Business organizations slam Tom Steyer ballot proposal: “Take your risky scheme somewhere else”

PHOENIX — Three business organizations — Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arizona Manufacturers Council, and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce — came out swinging Friday against the controversial ballot proposal tied to Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer.

In a joint statement, Arizona Chamber president Glenn Hamer and AMC executive director Allison Gilbreath said that job creators in the state “strongly reject” the California billionaire’s “risky scheme” that would require utilities in the state to source half of their energy from renewables by 2030.

The organizations shared cost estimates showing that corporate and industrial energy rates would increase more than 100 percent under the proposal. Residential ratepayers in Arizona would suffer from $1,250 in annual billing hikes (on average) as well.

“It would cost jobs and hurt Arizona ratepayers, but Steyer wouldn’t have to live with the consequences,” Hamer and Gilbreath said in the statement. “Steyer should take his radical agenda and head back to California. Arizona is doing just fine without him.”

Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, concurred.

“This measure, funded by an out-of-state billionaire, has the very real possibility of having a negative impact on Arizona’s businesses and hardworking citizens by dramatically increasing the cost of energy,” Sanders added in another statement released separately. “Arizona’s utility providers have provided residents and businesses with reliable and affordable energy for more than 100 years. This initiative would substantially weaken our economy and we stand firmly against it.”

House Bill 2005 — aimed at protecting ratepayers — was approved by both chambers in the state legislature this week despite a fierce lobbying campaign by the political group tied to Steyer. The legislation was introduced earlier this year by Republican State Representative Vince Leach, who said Thursday that “the consequences of complying with these unrealistic mandates would be catastrophic to Arizona.”

“I’m proud to stand up for Arizonans by standing up to California billionaire Tom Steyer,” Leach said.

Passage came after contentious debate in the Arizona Senate.

Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen said that Arizona would be “stuck with the higher costs … [and] higher taxes” associated with Steyer’s proposal if it were adopted, and Republican State Senator Steve Smith agreed with her, saying the language “will cause a constitutional conflict” in the state.

Prior to the full senate vote, the legislation was reviewed by the Senate Government Committee. A government affairs representative from Arizona Public Service explained to the committee members that the ballot proposal would “devastate rural Arizona by closing power plants and killing thousands of jobs” — in addition to risking $38 million in tax revenue for education.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity launched in February to fight Steyer’s initiative. The organization’s spokesman appeared on television soon after and dismissed the proposal as a “feel-good measure” that would put Arizona’s electricity grid at risk if adopted. A physics professor at Arizona State University similarly criticized Steyer’s effort as “a scam,” arguing that such a mandate could make the state even more dependent on fossil fuels.

State Senator Robert Meza and State Representative César Chávez — Democratic members of the state legislature — recently penned an op-ed in the Arizona Republic announcing their opposition to the ballot proposal.

“How unfair it would be for the rest of us to heap new charges onto their electric bills, forcing seniors and other vulnerable residents to make painful choices between cooling their homes in the summer and other basic necessities?” they wrote. “Arizona families will get stuck paying the bill for generations to come.”

UPDATE: This post has been updated to include the press release from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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