Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “A budget is a moral document.”
Governor Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona had an op-ed in The Arizona Republican this weekend in which he asserts that Arizona schools win big in my budget. This guy is raising GOPropganda to a new art form.
Governor Ducey’s assertion was met with incredulity from The Republic’s Laurie Roberts. Seriously, Gov. Ducey? $8 million for universities?
But the best response I have seen to the Governor’s amoral budget is a Sunday editorial from the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff: “Tell us you’re kidding.” Ducey budget misaligned with his stated priorities:
Dear Gov. Ducey:
Tell us you’re kidding.
–Tell us you’re kidding when you increase university funding only $8 million after pledging more resources for higher education in your State of the State address following last year’s cut of $99 million.
–Tell us you are kidding when your budget holds K-12 per-pupil state funding flat after promising to get Arizona well beyond 49th in in the nation.
–Tell us you are kidding when you budget $17.6 million for 1,000 more private prison beds after floating sentencing reform as a way to reduce the prison population.
–Tell us you are kidding when you leave staffing at the Department of Water Resources cut in half from before the recession after pledging to protect and enhance Arizona’s water supplies.
MORE FOR BORDER
–Tell us you are kidding when you budget just $10 million a year for technical education after cutting it by $30 million last year but promising employers to prepare students better for new workforce demands.
–Tell us you are kidding when you can find $31.5 million for a Border Strike Task Force but not a single extra dollar for community colleges after pledging to strengthen career education.
–Tell us you are kidding when you commit to 2,000 additional private prison beds with built-in payment guarantees but find no way to backfill prior cuts in education because “We can’t let government make long-term commitments that it may not be able to keep.”
In other words, please explain the disconnect between your rhetoric and the bottom line in your FY 2017 budget. On a spending plan of $9.6 billion (up from $9.3 billion this year), there will be an estimated year-end surplus of more than $620 million, plus $460 million in the Rainy Day Fund. That’s a billion dollars, which just about equals the combined annual amount that Arizona cut from K-12 and state university funding compared with 2008 – the most proportionately in the nation.
We know you are counting on voters to approve Prop. 123, which would restore inflation funding to K-12 schools ordered by the courts (but only if the economy holds up) and tap the state land trust fund for a total of about $360 million extra a year for a decade. But the state spends $4 billion a year on schools, so that’s an increase of 8 percent. Some experts say it will still leave Arizona in 49th place.
And then there’s the expiration in 2021 of another voter-approved school-funding initiative, Prop. 201, which pumps about $400 million a year into the schools. If that is not renewed, then Prop. 123 is zeroed out for its last five years – and so far we have not heard you commit to supporting an extension.
PROBLEM OF TRUST
Our problem, at base, is one of trust. How can we believe what you say when your financial priorities are so misaligned with your rhetoric? If you and Republican legislative leaders would simply come out and say you are willing to bet the ranch that Arizona education at all levels can remain among the most poorly funded in the nation and the state will still come out on top in high-quality jobs and a healthy environment and quality of life, we’d at least be able to have a more straightforward conversation. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has done just that, with draconian tax cuts that were supposed to stimulate private investment and job growth and allow government reinvestment in key educational, health and social programs. The fact that it hasn’t worked out doesn’t mean Brownback is untrustworthy, just that he is wrong about trickle-down economics that goes too far, too fast.
We would say to you, governor, that Arizona has reduced its investment in its human capital about as far as it can before crash-landing — further tax cuts are not going to prevent it. If you really mean what you say about bringing world-class businesses, engineers, physicians, scientists and educators to Arizona, you now have the budget resources to start the ball rolling — even more if you stop building more prisons. Every other state except Mississippi has figured out how to do it better. A state budget is a window on the values of the leaders who produce it. Stop kidding around and let’s see some real Arizona values put to work.
For Arizona’s “education leaders” who hoped that the Governor would be adding more education funding over and above what he has proposed in the double theft of Prop. 123, this is a betrayal of their unwarranted trust. They should have known better than to trust this man, and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature.
There is only one solution to Arizona’s fiscal problems and that is the defeat of every lawless Tea-Publican legislator. Sometimes its takes a crisis reaching critical mass before people finally wake up and are willing to act to do what is necessary. Let’s hope that 2016 is that election.