A recent study by George Mason University's Mercatus Center found that Arizona ranks as the eighth freest state in the nation. It broadcasts loud and clear that Arizona is open for business to refugees fleeing our overly taxed and regulated neighbor to the west. But this is no time to rest on our laurels. Maintaining our competitive edge still requires systemic change.
While we have little to fear from California, Arizona faces serious competition from the north. Colorado is ranked second most free in the nation. And not far behind, at 11th place, is Utah. Sunshine is our only real advantage over Colorado and Utah. But our climate is cold comfort considering the fact that Texas received 5th place ranking. Texas can match our weather and ups the ante with a better business and fiscal environment-plus ocean access.
To overcome such stiff competition, Arizonans must keep our eyes on the ball. The foundation of lasting prosperity is economic freedom, secure property rights and fiscally-responsible government. Our state constitution incorporates this historical lesson by mandating a balanced budget, restricting tax increases, protecting private property from eminent domain abuse and unreasonable regulation, and prohibiting government from subsidizing private enterprise with gifts of taxpayer money. It is time we took this lesson seriously.
To out-compete our regional neighbors for new businesses and productive residents, Arizona must vigorously advance economic freedom, property rights and fiscally-responsible government. We should begin by cutting billions of dollars in unnecessary spending at all levels of government, fundamentally reforming our state's income taxes, and transforming our counties, cities and towns into islands of free market prosperity and responsive government. Arizona won't stay in the game merely by tweaking the status quo.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute's Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.
Goldwater Institute: Saving with Systemic Change
Goldwater Institute: How to Restructure Arizona's Tax Code: A Smarter, Flatter Tax Plan to Create Jobs
Goldwater Institute: A Fresh Start for Arizona: Proposals for Closing a Billion-Dollar Budget Gap