Forty executive MBA students from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University were granted a deeper look at how government functions during a two-day event at the State Capitol last week.
The trip was part of a course called “Business and Public Policy.” Over two days students had a chance to hear from a panel of top legislators, including Sen. John McComish, who represents Ahwatukee and parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa; hear a presentation from the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting; and meet on the Senate floor and simulate passing their own mock budget.
“It’s all about relationships and being honest and letting your colleagues know that what you say is true,” said Sen. Andy Biggs during a panel with the students. “You can’t please everybody… When you get to the Senate there are only 30 of you. You need to maintain relationships with people, even those you think are crazy politically.”
McComish told the students that even when issues come up it’s important to reconcile differences quickly.
“There are differences in passions,” he said. “It’s OK to be passionate on an issue that’s important… but never disparage those you’re working with. You must conduct yourself in a professional manner. Time heals all wounds. The thing that helps us get better is we still need each other.”
The event was eye-opening for the students, many of whom have never been to the State Capitol before.
“Long-term I think I have aspirations of being an entrepreneur and working globally, particularly in western Africa,” said Pamela Reynolds, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who works for a health care IT company based in British Columbia. “This particular course helps me understand how our own public policy and business policy works. I feel like I need to have a good understanding of that before I can go out of the country into a diverse place like western Africa where political systems aren’t nearly as strong as they are here in the U.S. I think this will help give me that framework for that.”
Reynolds said the event was teaching her a lot about the differences between business and government. Several of the legislators stressed that while government can be more efficient, it can never be as efficient as business because each legislator has their own ideas and only the voters can dictate their decisions.
“In business you can make decisions and hire and fire,” said Rep. Chad Campbell. “Here, we’re all our own individual bosses, besides the voters of our district… It’s inherently inefficient in many ways, but it is designed to be inherently inefficient. It makes the process more deliberate and puts some safeguards in place, and it makes sure the decision reflects the desires of the voters.”