Doing right by Arizona’s children

1-2-3Early voting in the May Special Election for Props. 123 and 124 is underway.

The Arizona Republic fka The Arizona Republican did its best to support Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, with a back-handed endorsement of Prop. 123. Prop. 123 isn’t a bad deal – it’s a good start:

Voters who support Proposition 123 should do so with the expectation that Ducey will aggressively push for additional funding for our schools. They should be prepared to demand it in no uncertain terms.

So vote yes and hope that the man who slashed education funding in his first budget, and the man who has not yet revealed the budget for this year being negotiated in secret behind closed doors with the GOP leadership, is suddenly going to have a Saul on the road to Damascus conversion (Acts 9:1-19) to becoming the champion of public education funding?

That’s asking for blind faith in a man who has demonstrated time and again that he is unworthy of such blind faith and trust.

Republic Columnist Elvia Diaz makes a similar argument: Diaz: Making the case against Prop.123 and still voting for it: “Vote yes on Prop. 123 and vote out all politicians who refuse to fund public schools.”

Why the future tense, Elvia? Why not vote out of office every lawless Tea-Publican legislator who stole the Prop. 301 money from Arizona’s school districts for years, and when the court ruled that they were a den of thieves who had to pay restitution to the school districts for their criminal  theft, refused to pay the lawful judgment and instead conjured up Prop. 123, which steals from another pot of money that already belongs to the school districts to pay them only 70% of what is owed on the judgment with their own money? (with triggers that allow our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor to renege on this deal as well, while making changes to the Arizona Constitution that will keep Arizona’s schools at the bottom of funding).

The proper formulation, Elvia, is for you to say “Vote yes on Prop. 123 and vote out every Republican who refused to fund public schools in November.”  That’s what  you really meant to say, wasn’t it Elvia?

A pair of Republic columnists wandered off the reservation from their paper’s editorial endorsement of Prop. 123. E.J. Montini writes, Montini: Exposing the Prop. 123 scam in six words:

Proposition 123 is a con game.

Remember the old expression that talks about “robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

Prop. 123 is worse than that, or, in six words:

It’s robbing Peter to pay … Peter.

And in this particular political flimflam “Peter” is our kids. And their kids.

Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature want to compensate for some of the tax money they’ve withheld from education for years – money they were legally obligated to commit – by taking money from the state land trust.

The land trust is the remaining nine million-plus acres of land that Arizona got at statehood. Income from the sales and leases of that land is meant to help finance things like education — forever. Proponents of Prop. 123 want to sell off a bunch of extra land over the next 10 years. They say that passing the proposition will bring billions of new dollars into education over those years and not raise taxes.

PiggyBankThat’s true. All we need to do is rob our children’s piggy bank.

Something we wouldn’t need to do if the Legislature hadn’t broken the law for years.

Back in 2000 Arizona voters passed Proposition 301, which created a sales tax to fund education. The legislature ignored the law, using the money from the tax for other things. Schools took the Legislature to court. The state Supreme Court said the Legislature must pay back the money. The Legislature ignored the ruling, dragging out the court case. Gov. Ducey agrees with them, and now is using Prop. 123 as a way to settle that lawsuit.

shell-game-1It’s a shell game.

They’re playing us for suckers.

Five former state treasurers say so. So do The League of Women Voters, who call what lawmakers have done a “fraud on the people.”

The state has a big surplus of funds. But if lawmakers used that money for education they’d probably be unable to continue giving nice fat tax breaks to their corporate pals.

[The [budget] spreadsheets show a $30 million tax-cut package. Ducey hasn’t announced details of his promised tax-cut proposal this year. Several other tax-cut bills that lawmakers have already introduced come close to that total by themselves. Playing the Arizona budget waiting game.]

Even if Prop. 123 passes there’s no guarantee it will be implemented. It could be challenged in court.

Former State Treasurer Dean Martin told lawmakers, “You’re trying to settle and inflation lawsuit on education, and you’re going to end up with an inflation lawsuit on the trust fund.”

* * *

We know deep down it’s not the best thing to do. Not the right thing. But the governor and the other people selling the idea make it seem so…easy.

Which is exactly why con games work.

Finally, Republic columnist Linda Valdez writes, Prop. 123’s real choice – a gun or a cliff:

Voters don’t have a choice in the special election on Proposition 123.

There is no option that says: “Use the budget surplus to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Increase sales tax to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Divert corporate tax cuts to fund education.”

This election is about being marched to the edge of the cliff with a gun to your head.

Either way, schools lose.

If you approve Proposition 123, you agree to tap the schools’ own trust fund to repay money lawmakers illegally withheld from schools, and you amend the state Constitution to keep our schools in the funding bargain basement.

If you reject Proposition 123, you leave our schools without desperately needed money.

Make no mistake: if voters reject Proposition 123, GOP politicians will use it against the public schools. They will insist Arizonans don’t want to fund education.

For Pete’s sake, they say that now – despite the fact that voters have repeatedly approved raising taxes for education.

Imagine the mischief they’ll make if this measure gets voted down.

Yet I can’t vote for Proposition 123.

It’s not just the unmitigated nerve of using the kids’ money to repay a debt to kids.

What bothers me most is changing the constitution to say if the cost of K-12 reaches 50 percent of the state budget our lawmakers can forget funding inflation that year and actually “reduce the base level” funding for K-12.

