AZ to Steyer: Thank you, next

With another move attacking Arizona Public Service, it appears California billionaire and now presidential candidate Tom Steyer cannot seem to quit Arizona.

Steyer’s attacks against the Arizona utility date back to the 2018 election cycle when his attempt to mandate onerous new renewable energy standards was rejected by voters in a 2 to 1 margin.

Now, Steyer is using a digital ad to accuse the company of corruption. This is the second time in recent months that Steyer has inserted himself into Arizona issues.

Many observers attribute his behavior to a desperate attempt to increase his name ID in the state and salvage his reputation after and painful and expensive loss in the fall.

“California billionaire Tom Steyer can’t stop meddling in Arizona politics,” Arizonans for Affordable Electricity spokesperson Matt Benson said. “It was just last year that Arizona voters overwhelmingly rejected Steyer’s Prop 127, which would have added $1,000/year to the typical family’s electricity bill. Now he’s back – this time as a self-described ‘ratepayer advocate.’

“You’re not fooling anybody, Tom.”

The California billionaire, who made millions investing in fossil fuels, is inserting himself in Arizona policy conversations claiming the state is being misguided by corporations and elected leaders. But the state’s economy has been booming for the past year with local economists touting the diversity in job and industry growth.

Arizona’s economy continues to grow at one of the fastest rates in the nation, ranking fourth in the U.S. for GDP growth last year and second in the country for personal income growth.

More than 300,000 new jobs have been added since 2015 and Arizona is projected to add another 165,000 new jobs by 2020.

Also, the greater Phoenix metropolitan area has officially eclipsed its pre-recession job peaks in almost every industry.

“Arizona is open for business and our economy is booming,” said Governor Doug Ducey in a statement. “It’s not by accident: Arizona’s pro-business policies, low taxes and light regulations are delivering more job opportunities and bigger paychecks for Arizona workers.”

Business community advocates say Steyer’s latest advertisements are likely to prove as unsuccessful as his previous political activities in the state.

“This guy apparently can’t take a hint,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesperson Garrick Taylor said. “Arizonans have rejected over and over Steyer’s job-killing agenda, but yet he keeps coming back here. Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Steyer, thank you very much, in large part because lawmakers and the governor have studiously avoided the sort of policies he advocates.”

Steyer’s efforts in Arizona began in 2018 when his progressive political action committee, NextGen Climate Action, launched an effort to mandate that utilities provide half their annual retail sales from renewable energy sources by 2030 “irrespective of cost to consumers.” The effort excluded zero-emission nuclear energy from the definition of renewable energy.

Then in May, Steyer portrayed himself as a ratepayer advocate by engaging in an APS rate case before the Arizona Corporation Commission. Many were quick to point out that his 2018 energy mandate, known as Proposition 127, would have increased costs on Arizona residents, including low-income families and small businesses. Estimates revealed the typical Arizona family would see its utility bills increase by $1,000 or more over the course of a year.

In addition to the $28 million Steyer dumped into the failed campaign, he also attacked Republican candidates, spending more than $3 million against Attorney General Mark Brnovich and engaging in the Arizona Corporation Commission race through dark money groups such as ChispaAZ.

On Tuesday morning, Steyer announced his candidacy for president in a digital video. Steyer plans to spend at least $100 million on his campaign.

Lorna Romero

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