Monday, May 2, 2016

Education Funding, the Surplus, the Rainy Day Fund and Cutting (or Raising) Taxes for the Wealthy

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2016 at 4:00 PM

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I haven't seen any news from Monday's legislative session, so this post is based on Friday's budget stalemate, where Ducey and the Republican leadership proposed a budget that would mean a $21 million net loss for our schools, and enough House Republicans balked at the cuts that the votes weren't there to pass the budget. The somewhat-moderate Republican holdouts told the leadership: replace the school money, and show us the new language so we know what we're voting on, and then we can talk about passing the budget.

Leadership looks like it may be ready to make a deal and replace the funds, which means, barring other problems brought up by Republicans, we may be seeing a budget shortly. But if you think the new money is going to come out of the budget surplus, which is $600 million and counting, think again. In the AZ Republican version of robbing Peter to pay Paul, they plan to rob road funds and Health Insurance Trust Fund money to pay the schools.
The increase would be covered with cuts to several areas, including a $9.5 million decrease in the amount the state will get for roads, a $5.2 million cut in the amount counties and cities will get for roads, and a $21 million transfer from the Health Insurance Trust Fund.
This is the heart of the matter. Along with the $600 million, and counting, budget surplus, there's $430 million in the rainy day fund. That's a total of one billion, $30 million. And they're not even willing to round it off to an even billion to give back the money stolen from schools in the current budget proposal (which, or course, is still $350 million lower than the taxpayers demanded in 2000). Nope. If they have no choice but to replace the money they cut from schools, they plan to cut something else so that billion dollar-plus pot of money stays right where it is and keeps growing. That'll allow Ducey to say, "We're taking more tax dollars from the hard working people of Arizona than we need. It's time to give some of it back" — after which he'll whisper, "Give it back to corporations and my rich friends and supporters, that is. Screw the [suppressed laughter] 'hardworking people.'" 

The bottom line is, there will never be enough money to fund this state properly, or anywhere near properly (and I'm not just talking education. Met any potholes lately?) so long as giving money back to those who need it least is the primary goal of Ducey and the rest of the Republican leadership. The surplus could double, and that would just give them even more money to funnel back to the rich.

The only way to change the scenario is to counter the "endless tax cuts" meme by saying that the wealthiest among us aren't paying their fair share and we need to raise their taxes so we have enough funds to do what's necessary to put our infrastructure in order, help those who are most in need of help, and provide our children the education they deserve. That idea won't get out there by itself. People who believe it and are in positions of power and influence need to repeat it loudly and often. Bernie Sanders is saying it. Hillary Clinton is saying it. Warren Buffett is saying it. People in Arizona who agree need to join in.

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