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Opinion: No more plans to fix Arizona schools until we track the money

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The voter-approved Proposition 301 — almost a full 1 percent increase of our sales taxes that was supposed to go to schools — is set to expire in 2021.

This money was supposed to fix our state’s underfunded education system, but let’s face it, our state legislators were involved so the funds didn’t fix anything.

Last year, voters approved Proposition 123 to raid our state’s land trust for much-needed classroom funding and teacher salaries. Now that we know Prop. 123 was as big of a hoodwink as Prop. 301, what do we do now?

Some Arizona business leaders think they have a solution and are taking the state’s education funding ball and running with it.

It seems they’re thinking, “If the governor and state legislators can’t get it done, we sure can.”

So how do they plan on fixing Arizona’s education funding problems? By extending Prop. 301 indefinitely and almost tripling the current sales tax increase to 1.5 percent.

On the surface, I applaud our state business leaders in the private sector for stepping up and trying to get something done where the public sector has failed.

But then I would like to welcome each of them to our lovely state, as it appears that they are new arrivals. Arizona is the Michael Jordan of misappropriating school and education funds.

Arizona parents and taxpayers have been hoodwinked for decades with proposition after proposition promising teacher and classroom funding. Every proposition has been “all about the kids.”

The irony in state business leaders proposing a higher tax for Arizona citizens is that they were just handed several tax decreases and incentives by Gov. Doug Ducey!

The governor supports an extension but is using word play to make it more evil palatable.

“Things haven’t changed — there are not going to be any new taxes,” he said. “This is a funding program, and we’re going to continue a funding program.”

So if you’re scoring at home, businesses are paying less in taxes and asking us taxpayers to pay more, or as Ducey calls it, a “funding program.”

On that issue, I have a proposal: If state business leaders would like our sales taxes to increase 1.5 percent, they should go first. Put your money where your mouth is.

If you want Arizona taxpayers to put more skin in the game, you first. How about a 1.5 percent tax increase on your taxable business income?

Where this idea seems to jump the shark is in its timing: There has been no hard date for when they want to send this to the voters. The governor and state legislators are pushing back on including it on the 2018 ballot because they’re afraid it will hurt their chances of reelection.

Why would it hurt their chances for reelection? Probably because they know that Arizona voters are tired of legislators coming to the taxpayer well. Voters are tired of coughing up more money that doesn’t end up in the hands of teachers and in their classroom.

Maybe, just maybe, they would have to admit that Prop. 123 was just another fleecing and not a solution to fix our state education funding problem. They would have to admit that they lied to us.

Again.

Finally, there is nothing in this proposal that mentions who would write the legislation.

If Arizona voters know one thing, it’s that our state legislators cannot be trusted with any piece of education funding!

The business leaders behind the proposal have to understand the history that’s involved here. They have to understand the frustration of parents and taxpayers in the state. We are sick and tired of paying more in taxes that go everywhere except teachers and classrooms.

Enough is enough.

I’ll wrap with a piece of advice for these business leaders as they move forward with raising support for a Prop. 301 expansion:

  • If you want this to pass, you need to step up and give the state back at least 1.5 percent of the cuts that you were given by Ducey.
  • You need to guarantee that 1.5 percent payback will go directly to teachers and classrooms.
  • You need to propose this increase will expire in 2021 and show an accounting of the money going directly to teachers and classrooms.

Then you can ask us for any indefinite extension.

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