One of the state’s most influential business groups flunked a majority of East Valley Republicans in its latest legislative report card. Democrats, on the other hand, passed with flying colors.
The East Valley Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 5,500 businesses, handed out failing grades to 10 of the region’s 17 GOP lawmakers in a report released this week.
Tom Dorn, who lobbies for the alliance, said the report shows a disconnect between the needs of East Valley businesses and the follow-through of Republican lawmakers.
Dorn said the group meets with lawmakers to outline their priorities before the beginning of each legislative session. The grades were based on each lawmaker’s voting record.
“The votes are the votes, and we make it very clear where we stand on the issues,” Dorn said Tuesday afternoon.
Specifically, many Republican lawmakers voted against bills supported by the chamber that gave incentives and tax credits to corporations.
The business alliance also gave bad marks to Republicans who voted for measures limiting the ability of government to take private property for economic development.
“I don’t support corporate welfare,” said Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa. “There is a disconnect here. I think the chamber needs to shift its priorities.”
Johnson, who received a grade of 46 percent, said she opposes giving taxpayer money to big businesses. Instead, she said the chamber should place more emphasis on other issues such as education.
But not all Republicans were out of step with the alliance. Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler, scored an 82 percent on the 12 issues used to grade the lawmakers.
Tibshraeny said the report card doesn’t mean Republicans are anti-business. He pointed out that some other GOP lawmakers scored high.
Yet the high scores of the East Valley’s four Democrats showed a break from the traditional alliance between businesses and Republicans. According to the report, each of the Democrats scored 73 percent or above on the issues.
But members of the Democratic Party were quick to reject claims that they’ve become the party that looks out for the best interests of large corporations.
“I don’t think this means we’re the party of big business. I think we’re the party of entrepreneurship.” said Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe. “There’s definitely a shift. Democrats are looking out for small and family-owned business while Republicans are still the party of big business.”