A Plan for Education and Jobs in Rural Arizona and America
By Tom O’Halleran
While the American economy has improved since the Great Recession, much of the prosperity of the last decade has not reached the majority of Americans, and too many people are still working harder just to hang on.
The Great Recession, as it is called, was not a normal economic slowdown. Even before the recession, the salaries of middle-class Americans were already not keeping up with inflation, while our workforce was changing. The economy went into an economic abyss, and American families and retirees lost their homes, businesses, retirement plans, life savings, and jobs. Our friends, neighbors, small businesses, and American families lost trillions of dollars. It changed their lives, salaries, opportunity for high-paying jobs, and our children’s ability to have the life we had enjoyed. The American Family was not bailed out, but many of those who caused this economic tragedy were—by American families.
We still live in the greatest country. Part of the reason is that we have an enduring spirit of possibility and resilience.
We can do better. We must do better. Together we will do better.
Though my parents struggled financially, I was able to get an education and give my children a more secure foundation. That is the American Dream—for each generation to do better than the last. By providing access to information and education regardless of geography or income, incentivizing small business growth, and investing in education and job training, government can become a partner for the business community and create a stronger economic future for all our families.
Rural America is the heart and soul of our country, and American families are the backbone of our economic activity. They should have the resources available to be competitive with workers throughout the world and know their children will have a chance to succeed in the global economy. When the American family succeeds, the small businesses of America thrive, and the American economy thrives.
There are many factors that go into this success for everyone. I lay out here my positions on some important issues related to education and jobs.
As you’ll see, I believe education and jobs are tied together. As a state legislator, I passed legislation to support education from K-12 and our universities. I also supported job growth.
Invest in Arizona’s children’s education and workforce development
Create a strong economy by providing quality educational opportunities
Improving public education should always be a top priority. It was for me when I was an Arizona legislator. It’s why I led a bipartisan coalition that fought for all day kindergarten. Investing in education has a profound positive impact on our children’s and country’s future. A better education system provides for a stronger economy, which improves revenues and eases pressure on taxes.
We need to make sure school funding for rural and tribal schools takes into account the differences those schools face (e.g., greater distance to school) and provides educational opportunities that help our students excel. Our children need to be able to compete in the job market well beyond their home town. Our rural and tribal communities also need to have schools that will attract and retain parents and companies for economic development. We need to do more to ensure that all children have access to a quality, competitive school regardless of their zip code. This will also help small businesses and attract additional jobs to the region.
Make college affordable
Tuition costs at public and private colleges have gone up much faster than inflation or the cost of living overall. Making college more affordable has to be a national priority. The benefit of this is obvious. Students with less debt will be able to become consumers much faster and help stimulate economic activity in both small and large businesses.
Provide better job training
Not everyone will go to college, and not every quality job requires a four-year degree. Arizona’s labor community offers a great template for effective job training programs that should be replicated and expanded.
Support community colleges
Community colleges are a ladder to a four-year institution and an important asset for job training. As a country, we need to invest in our community colleges just as we do universities. For rural economies to succeed, we need affordable community colleges. The current funding model in Arizona and many rural areas throughout America needs to be changed. Students would of course benefit. Federal, state, and local governments would also benefit from the additional revenues a community would generate. (from a better educated workforce)
Arizona currently has a program for transferring credits from community colleges to our state universities. We should make this a nationwide program so students from all states can move or select colleges and universities outside their state and continue their education.
Fund computer coding educational classes and job training
Throughout Arizona, and particularly in rural and tribal lands, we should be funding educational classes for children to learn about the basics of coding and the ability to develop computer skills as they continue their education.
We should also be providing expanded job training for current workers so they can take advantage of the increasing number of opportunities in this field. This type of work especially lends itself to being able to work from anywhere, which can stabilize and improve our rural economy in Congressional District 1.
Invest in Arizona
Support investments in infrastructure
Arizona continues to grow, and our infrastructure must grow with it. The federal government must continue to make investments in roads, bridges, and water infrastructure that are critical to our economy and provide jobs for rural families and the American worker. Reliable infrastructure will help rural areas to compete, especially if we have the necessary technical infrastructure so that businesses have reliable and high-speed Internet service.
Increase funding for scientific research in Arizona into new technologies that will bring the jobs of tomorrow
For Arizona’s economy to thrive, we need to think not just about the jobs we have today, but also about the jobs and industries of tomorrow. Investing in research infrastructure for Arizona’s universities, small businesses, and entrepreneurs should be a top priority for our congressional delegation and throughout rural America.
Improve rural broadband
High-speed Internet access is as essential for education and small businesses today as electricity. A century ago, the federal government launched an ambitious project to connect all Americans to the electrical grid. We need to improve funding for the Connect America Fund. We also need to make sure tribal lands and rural Arizona are being properly and affordably serviced.
