Category Archives: Infrastructure

Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is starving school districts, reducing classroom spending

Too few people read newspapers, and too many who do read only the headline caption to an article. Copy editors write the headlines, and too often the headlines are misleading and do not accurately reflect the content of the reporting.

For example, our sad small town newspaper the Arizona Daily Star ran the headline “Arizona spends less in classrooms” in its print edition, and “Arizona spending in classrooms declines year over year” in its online version for this Howard Fischer report. The Arizona Capitol Times similarly ran the headline “K-12 classroom spending reaches all-time low” for Fischer’s report.

So kudos to the copy editor of the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for a headline that accurately reflects Howard Fischer’s reporting, Amid cuts in state capital funds, classroom spending falls:

Arizona’s mainstream public schools overall spent less of the money they received last year in the classroom than in any of the 16 years the state has been keeping track.

The trend tracks a cumulative $2 billion cut in state capital funding since 2009, forcing many school districts to shift dollars from teacher salaries and instruction into air conditioner and boiler repairs.

And state funding per pupil, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen from $8,794 in 2008 to $7,746 now.

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Governor Ducey’s budget is ‘based on unicorns and rainbows’ (alternative facts)

I am glad to see that Democrats in the Arizona legislature are using the terminology that I have used to describe Governor Ducey’s budget: ‘Unicorns and rainbows’ – Dems question governor’s budget plan:

[A]fter the Governor’s Office presented details of Ducey’s budget proposals in full before the Joint Appropriations Committee meeting on January 17, Democrats’ hopes were largely deflated.

“It was full of great ideas but there was no funding to back it up,” Rios said after the meeting. “I’m really surprised the governor would put that out there and not assume that people would continue to watch when he actually let us know what he was going to fund.”

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Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Steve Farley was one of the most skeptical voices on the left following Ducey’s State of the State address – perhaps because he already announced he is seriously considering challenging Ducey during the governor’s expected 2018 re-election bid.

Now, like many Democrats, Farley is skeptical that Ducey can even deliver on his proposed budget.

Farley noted that although the governor’s budget team, the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, has projected almost $17 million more in revenues than expenses, the Legislature’s budget crew, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, has warned that’s probably a rosey estimate.

The revenue projections in the governor’s plan are based on unicorns and rainbows, not on reality,” Farley said.

In fact, Legislative budget analysts cautioned lawmakers that the governor’s projection of available revenues is far rosier than their own. JLBC chief cautions lawmakers on governor’s spending plans:

Richard Stavneak, director of JLBC, pulled no punches in a joint hearing of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, telling lawmakers that he’s concerned by the governor’s proposing of myriad new spending plans without accounting for many legislative priorities or the possibility of an economic downturn.

“We may not have as much money as the governor thinks we have to spend,” Sen. Debbie Lesko, Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman, told lawmakers at the hearing on January 17.

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Governor Ducey fails the Jerry Maguire test: ‘Show me the money!’

Governor Ducey delivered his State of the State address this week. It was full of platitudes and lofty goals about public education, but woefully short on any substance and specifics. Lynda Lyon covered the address here, They can have their own opinions, but not their own facts, and our colleague David Safier covered the address at Tucson Weekly’s The Range. Ducey ‘Next Step’ Watch: Day 237—Talk Is Cheap Edition. Ducey’s Funding-Lite, Destructive Education Proposals.

ShowMeTheMoneyDemocrats, education advocates, and editorial boards applauded the governor’s “modest” education proposals (the media is redefining “largely symbolic” as “modest” to put a positive spin on what in actuality is a middle-finger from the governor).

The unanswered question was “how does he intend to pay for it?Our View: Ducey gave a good speech, but where’s the money? In other words, the governor faced a Jerry Maguire test: “Show me the money!

The answer came with the governor’s proposed budget on Friday: largely symbolic increases in education funding and moving pots of money around (robbing Peter to pay Paul), based upon the governor’s office unrealistic revenue assumptions (Ducey is a true believer in the false religion of faith based supply-side “trickle down” economics), and no new taxes for additional sources of revenue. Governor Ducey failed the Jerry Maguire test.

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The financial mismanagement of the state by our Tea-Publican controlled legislature

arizona_legislature_11274934985There are two good opinions in the Arizona Republic about our Tea-Publican controlled legislature’s financial mismanagement of the state, but only one opinion tangentially mentions the underlying cause: Proposition 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment, Arizona Constitution Article 9, Section 22.

As I have posted previously, If you want tax reform, repeal of Prop. 108 (1992) is a necessary prerequisite:

I consider Prop. 108 the GOP’s “weapon of mass destruction.” Here is why: it only takes a simple majority vote of the legislature to approve cuts to tax rates, or to enact tax exemptions and tax credits (tax expenditures). But these tax revenue reducers become permanent in practical reality because Prop. 108 requires a two-thirds super-majority vote in both chambers of the legislature to increase tax rates, or to reduce or eliminate any tax exemption or tax credit.

Since Prop. 108 was enacted by voters in 1992, the Arizona legislature has not increased tax rates, and has not closed “tax loopholes” as all the pundits decry that we desperately need to do. A tyranny of a minority of anti-tax zealots in the Arizona legislature are empowered to prevent any such tax reforms: 11 members in the Senate, or 21 members in the House.

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When our less-than-less-than-do-nothing Congress returns in September …

US CapitolOur less-than-less-than-do-nothing Congress decided to start its August recess early, failing to address legislative priorities, as they hightailed it out of town on July 14 for a seven-week recess.

Congress will return the day after Labor Day. “D.C. Work Week” days are only scheduled in the House until September 30. The Senate is scheduled to work the first week of October as well. (Schedules are subject to change).

September 30 is an important date that has not received much media attention. It is the end of the Fiscal Year. The House has passed five spending measures and the Senate has passed just three, leaving Congress with unfinished appropriations bills that need to be addressed following the August recess.

There is not enough time for this dysfunctional Congress to actually complete its essential job function on time.

None of the individual appropriations bills have been sent to the President, and it is likely that a stop-gap continuing resolution (CR) spending bill will be needed to fund the federal government past the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

With our less-than-less-than-do-nothing Congressional members wanting to get back to their districts to campaign some more for reelection in October — as if they deserve to be reelected — it is unlikely that the  Republican House Freedom Caucus has enough support to shut down the federal government in an election year stunt, but you never know.

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FBI says foreign hackers are trying to gain access to election systems

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.11.32 PMOn this primary election day in Arizona, there are some disturbing reports about Arizona’s election data base being vulnerable to foreign hackers.

There is also this recently released analysis from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, ICIT Analysis: Hacking Elections is Easy! Part One: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (link to .pdf).

Michael Isikoff reports for Yahoo News, FBI says foreign hackers penetrated state election systems:

The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert (.pdf) from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cybersecurity experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.

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