Thursday, February 18, 2016

Republicans Take Credit For Giving Back What They Took Away

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 1:15 PM

Here's a great tip for folks who want to look like generous parents in their friends' eyes without spending a dime. Go into your children's room and take away a few of their most expensive toys. Then when Christmas rolls around, wrap up the toys and give them back to your kids. Be sure to put a picture of the "gifts" on the annual Christmas card you send out to impress your friends.

Where did I get this great idea, you may ask. From Governor Ducey and Republican legislators, of course. Look at the JTED funding bill just passed by the lege and signed by the governor. Last year, they took away $30 million dollars in JTED funding. This year they gave back $29 million. And they want us to believe this shows they support education. Look at Proposition 123. In 2009, they took away more than $300 million a year in education funding. Now they want to give 70 percent of it back, mostly from money that already belongs to the students. And Ducey expects to be congratulated for his generosity.

When I saw the battle between Arizona's Senate and House Republicans over bragging rights for restoring the JTED funding, I almost ignored it. Typical election year posturing, I thought, nothing to see here. But this fight was unusually heated. When the Senate made a correction to the House bill, which made it a Senate bill, the House Republicans were apoplectic. "We want the credit! We demand the credit!" they screamed. So near they end of SB 1525, they added a section saying, "Restoring funding to JTEDs and implementing accountability measures to the programs was an important priority of members of the Arizona House of Representatives." And they took what is, so far as I know, the unprecedented step of putting the names of its 56 supporters in the bill—which, I should add, includes the names of Democrats as well as Republicans.

Why so much fuss about getting the primary credit for restoring JTED funds? Isn't it enough to say you voted for it? Apparently not. The Arizona voters have said education is a top priority, and they're even willing to raise taxes to increase funding. A survey of CEOs indicates they think our education system is one of the main stumbling blocks to economic growth, more important than taxes and regulations. The only thing that's more important to Republicans than appearing pro education is not spending any more on education than they absolutely have to. So they're hit on a solution. Take credit for adding JTED funding when in fact you're simply restoring the money you cut, less a million dollars. Take credit for adding $3.5 billion over ten years to education funding, when in fact you're following a court order to restore voter-mandated money to education, less 30 percent, and using money that doesn't come out of the state budget. When Ducey pats himself on the back for Proposition 123, he's always sure to add, "And we didn't raise taxes to do it." That's the point: pretend to spend more money on education but be sure not to add a penny in state taxes.

Maybe it'll work, I don't know. Maybe the illegal 2009 education money grab is ancient history that no one cares about. Maybe restoring JTED funds you voted to take away a year ago makes you a hero. If I were the state Democratic party or a Democratic elected official, I'd be doing what I could to make sure people know the Republicans aren't advocates for public education. They're not going the extra mile for our children. They're only giving back some of what they took away. I'd be saying, "Show us some new education funding." 

BONUS DUCEY BACK PATTING UPDATE: This morning I received a bulk email from Ducey's office congratulating him for signing the JTED restoration bill, giving him credit for "adding significant, real dollars to K-12 education" and thanking the legislators "for working swiftly and in good faith to put our kids first." Remember, it was his budget proposal that cut JTED funding last year, and it was his idea to restore only a third of the funding—$10 million a year over three years—and only if businesses matched the funds. The only reason Ducey caved was because the legislative Republicans and Democrats got together and created a veto-proof majority to restore the $30 million — actually $29 million, but who's counting? Ducey's entire email is below.

In January, I stood in front of a joint legislature to deliver my priorities for this session – and key among them was a strong focus on career and technical education.

Now, following a bipartisan – unanimous – vote in both chambers, we are one step closer to providing vital support for thousands of Arizona students while keeping a structurally-balanced budget.

This victory is a high testament to what I’ve said since the beginning – we can be responsible with our budget while adding significant, real dollars to K-12 education.

Over the past month, I’ve traveled the state corner to corner. I’ve met with education leaders, teachers, principals, parents and students. They share this commitment to ensuring that all Arizona students are prepared for life after high school graduation – whether college or career.

To them, and to all Arizonans, I’m proud to say that the plan I signed today delivers. I thank our legislators – especially Speaker David Gowan and President Andy Biggs – for working swiftly and in good faith to put our kids first.



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