Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is the AZ Legislature Planning to Give $5 Million to Koch Brothers-Backed "Economic Freedom Centers"?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 4:00 PM

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This is incredible. Last year, the state budget cut $99 million from our three state universities. This year, among the possible scenarios for the state budget is an extra $5 million for the university's three "economic freedom centers." Whoever inserted that item into the budget isn't talking. No one will admit they know how it got there.

(Before I go further, I have to give a shout out to Hank Stephenson who wrote the article about this possible giveaway in the Capitol Times. Stephenson earned the wrath of David Gowan when he wrote about the House Speaker's travel on the state's dime—actually, "the state's $12,000" is more accurate than "the state's dime"—which led to Gowan's revenge-banning of reporters from the House floor, an order that was later rescinded. This story might earn Stephenson another black mark from Republican legislators, but I say he deserves an award of journalistic valor for his recent reporting.)

You can't get a degree at the "economic freedom centers," which are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Koch Brothers: UA's Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and ASU's Center for the Study of Economic Liberty and Center for Political Thought and Leadership. The Charles Koch Charitable Foundation put up most of the money to fund the centers.

The state currently funds $500,000 per year for the UA center. Someone in state government who thus far has decided to remain anonymous wants to boost that number to $5 million. Our local state senator Steve Farley noted the irony of the state subsidizing privately-funded centers that push free market ideas.
“Why do we need to spend taxpayer money on an institute to study free markets? Shouldn’t they go to the free market for that?” Farley asked.
To that I would add, the move is in keeping with Republicans' self serving double standard. They squeeze state budgets for education and state services, pleading fiscal poverty, then manage to find $5 million lying around to spend on three privately funded conservative-libertarian propaganda mills embedded in our state universities.

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