Schools currently make up 42 percent of the total budget in Arizona, a state where the ruling Republican Party is working to reduce the overall size of government. A cap on education funding is a dangerous thing.

Daniel G. Thatcher of the National Conference of State Legislatures says he’s unaware of such caps in any other state. A spread sheet he provided of K-12 expenditures in fiscal 2015 shows three states – Alabama, Indiana and Kansas – spent more than 50 percent of their general fund on education that year.

Arizona was among 16 states that spent between 40 and 49 percent.

Capping how much we can spend on our kids’ schools is a grotesque departure from the spirit of Article XI, section 10 of Arizona’s Constitution.

It says “the Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions . . . “

To be met by taxation. No caps.

Instead of following the state Constitution — and the previously expressed will of the voters — Arizona’s ruling Republican Party is telling you: “Take this bad deal or get nothing.”

What’s more, Proposition 123 will create a second steep drop in funding before today’s kindergartners graduate.

The payout from Proposition 123 – the big $3.5 billion over 10 years – is temporary. In 2025, it’s over.

That comes a few years after the six-tenths of a cent sales tax for education that voters approved in 2000 ends in 2021.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a choice about education funding, they should be offering a ballot measure to extend that six-tenths sales tax.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a say in how we fund education, there should be real choices on the May 17 ballot.

Instead there is a pretend choice. The gun or the cliff.

Take your pick.

There is one thread that holds all of these opinions together: “hold them accountable.”

Yet Arizona voters have failed to do so. Republican leaning voters vote out of tribalism for anyone with an “(R)” behind their name on the ballot, with no thought to the consequences. They are recklessly irresponsible.

Even worse, the majority of Arizonans did not even vote in the 2014 election. Among the worst performing voter demographic: teachers, the very public servants being systematically abused by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature.

Yet teachers are so desperate for any crumbs to fall from the GOP table that they are now making ads for Prop. 123: “Please help. We’re starving.” It is Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their abusers. I pity them.

There is only one real answer: a wholesale house cleaning of the lawless Tea-Publican legislators responsible for this crime. Hold them accountable for their crime, and elect a Democratic state legislature in November.

This will give a Democratic state legislature am indisputable voter mandate — Republicans have controlled the Arizona legislature for the past 50 years — a mandate to settle the lawsuit on more favorable terms to the school districts, and to adequately fund public education as the Arizona Constitution commands, by raising taxes if necessary. The only thing standing in the way of doing right by our children are the lawless Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature (and those who aid and abet them). Governor Ducey would be rendered a lame duck.

You, the voters of this state, have in your hands the power to hold these lawless criminals  accountable for their crime, if only you would exercise your vote to do so. Do it for our children’s future. Elect a Democratic legislature in November.

8 responses to “Doing right by Arizona’s children

  1. The Senator is correct in that all of the sales tax money was/is disbursed correctly. It is the part of the proposition that states the inflation funding of 2% or inflation, whichever is less shall be appropriated.
    So, the Senator understood what you were writing about but chose to make an asinine argument.

  2. I’ll vote no.

  3. Rich Weinroth

    Prop 123 is a rotten apple. Don’t fall for it. Any additional funds that go to education from the Trust will ultimately be removed by the legislature making a corresponding reduction in education appropriations. If voters seriously want to solve the funding problem with education, there should be a referendum providing a dedicated source of education revenues (such as a portion of the sales tax along with revenues from the trust) administered by a completely independent body with no connection to the legislature, something akin to the Independent Redistricting Commission. That way the legislature has no ability to continue to sabotage the voters clear intent to provide sufficient funds to eduction. Some clever group of attorneys with experience in governmental funding and Arizona proposition law should draft such a proposition and have it ready for the next election. In the meantime, this proposition needs to be defeated.

  4. Sen. John Kavanagh

    The legislature did not misappropriate one cent of Property 301 sales tax money. Every cent went into segregated funds that the legislature had no control over. Where do you people get your facts?

    • Paul Stapleton-Smith

      Mr. Kavanagh,
      Do you dispute that this legislature failed to appropriate voter-approved funding under Prop 301? Do you dispute any of the facts cited above? Please inform us, the people that employ as our public servant, why you underfunded our public schools. And why, Mr. Kava agh, this elaborate constitutional amendment? All other legislatures funded our schools from the general fund. Please tell us your true intent. Do you intend to privatize our public schools? Does this brutal “take it or leave it, I don’t give a damn what the Arizona Constitution or the Arizona Courts find” position of yours include any level of candor and honesty? Or do you equivocate and cherry pick to avoid being honest? You sir, are a tough guy. Tough ex-cop. No -nonsense pragmatist. Straight talker. How about you stand up with honor and declare what your actual intentions are?

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      The Arizona Supreme Court ruled against you, and ordered the legislature to pay restitution. The only remaining question is the amount of the judgment owed.

  5. Sometimes you have to compromise and settle for half a loaf. But we should settle, even be grateful, for crumbs. If this goes through most of the money will be siphoned to charter/private schools. True public schools and teachers will, at best, get a very temporary bump in funding. Vote “No”.

  6. Carolyn Classen

    Early ballots have arrived in the mail. Consider what the League of Women Voters has decided on Prop. 123: http://blogforarizona.net/league-of-women-voters-of-arizona-opposes-prop-123/