Sunday, March 20, 2016

Billionaires chip in millions to buy votes on Prop 123

You think that's harsh? Read this report in the Daily Star from Howard Fischer about the funding for PR favoring a "yes" vote on Prop 123.

Led by a pair of billionaires, proponents of Proposition 123 have raised more than $4 million so far to persuade voters to approve the measure.

If approved in a May 17 special election, the plan would pump $3.5 billion into public schools over the next decade. It also would bring an end to a lawsuit that schools and education groups filed against the state in 2010.

Reports filed as of the deadline late Friday showed the pro-123 forces had picked up $3.7 million from the time the campaign started through Feb. 23. That’s the last date for which they are required to account for donations.

But Capitol Media Services has identified another nearly $368,000 in major donations since that date.

To this point, there appears to be no active opposition, at least on the financial front. The one committee, organized by Tucsonan Andrew Gardner, reported taking in only $617.

Gardner said he hopes to do better once Arizona’s presidential preference election is over on Tuesday and voters begin to pay more attention to the May election. Still, he conceded he’s never going to come anywhere close to the war chest already amassed by backers.

“I don’t have any billionaires on speed dial,” Gardner said.

There are at least two billionaires in the pro-123 camp.

One is Bruce Halle, a Paradise Valley resident who is founder and chairman of the board of privately held Discount Tire Co. He wrote a $1 million check to the campaign in January. Forbes lists his net worth at $6 billion.

The campaign also got another $1 million in February from Bob and Renee Parsons. He is founder of the web-hosting site GoDaddy and, according to Forbes, is worth $2.3 billion.

[snip]

Education groups have lined up in support of the proposition, with the consensus being that a guarantee of getting at least some of what schools are owed is better than the alternative: dragging the lawsuit on for years — and possibly losing.

“There is no other way for this kind of money to get into the fiscal year this year, (to) protect inflation funding going forward,” said Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, when the deal was crafted. “We have capital needs; we’ve lost full-day kindergarten.”

Gardner, however, sees another side.

He pointed out that the plan would amend the Arizona Constitution to say that, beginning in 2024, lawmakers would not be required to increase aid to education to account for inflation any time K-12 funding exceeds 49 percent of the total state budget. And if it hits 50 percent, the Legislature actually can cut state aid.

That’s not a problem now, with current school spending at about 42 percent of state spending. But Gardner fears that figure could grow — and not because more dollars would be flowing to schools.

“The governor campaigned promising to cut taxes every single year,” he said, noting statements made by Doug Ducey during his successful gubernatorial race in 2014. Gardner said if those spending cuts reduce total state spending, it won’t take long for the school share of that to hit the 49 percent figure.

Christian Palmer, spokesman for the pro-123 campaign, said the cap is necessary.

“It’s there to protect the state’s ability to fund all the other vital services,” he said, especially if the economy tanks. And he brushed aside the possibility of someone “gaming” the system by cutting overall state spending, saying the education groups who are backing the ballot measure examined the provisions closely and are comfortable with them.

Aw, come on. Would "someone" game the system by cutting taxes and thus cutting state spending? And thus cut the ability to fund public K-12 in the future? And just who might that "someone" be?

Just wait until after the special election on May 17. Scriber predicts that that "someone" will come out with ideological sabers rattling and budgetary knives drawn. Vouchers for all? Deseg funding for none? Tax breaks forever?

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