Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Opposition to Prop 123 grows, so does cash to fund the Prop 123 campaign

My own statement of opposition will not appear in the pamphlet that gets sent to each household with a registered voter. It wasn't the content, it was a legal technicality: my signature was not notarized. Now I know. And next time I will get the correct information publicized which the main AZ media did not do. And the Secretary of State office did not have informing the public "on their radar." But I digress.

Here are two items of news about the "education deal" pushed by Il Duce and and his strange bedfellows (aka education organizations and business leaders). First, opponents are lining up with many opposed because the deal takes from future education to fund present education. Second, the cash is rolling in to fund the campaign to convince voters that the raid on the land is a good deal.

The story about the opposition to Prop 123 was reprinted in this morning's Daily Star from Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), the version I will quote here.

Opposition is building to a measure that slid through the Legislature that asks voters to approve a plan to tap a trust account to boost education funding.

More than four dozen statements in opposition to Proposition 123 were submitted to Secretary of State Michele Reagan. They will be included in a pamphlet that will be mailed to the homes of all registered voters ahead of the May 17 special election.

The list of foes is not quite like the veritable Who’s Who in business, politics and education, all of whom submitted their own statements in support. That includes Gov. Doug Ducey, House Speaker David Gowan, Arizona Education Association President Andrew Morrill and an assortment of business leaders.

All cite the same theme of getting more money into classrooms without raising taxes.

Opponents, however, point up what they see as flaws in the measure. But the question remains whether they can mount any organized opposition to what promises to be a well-financed campaign.
At this point the de facto leader appears to be state Treasurer Jeff DeWit.

But DeWit is facing a well financed foe.

He already is at a financial disadvantage: Campaign finance reports show proponents already have collected more than $483,000 in donations of $10,000 or more.

The treasurer is already looking at ways to attack the plan. And at the center of that is that much of the financing for the $3.5 billion that would be provided to schools over the next decade will come from the trust account already set aside for education.

Public schools already get close to $100 million a year from the account, which consists of proceeds of the sale and lease of land the federal government gave Arizona when it became a state. Proposition 123 would more than double that for the next decade.

DeWit said that’s not financially sound and will result in less aide to schools long term.
But if all the math is too complicated, DeWit has a simpler message.

He pointed out that a majority of the pro-123 statements included in the pamphlet, each at a cost of $75, were paid for by business groups — “somebody that would benefit from the corporate tax cuts that raiding the school trust will give them.”

Those opposing Prop 123 do so for various reasons. Here is an example.

Dave Braun, a Phoenix Democrat running for the Legislature, paid his $75 to put in his two cents in opposition. His ballot statement calls the plan a “gimmick” to raid the land trust … so the governor can claim he spent more money on education without raising taxes when he runs for reelection or for president.”

Braun said he thinks the schools, who agreed to the deal to end the 2010 lawsuit, got taken, especially once the Supreme Court said lawmakers had illegally ignored the inflation mandate. He compared it to someone who robs a bank of $100,000 and then agrees to refund $50,000 under the condition of not going to jail.

“The deal returns, as far as I can see … somewhere between one half and two-thirds of the money that should have been paid to the schools,” Braun said.

Campaign finance filings show nearly half a million dollars already raised in support of Prop 123 - all in large donations of $10,000 - again reported by the Arizona Capitol Times.

As always, we need to ask who benefits and then follow the money.

According to its disclosures to the Secretary of State’s Office, Let’s Vote Yes for Arizona’s Schools, the campaign for Prop. 123, has raised about $484,000 since late November. The campaign has spent about $11,000 so far. The campaign reported its fundraising under a law requiring swift disclosure of all contributions and expenditures of at least $10,000, though some of its reported contributions and expenditures fell below that threshold.

By far the largest contributor is Greater Phoenix Leadership, which gave $150,000 to the Prop. 123 campaign. Plaza Companies president and CEO Sharon Harper, the campaign chairman, also chairs the GPL board of directors. Her company also contributed $15,000 to the campaign.

Other business and civic groups contributed as well. The Southern Arizona Leadership Council contributed $25,000, while the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Authority gave $10,000.

Salt River Project was the second largest contributor, chipping in $75,000. Developer Edward Robson and his company, Robson Communities Inc., each gave $25,000 to the campaign. And Sunstate Equipment President Michael Watts and his wife, Cindy, contributed $44,500. Numerous other individuals and businesses contributed between $10,000 and $25,000 to the campaign.

J.P. Twist, a staffer for Gov. Doug Ducey who will serve as the Prop. 123 campaign manager, has said he expects the campaign to raise between $3 million and $4 million.

I smell tax breaks in the air.

Voters will cast their ballots on Prop. 123 in a May 17 special election. The measure would provide an additional $3.5 billion in K-12 education funding over the course of 10 years, about $2.2 billion of which would come from increased distributions from the state’s Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund. It would also implement economic “triggers” allowing the state to suspend or rescind inflation-based funding increases to K-12 education during fiscal downturns.

Those are two good reasons to oppose Prop 123.

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