Do a better job protecting our national parks and forests
Arizona has beautiful national parks and forests. For too long now, though, Congress has insufficiently funded the agencies that are the stewards of the lands meant to benefit all Americans. Congress needs to provide appropriate resources to these agencies. This should be designed to stimulate local economies to thrive with jobs for those who live there.
In addition to creating jobs and increasing tourism revenue, properly funding parks and forests reduces wildfire risks, helps protect natural resources, allows for better forest management, and makes better use of our water resources. Better water management further reduces risks posed by the state’s current drought. Finally, proper funding of parks and forests improves the quality of life for Arizonans and visitors alike, increases our recreation opportunities, and provides better habitat for wildlife.
Protect rural Arizona’s natural beauty and tourism industry
More than 40 million people travel to Arizona every year. Many take advantage of rural Arizona’s many attractions, such as our forests, national and state parks, tribal lands, and recreational activities. These visitors support over 170,000 jobs and bring more than $20 billion in revenue to our state. We need to protect rural Arizona’s natural beauty and enhance our attractions to preserve our tourism industry and the families it supports.
Increase minimum wage
Wages simply haven’t kept up with the cost of living, and those at the lowest income levels have been hit the hardest. I support increasing the minimum wage to a level that allows for a livable wage.
Equal pay for equal work
There is no excuse for two people who do the same job to earn different pay because of their gender. Men and women should earn equal pay for equal work, period.
Tax cuts for companies that share profits with their employees
While there are many tax loopholes that have been abused, I support using the tax code to incentivize putting more money in the pockets of working people.
Jobs and Opportunities on Tribal Lands
Invest in job training and education on reservations
Educate colleagues in Congress about the high unemployment rates on reservations to persuade them to fund efforts to reduce those rates and improve economic opportunities.
The lack of job training programs and the state of education on some reservations is unacceptable and must be fixed. This needs to be done in a collaborative process among tribal, state, and federal government entities.
Creating job opportunities starts with improving educational opportunities so that people have the skills they need to do those jobs. Each of the education and job training initiatives described above would include consideration of how to implement such programs on tribal lands, which face circumstances often quite different than other communities.
Allow tax credits for creating jobs on reservations
Arizona’s Tribal communities are underserved by small business and lack the kind of opportunities that other communities expect. We should incentivize new businesses and job creation on reservations.
Improve the partnership between tribes and the federal government
It is vital that we collaboratively work with all tribes to bring about job growth and economic stability. I will continue to talk to members of tribes to determine how to continue to improve that relationship.
Protect American workers
Any trade agreements the United States enters into must include protections for American workers and American jobs. The TPP agreement in its current form is unfair to American workers, and I reject it.
Prevent currency manipulation
Any trade agreement must prevent other countries from taking advantage of the United States through currency manipulation. It is important for American workers that our trade agreements hold all partners accountable to fair standards, including monetary policy.
Boost copper and agricultural exports
Future trade agreements must ensure that Arizona miners and growers have improved access to overseas markets.
Align the tax code to incentivize employers to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
We should review what tax breaks are provided to companies that have moved manufacturing jobs abroad. We then would align the code with the goal of keeping jobs in the U.S and hopefully having businesses return.
Impose tax penalties on companies that move manufacturing operations to a foreign country after receiving incentives from the government
Recently several pharmaceutical companies, founded in the U.S. and with products developed through government research grants, have moved their headquarters overseas to avoid paying taxes. Those companies should have to repay the incentives they received from the federal government. We should also explore other ways to make sure that American investments benefit American workers now and into the future.
Support manufacturing through tax breaks
Increase tax incentives for companies that create quality, long-term manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Reform tax code so that the wealthiest pay their fair share of taxes
Millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t be able to exploit tax loopholes to pay a lower effective tax rate than middle class families. Even billionaires like Warren Buffet acknowledges this. We need a top-to-bottom overhaul of the tax code that is fair to everyone.
Hold Wall Street accountable through tough oversight and regulation
When hard-working Americans put their retirement savings in the hands of the finance industry, they should know their money is being managed carefully, for their long-term benefit (not just the short-term bottom line of the company), and within the law. The Great Recession highlights what happens to hard-working American families who lost retirement savings, homes, and jobs. These families were not appreciably assisted. Rather, their tax dollars went to bail out companies who had created the problem. We can’t allow what happened in 2008 to occur again. Wall Street has to be transparent and monitored closely.
Support Small Business
Cut red tape and streamline processes
My experience as a small business owner gives me an understanding of the environment under which businesses operate. Public protection is a priority. While protecting the public, though, we also need to make things easier and more understandable for small businesses to start and flourish rather than being weighed down by those regulations that do not actually serve and protect the public. By cutting this red tape, we can remove unnecessary burdens on small business and help our economy grow.