Former Chief Justice Stanley Feldman: NO on Prop. 123


Former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman has penned an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star urging voters to vote no on Prop. 123. Stanley Feldman: Vote NO on Prop. 123:

StanleyFeldmanProposition 123 may sound like a good deal, but it’s not. In fact, almost all of Proposition 123’s supporters concede it’s a bad deal, and here are some reasons why:

1. Prop. 123 only pays about 70 percent of the amount the courts have already ruled is due the schools under Prop. 301, which the voters passed in 2000.

2. Of the future funding contemplated by Proposition 123, about two-thirds will come from the Arizona State Land Trust Fund that Congress established when Arizona became a state. Approximately 2½ percent of the annual earnings from trust land sales or rentals is paid to schools each year.

But Prop. 123 increases that to over 6 percent per year, thus depleting trust principal and depriving future generations of the security provided by the trust. It is truly a case of robbing Peter to pay Peter — using the schools’ money to pay the debt owed the schools.

3. Prop. 123 contains a number of so-called triggers enabling a future legislature to renege on its obligation to make future appropriations contemplated by Prop. 123.

The current legislative majority reneged on Prop. 301, which is how we got to this point, so who can say that future legislatures would not be as willing to violate the public trust?

4. Prop. 123 will not provide enough money to fix the underfunding problems created by our past and present legislatures. Its supports call it only the “first step.”

5. Prop. 123 may well violate the congressional act that enabled Arizona to become a state and that created the trust.

6. The state presently has an almost $1 billion budget surplus. If the Legislature and the governor want to fix our schools, they could and should give some of that to the schools right now.

7. Neither the governor nor the Legislature has bothered to tell us what they are going to do after we take the “first step” by passing Prop. 123. Gov. Doug Ducey has said that he’ll worry about that after it passes.

He has also said, and the 2016-17 budget contemplates, an approximately $30 million tax cut for next year. The governor has also pledged to never raise taxes. Where is the future money going to come from? Another raid on the trust fund?

Almost all of Prop. 123’s proponents concede that, standing alone, it is a bad deal and will not provide enough money to schools. But, they argue, it is a “first step,” and future legislatures will go forward to appropriate needed funding.

What possible basis is there to believe that a legislative majority and administration that have starved the schools in the past will experience some sort of epiphany and reverse course?

Given the position of the Governor and current legislative majority, any hope that they will cure the problem is pure fantasy. We need to do a lot better, and we need to do it the way Arizona’s founders envisioned for our schools.

Let’s follow through with what the taxpayers ordered in 2000 with Prop. 301 and fight it out in the courts, which have already held that the Legislature must obey Prop. 301.

Let’s not indulge in this fantasy that the current legislative majority and the Governor will do what is necessary to solve the problem.

If they were willing to do that, they would have done what they were commanded to do in Prop. 301 or could have allocated some of the current $1 billion surplus for our schools.

Vote ‘no’ on 123.

Maybe the editors of our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star (“All the news that Jim Click decides is fit to print“) should have consulted with Justice Feldman, a brilliant jurist, before writing their cynical editorial in support of Prop. 123 on Sunday. It’s not too late to reconsider.

For more about Justice Feldman, see this 2013 profile from Inside Tucson Business. The story of the honorable Stanley G. Feldman (h/t photo).


  1. I really wish the voters in this state would pay attention to what is happening. Unfortunately I fear this will only pass because it sounds good to the average and uninformed Arizonan. All of this nonsense needs to be stopped and the wack jobs who continue to lie, cheat, and steal their way to power off the backs of voters with good intentions need to be thrown out. The Gov knows this will pass and then the voters will not pay attention to what really happens to the money because they assume the Leg will do the right thing. These are truly bad people.

    • I wish voters had a clue as well. I think it will pass, then go to court, nothing will go to schools, and in the end, this will fail.

      Costing the state another few million in legal fees, while education in the state suffers.

      The AZ GOTeaP is a scam that is not interested in governing, they want to tear it all down and put up a Walmart.

      • Arizona voters typically are skeptical about legislative referenda like this. However, the Koch influence has upped the game this time by coercing teachers with a fantastical con game. I hope enough voters realize the con before it’s too late.

        In addition to Justice Feldman’s concerns, I am extremely bothered by what the legislature is asking voters to forfeit in terms of rights to challenge the legislature in the future.

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