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Treasurer slams Ducey’s plan to use trust cash for schools

PHOENIX — Arizona’s state treasurer is criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to use cash in the state’s trust land account to temporarily boost funding for K-12 schools.

Treasurer Jeff DeWit said in a letter to lawmakers Tuesday that Ducey’s plan to use $1.8 billion in trust cash over five years starting in 2017 amounts to a raid on the principal of a fund designed to remain intact forever.

The state’s permanent land trust account stands at about $5.1 billion and pays schools about $80 million a year.

Schools would get between $320 million and $375 million in extra state funding for five years if the Legislature and voters approve Ducey’s plan in 2016.

Selling trust land to increase the trust fund and boost school payouts is a better plan, DeWit said.

Ducey disagreed.

“This is a common-sense plan that’s going to put over $2 billion into our K-12 public schools over the next 10 years,” Ducey said in a statement. “These are real dollars sitting in the bank that should be going to our students and our teachers.”

“This is a nonpartisan plan, and its projections have been validated by JLBC,” Ducey added, referring to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. “It’s a win for taxpayers, it’s a win for public schools and it’s the right thing to do for Arizona. When all the facts are presented to the Legislature and the people, we’re confident they will agree.”