Friday, April 22, 2016

Prop 123: "a pretend choice"

That's what Linda Valdez calls it in her column in The Republic / azcentral.com, "Prop. 123's real choice - a gun or a cliff". Here it is - as a bit of counterpoint to yesterday's posts in this blog.

Valdez starts with the choices we should be making.

Voters don’t have a choice in the special election on Proposition 123.

There is no option that says: “Use the budget surplus to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Increase sales tax to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Divert corporate tax cuts to fund education.”

This election is about being marched to the edge of the cliff with a gun to your head.

Either way, schools lose.

If this fails, GOP will say we don't care about schools

If you approve Proposition 123, you agree to tap the schools’ own trust fund to repay money lawmakers illegally withheld from schools, and you amend the state Constitution to keep our schools in the funding bargain basement.

If you reject Proposition 123, you leave our schools without desperately needed money.

Make no mistake: if voters reject Proposition 123, GOP politicians will use it against the public schools. They will insist Arizonans don’t want to fund education.

For Pete’s sake, they say that now – despite the fact that voters have repeatedly approved raising taxes for education.

Imagine the mischief they’ll make if this measure gets voted down.

Yet I can’t vote for Proposition 123.

But don't discount this: We're changing the constitution

It’s not just the unmitigated nerve of using the kids’ money to repay a debt to kids.

What bothers me most is changing the constitution to say if the cost of K-12 reaches 50 percent of the state budget our lawmakers can forget funding inflation that year and actually “reduce the base level” funding for K-12.

Schools currently make up 42 percent of the total budget in Arizona, a state where the ruling Republican Party is working to reduce the overall size of government. A cap on education funding is a dangerous thing.

All the TeaPublicans have to do is the keep reducing government in other areas and that cap will creep down on education.

Daniel G. Thatcher of the National Conference of State Legislatures says he’s unaware of such caps in any other state. A spread sheet he provided of K-12 expenditures in fiscal 2015 shows three states – Alabama, Indiana and Kansas – spent more than 50 percent of their general fund on education that year.

Arizona was among 16 states that spent between 40 and 49 percent.

Education is expensive.

Capping how much we can spend on our kids’ schools is a grotesque departure from the spirit of Article XI, section 10 of Arizona’s Constitution.

It says “the Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions . . . “

To be met by taxation. No caps.

There are better choices, if 'leaders' will make them

Instead of following the state Constitution -- and the previously expressed will of the voters -- Arizona’s ruling Republican Party is telling you: “Take this bad deal or get nothing.”

What’s more, Proposition 123 will create a second steep drop in funding before today’s kindergartners graduate.

The payout from Proposition 123 – the big $3.5 billion over 10 years – is temporary. In 2025, it’s over.

That comes a few years after the six-tenths of a cent sales tax for education that voters approved in 2000 ends in 2021.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a choice about education funding, they should be offering a ballot measure to extend that six-tenths sales tax.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a say in how we fund education, there should be real choices on the May 17 ballot.

Instead there is a pretend choice. The gun or the cliff.

Take your pick.

Or get serious and vote the lawless TeaPublicans out of office.

What continues to gnaw at me is this:

Capping how much we can spend on our kids’ schools is a grotesque departure from the spirit of Article XI, section 10 of Arizona’s Constitution.

It says “the Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions . . . “

To be met by taxation. No caps.

To vote "yes" on Prop 123, albeit unintended, puts one in alignment with the group of lawbreakers masquerading as a Legislature.

Silly law-breaking Legislators. They didn't need Prop 123. All they had to do was amend the state consitution to get rid of that pesky item highlighted above in bold print.

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