Posted on | January 27, 2017 | No Comments
by Chris Samuels, Tempe Chamber of Commerce
In a roundtable on January 26 with the Tempe Chamber of Commerce staff and board of directors, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) highlighted Arizona’s economic relationship with Mexico as well as upcoming congressional priorities in Washington.
Senator Flake expressed concern at President Trump’s approach to trade, calling attention to his call for a 20 percent tax on Mexican exports to the U.S. and a border wall built between the two nations.
Flake called on Arizona chambers of commerce and businesses to hold a “public relations campaign” to highlight the trade benefits and easy movement of goods and services that businesses have with their southern neighbors.
An end to NAFTA, the free trade agreement that allows goods and services to travel tax-free between Mexico, the United States and Canada, would be “devastating to Arizona,” according to Flake.
“Mexico has better free trade agreements than the United States does,” Flake said. “No way would Mexico be harmed by American tariffs.”
Elsewhere, the senator expressed optimism on the upcoming business that Congress will hold with a Republican majority, focusing on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, although he stressed Republicans needed to be careful.
Senator Flake asserted that the Democratic majority of the previous Congress pushed the ACA too quickly, which led to well-documented problems with program registration and a recent spike in premiums. Flake also made the claim that Affordable Care Act premiums for a resident of Maricopa County were $500 more expensive than the county’s average mortgage payment.
Still, Senator Flake said, repealing and replacing government-sponsored healthcare would not happen anytime soon. Many ACA contracts were still valid and would have to be completed, and repealing too much at once would “collapse the healthcare market.”
Senator Flake also touched on several issues pertinent to Arizona. He stressed that he will fight to ensure the watershed from Lake Mead and the Upper Basin will remain coming to Arizona. He also added that Republican efforts to reduce federal regulations could help businesses offset the costs associated with the passing of Proposition 206.
The key piece of legislation that Senator Flake is proposing will be the TIRE Act. The law would suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandated workers on federal construction be paid at the local prevailing wage set by the U.S. Department of Labor. Flake asserts that the bill would save an estimated 10 percent on construction and labor costs, enabling a lower-cost infrastructure plan.