the coal plant. It’s kind of hard to compete when you aren’t being given the [same] taxpayer support.” He chooses to ignore that the Arizona Corporation Commission can regulate these utilities. But, it makes sense Finchem doesn’t understand that tax breaks should be used to incentivize behavior beneficial to our communities and our state, because that hasn’t been standard practice in Arizona.
Other examples of the “blue light special” mentality from our GOP state leadership are the obvious ones.
1) Sweeping highway funds away for corporate tax giveaways instead of building turn-key modern infrastructure.
2) Severely cutting funds to public universities, then threatening to put the Legislature in charge of overseeing them, as our Rep. Finchem tried to do this year. (Just the hint has undoubtedly scared away potential partner researchers who see it as a formula for a nightmare bureaucracy.)
3) Deep cuts in public education and JTED (technical and trades training). Quality companies need ready access to an educated workforce and good public schools for their employees’ children, not uncertified/amateur instructors, as approved by the Legislature in 2017, or buildings and busses that haven’t had reasonable maintenance in ten years and are literally falling apart around the students.
We must upgrade our brand! Study after study has shown that companies don’t make location choices based on potential taxation levels, but on a host of other factors such as an educated/competitive workforce, modern infrastructure, and favorable climate. That should be Arizona–a great quality of life at a reasonable price.
That’s what Arizona will be when we change the leadership and take it out of the blue light special bin and put it front and center as a top-rated value. All it takes is lawmakers who are ready to lead into the future instead of being stuck in the past.