Arizona prop 100…yes or no?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 should be a date marked on your calendar if you live in Arizona. We will be weighing in on a very important proposition, Prop 100 (the temporary 1-cent sales tax), which will determine the fate of our public services and education over the next 3 years. Currently, our education, already staggering under serious budget cuts last year, is facing another blow which will truly cripple it beyond reasonable repair. Arizona currently ranks last in per-child funding nationwide. If Prop 100 passes, two-thirds of this funding will go directly to K-12 eduction with the remaining one-third funding health and human services and public safety. The sales tax would automatically repeal on May 31, 2013.
As much as I wish our problems could be solved by cutting back on government alone, we currently have a $3.2 billion structural deficit, meaning Arizona is not bringing in enough revenue to fund basic services.
There are some scary actions that are on the drawing board if Prop 100 fails. One such idea proposed by the Sheriff’s department is to begin retrofitting existing buildings like motels, hotels and even schools to house the overflow of prisoners. I wonder what this will do to property values in these areas…doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Tucson Unified School District is already looking to close nine of their neighborhood schools this fall as a direct result of the budget cuts already in place from last year. This one school district could face a $28.6 million deficit of Prop 100 fails. They have already announced layoffs of more than 60 administrators. What will happen if education gets another swipe of the budgetary ax?
Some of the cuts already in place from November of 2009 were $144 million mid-year cuts in the state’s K-12 soft capital budget which pays for books, technology and school busses. This is in addition to the $133 million cut from K-12 in January of 2009. Increased class sizes, fewer qualified and experienced teachers, non-existent teaching materials, and reduced or eliminated electives and special needs programs are just a few of the outcomes we will face if Prop 100 fails. According to the Arizona Education Network, we will face a funding crisis of a $428 million loss to K-12 alone. Traditional public schools can expect a total funding cut of $748,775,148 while public charter schools can expect a cut of $63,663,047 in total funding. Even if voters approve the 1-cent tax increase of Prop 100, the state will still face significant cuts to even come close to closing the budget gap. If you would like to see how this will directly affect your own school district, check out a report released by Governor Brewer’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting which provides district-by-district estimates of the impact of legislative budget cuts for 2011, showing effects both with and without the passage of Prop 100. If this doesn’t keep you up at night, I’m not sure what will.
Whether you choose to vote yes or no on this proposition, I would hope that you at least intend to vote. One of the saddest commentaries on our time is the low turnout when it comes to exercising our right to vote. Please take a stand and show up at the polls. As for myself, I intend to vote yes on Prop 100. As unfortunate as it is to advocate additional taxes in a recession, my passion lies with my kids education. I hate to face a future in which my children’s education will not just suffer but will seriously cripple them when it comes time to compete with other states graduates for a place in a good college or a decent job. This isn’t the best solution but as we are finding out with many things right now, it’s the only solution we have.
Please take a moment and weigh in at our forum discussion. This is one of those most difficult topics and one we will all have an opportunity to voice our opinions on come May 18th. Share your views with us so that we can view the topic from all perspectives and be educated going into the polls.