AZ Guv Doozey (aka Dicey Ducey) swung a great deal -- for him.
Jim Nintzel at TucsonWeekly.com/The Range reviews the deal and, along with many of the rest of us, concludes that the major beneficiaries are not students and teachers. It looks good for the moment, but in the not-so-distant future, there will be less money from the state land trust and the real possibility that our beloved Lege will not be willing to make up the difference.
The deal—which will have to be approved by voters next May—is fairly complex, but the most troubling element is how much of the state land trust dollars will be diverted to ongoing education expenses.
The state land trust now basically pays out the interest that is earned from the trust, which grows as state land is sold or leased and the proceeds are deposited in the trust. (It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.) The idea, which dates back to statehood, is that the land trust would grow in perpetuity while providing annual payouts for the schools.
Today, the trust is worth about $6 billion. In 10 years, if you leave the current rules in place, it’ll be worth about $9 billion and will generate about $180 million a year for schools. If you go forward with Ducey’s plan, in 10 years the trust will be worth a little more than it’s worth today—and will only generate $100 million a year for schools. (All of those numbers are estimates that depend on how much land is sold over the next decade, what happens with the stock market, etc.)
... Never before have state leaders moved to get such short-term gain over long-term growth with the state land trust dollars.
But that is a political win for Il Ducey and his GOPlin hordes. Why, you ask?
Ducey gets to brag that his deal settles the education-funding lawsuit without raising taxes—and a resistance to raising any taxes under any circumstances remains at the top of Ducey’s agenda. And what using the trust dollars really does is open the door for Ducey to argue once again that the state can afford more tax cuts that will, if past experience is any indication, primarily go to Arizona’s wealthiest residents. Watch and see.
Once again AZ kicks the fiscal can down the road -- and this time it kicks kids.