That's what I call Proposition 123, the BFDeal on public education funding: Ducey's Choice. It's Sophie's Choice redux. We can starve the kids of today or starve the kids of tomorrow. The mechanism is raiding the state land trust - you know - the money that already belongs to education - to fund education. The goal, really, is to help Guv Doozey to hew to his promise of tax breaks for the rich. David Safier at TucsonWeekly/TheRange explains. (This one is so good that I'm reprinting the full text for you.)
Here's what pisses me off about the whole Prop. 123 thing.
On the plus side, Arizona's public schools stand to receive over $300 million a year which has been denied them for years if Prop. 123 passes and the state is allowed to dip further into the state land trust funds than is currently allowed. If it doesn't pass, we climb back on that old merry-go-round where the court orders the legislature to pay what it owes the schools and the Republican majority folds its arms and says, "You can't make me." Which is true, the courts can't literally force the state to pay up the money it owes, and it's unlikely the courts will even tighten the screws much because they know how likely it is an angry governor and legislature will bring vengeance down on their heads. If Prop. 123 fails, the stalemate will continue for years with mounting court costs on all sides and not a penny of that money the state owes going to the schools.
On the minus side, that state land trust money which will be tapped if Prop. 123 passes is already designated for children's educations, so basically, the children will be paid from their own inheritance, not from new money. That means less money in the fund for education in the future. But even though I don't like that scenario much, I'm willing to live with it, because the schools are really, really hurting for funds—need I say again that we're 48th, 49th or 50th in per student spending?—and I can't deny this current crop of students the benefit of even a small financial boost. And remember, the $300 million-plus is only a small boost in funding. Need I say again it won't lift us even one place on the per student funding list?
On the even more minus side, the pro-Prop 123 group has already raised nearly half a million dollars for its campaign and has set its sights on raising as much as three or four million total. Where do you raise that kind of money? From deep pockets, of course, the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the state. According to the Capitol Times, that includes:
- $150,000 from Greater Phoenix Leadership chaired by Sharon Harper, president and CEO of Plaza Companies
- $75,000 from the Salt River Project
- $25,000 each from Developer Edward Robson and his company, Robson Communities Inc. [This is Scriber's favorite given my residence in a Robson development.]
- $44,500 from Sunstate Equipment President Michael Watts and his wife, Cindy
- $25,000 from the Southern Arizona Leadership Council
- $10,000 from the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Authority
Now, I'm sure all these people will tell you, with heads tilted to one side and a hint of tears glistening in their eyes, how much they support public education. And probably there's some truth in the claim, for some of them anyway. But, really? All these people are willing to spend all that money because of how much they love other people's children? Uh, uh. When lots of rich people pitch lots of money into political fights, it tends to be because they stand to benefit personally. And the way these rich folks stand to benefit is from the tax breaks Gov. Ducey has promised them. So what could be better? Give other people' kids the money up front that was being saved for their futures and free up the state budget surplus for those tax breaks, which will be worth a whole lot more than these folks are ponying up to help pass Prop. 123.
So here I am, on the same side as the one-percenters because I want to guarantee more money for schools and they want generous tax breaks for themselves. And that's what pisses me off about this whole thing. Because right now, the rich aren't paying their fair share in Arizona. In fact, they pay a lower percentage of their incomes in combined state taxes than people in the bottom 20 percent. And they want to pay even less when they should actually be paying significantly more, which would allow taxes to remain stable for the rest of the population while schools, social services, road repair and a host of other underfunded state items get a much-needed infusion of dollars, and we wouldn't need to raid the land trust fund to boost state funding on education.
Am I wrong to accuse Ducey and his rich friends of supporting Prop. 123 for their own personal financial gain? I doubt it. But I would love to be proved wrong. If Ducey and the legislature's Republican majority pass a significant increase in the amount they allocate for public school education in the state budget, I'll be happy—delighted, in fact—to admit I misjudged them.
You see the perfidy in Ducey's Choice? Reasonable people, all squarely on the side of properly funding public education, will come down on opposite sides of the vote on Proposition 123. Safier gulps and votes for more money now. Scriber gulps and votes to protect students in the longer run. That's how Ducey's Choice is designed to work. Safier gets nailed for voting against the future. Scriber gets nailed for voting against teachers' pay raises now.
I propose a slogan for the Prop 123 campaign.
One. Two. Three. Tax Breaks for Me.