What Can California Learn From Arizona?

October 22, 2021 Updated: October 23, 2021


Driving from Orange County to Phoenix was bumper-to-bumper traffic of cars, SUVs, and semi trucks. It was the worst I’d seen in 34 years of making the drive. I quipped to a friend in a text, “Everybody is moving to AZ, TX, FL.”

It used to be said, “Everything starts in California.” Now it’s mainly harmful policies people are fleeing: The country’s highest taxes and homelessness rates. Crazed legislation and regulation. An attitude of expecting the citizens will put up with an endless series of abuses to live in great weather.

But what if we really want to fix California? I would suggest: Emulate Arizona. Formerly little more than a desert, then a home for Rust Belt retirees avoiding winter blizzards, the Grand Canyon State has developed into a major economic force.

In my previous article from Phoenix, I mentioned meeting a crane operator in my hotel working 85-hour weeks. I just met two more workers, this time with orange company t-shirts emblazoned with: W&W Steel Erectors. One was a white woman about 35, the other a Latino man about 40. I asked where they were from and what they were building. They said New York and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing plant. The project will take up to 10 years.

I also mentioned TSM in my previous article, and that the construction cost will be $12 billion. This is the kind of plant we used to have in California. Apple’s early Apple II and Macintosh computers were made in Silicon Valley plants before moving manufacturing to the People’s Republic of China.

Although the workers were from New York, according to Dunn & Bradstreet, “W&W Steel Erectors, LLC is located in Oklahoma City, OK, United States and is part of the Architectural and Structural Metals Manufacturing Industry. … There are 160 companies in the W&W Steel Erectors, LLC corporate family.”

What can California do to begin attracting such jobs again?

First, let’s begin with taxes. As I noted in my previous article, Gov. Doug Ducey just signed a bill instituting a 2.5 percent flat tax. For California, economist Arthur Laffer has repeatedly proposed a flat tax of about 5.5 percent. That would be down from the top current rate of 13.3 percent, the highest of any state. It would raise the same amount of revenue.

Whenever this proposal comes up, Democrats scream, “But the rich should pay their fair share!” But the rich don’t pay any income tax share at all if they move to a low-tax state. They also don’t pay property taxes, sales taxes, and business taxes in California. And they don’t invest in businesses in California that employ middle-class workers such as those I met in Arizona.

Second, cut the “silliness.” That’s the word used by Patrick Ptak, senior vice president of executive initiatives at the Arizona Commerce Authority, about the nonsense that goes on in California. (For reference, check almost any of my previous Epoch Times articles on such issues as California’s gun control laws that disarm honest citizens, Critical Race Theory (CRT) indoctrination, and excessive COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates.)

To take just one example, Arizona has no requirement for a certificate to carry a concealed gun for anyone over 21 who’s not a felon. By contrast, California has complicated rules dependent on the whims of local sheriffs.

Ptak quoted Gov. Doug Ducey, who said, “We are a state that still believes in common sense.”

Ptak also said even the state’s Democrats are pro-growth. A good example is Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), she’s holding up President Biden’s Build Back Better scheme that would waste another $3.5 trillion because it costs way too much and would raise taxes.

Housing is another irony between California and Arizona. California’s Democrats strongly favor open borders and maximum immigration—but won’t allow enough housing to be built to house all those new Americans. By contrast, Arizona’s ruling Republicans are for strong border control, but favor building enough housing for anyone who comes there. If you come, they will build it.

California should learn (or re-learn) that population is going to keep going up, so housing must be built. Even the slight population decline in California the past couple of years won’t last long. Jerry Brown’s Era of Limits from the 1970s was more fictional than the planet Tatooine from the 1977 movie “Star Wars.”

Ptak also mentioned how Arizona tries to be consistent in its business policies. “We won’t pull the rug out from under you,” he said. That contrasts with the many irrational laws California passes each year, as I detailed in my Epoch Times series of four articles on some of the laws passed just this past year.

I’ve been in the private sector most of my life, and one thing businesses need more than any other is consistency of government policy. That’s the only way companies can plan for the future.

A final suggestion from Arizona is to advance school choice. For starters, California needs to stop following the lead of the California Teachers Association in attacking charter schools. Charters are a key element to improving education for all students. Most recently, the Legislature passed and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 101, which mandates CRT indoctrination in all California schools, including charters. But charters exist to avoid such bureaucratic, time-wasting nonsense.

In Arizona, by contrast, “parents are empowered here,” Ptak said. To help minority students, instead of CRT, Arizona is improving choice for parents and students. “Micro schools popped up during the pandemic in lower income areas.”

The state also has Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which helps students who are disabled, or from military and Native American families, go to private schools, as well as get tutoring. Anyone can donate to such accounts to earmark help for specific students.

America’s 50 states are called the “crucibles of democracy.” New ideas can be tried out in one or a few states, then, if they work, spread to other states. In recent years, California has dropped the innovation ball. It can pick it up from other states, beginning with the great ideas bouncing up in Arizona.

Addendum: After checking out the developments in Arizona, I drove back to Orange County on the I-10. Traffic turned out just as thick going west as when I left to go east. Maybe a lot of people are still going back to California. I was happy to be back home and breathe the fresh, Pacific Ocean air. I guess I’ll stay. For now.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary to California State Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at johnseiler.substack.com