Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ducey signs K-12 Kicking Kids funding deal, Republicans ecstatic over education fix, Dems' response mixed

Before I get into the reports on the deal, I will go out onto a limb and make some predictions. First, the voters will likely get on board and approve the deal. That gets everybody, the Guv, the lege, both political parties, the education groups, and the public off the hook. The common decision is to rob from the kids of the future to pay an inadequate sum to the kids of today. Second, the Guv will pursue his anti tax agenda and use budgetary surplus to fund it. Relatedly, there will be a renewed push for a flat tax in the lege. Now read on and tell me if what follows leads to any other conclusions.

Here is the update on the education funding bills signed by Doozey. Snippets are from The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required); the Daily Star ran the story on its front page this morning.

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a $3.5 billion education spending proposal that legislators gave final approval to earlier today, finalizing a plan that, if voters approve in May 2016, will settle a longstanding lawsuit against the state.

All three of the bills and resolutions comprising the settlement received bipartisan support in the Senate, though most Democrats chose to vote only for the bill that appropriates funding to schools, while casting futile no votes against measures that ask voters approve changes to the Constitution and authorize a special election, estimated to cost $9.3 million, to do so.

Yesterday, Democrats in the House did the same thing.

Republicans applauded the measure, calling it a cause for celebration, and chastising Democrats for voting yes for aspects of the deal while still taking time to criticize the negotiated settlement.

A central feature of the deal was the raid on the state land trust. Democrats, like Sen. Steve Farley, and state Treasurers, past and current (Republican Jeff DeWit), opposed taking that money because it dips into the principal. Doing that will reduce future earnings and leave K-12 in worse shape in the future.

The Republicans, like Senate majority leader Andy "Littles" Biggs, crowed about what a great deal it is while disparaging or just dismissing criticism.

Now the voters will decide two issues on May 17th.

The entire package is conditional upon voter approval. If voters don’t approve the constitutional changes at a statewide special election on May 17, the schools won’t see an additional penny.

Already the campaign to secure voter approval is cranking up.

The Legislature may have approved the settlement, but there is still work to be done. Ducey announced that Plaza Companies CEO Sharon Harper, who also chairs the Greater Phoenix Leadership board of directors, will chair the campaign for the May 17 special election. Harper said she was honored that Ducey chose her to lead the effort.

"Now it is up to the voters to do their part and conclude the Legislature’s actions by voting yes for our schools, yes for our teachers, yes for our children," she said.

Not surprisingly, over at Blog for Arizona AZBlueMeanie is highly critical of the deal.

Now it is up to you, the voters. And maybe a legal challenge filed by State Treasurer Jeff DeWit to protect the beneficiaries of the state land trust for education from what he deems an "illegal" diminishment of trust assets.

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