red dawn
Two Cheers for Arizona

At a time when so many time-honored American political and economic institutions seem to be on their last legs, unable or unwilling to reimagine themselves for the post-blue realities of the 21st century, it’s encouraging to see even modest reform experiments underway at the state and local level. One state that has started to take promising steps in this direction is Arizona, which, just in the last several months, has pulled off an impressive overhaul of its unsustainable public pension system, and taken important steps to protect the emerging sharing economy that entrenched interests would like to regulate out of existence.

Governing magazine chronicles the way a state legislator was able to build a consensus around pension reform, portions of which Governor Doug Ducey signed into law in February, and portions of will be on a statewide ballot measure on March 17:

Arizona’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) was on a downward trajectory, with $12.7 billion in liabilities and only $6.2 billion in assets…  So it’s a good thing for the state’s public safety workers and taxpayers that state Sen. Debbie Lesko and other legislators decided to act before it was too late. And they did it thoughtfully by making it a bipartisan effort and including the PSPRS, firefighters’ and police officers’ associations, and local governments.

And the Arizona Capitol Times reports on the State Senate’s recent vote to make it more difficult for localities in Arizona to restrict AirBnB apartment rentals without permission from the state government, part of Ducey’s “pre-emptive strike” on sharing economy regulation. (In his State of the State address in January, Ducey said that “Arizona should be to the sharing economy what Texas is to oil and what Silicon Valley used to be to the tech industry.”)

To be sure, the full slate of pension reforms (which include changes to the cost-of-living index and requiring new employees to create their own retirement accounts) has yet to be fully implemented, and the AirBnB bill has yet to pass the House. But if Arizona does manage to execute these changes successfully, and they yield the kinds of returns Ducey is hoping for, the Grand Canyon State could plausibly offer itself as a model model for how to slay the worst features of blue model governance—in particular, crony capitalist carveouts and budget-busting union payoffs—and pave the way for a social system better adapted to the economic and demographic realities of the new century. We’ll be watching.

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