Policy Brief: Majority Opinion on Education Funding Snubbed in Legislative Assembly | Subscriber
The majority opinion among Arizona voters is pretty clear.
The same goes for the majority opinion among Arizona lawmakers.
They want a significant increase in ongoing funding for public schools across the state, probably in the range of $500 million to $1 billion a year. Now we even have the money to do it without raising taxes.
Still, it’s doubtful that the majority opinion will prevail as the legislature slowly moves toward a state budget. This is because this majority opinion in the Legislative Assembly is held by all Democrats and a few Republicans in each chamber.
Since the Republicans are the majority party in both chambers, even if it is a slim margin of one person, they are in control. So they’re trying to come up with a budget that most Republicans will support, not a budget that necessarily reflects majority opinion across all bodies.
“There’s this rule that the majority don’t follow,” said Rep. Morgan Abraham, a Democrat from Tucson. “It’s the ‘majority of the majority.’ You have to have the majority of the majority caucus for anything to move forward.”
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“I know for a fact that there is a majority of members in the House who would sign off on a massive investment in K-12 beyond what Prop. 208 would have done,” he said.
But he might not win the support of the majority of Republicans, so the idea languishes.
Proposition 208 is the 2020 ballot initiative that would have imposed a surtax on income over $250,000 for single people or over $500,000 for married people. Legislative staff projected that it would have raised about $800 million a year for education.
The initiative passed by a 52% to 48% margin, but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge struck down the law this year.
This initiative, of course, included raising taxes – now, due to the state’s strong financial position, about the same amount of money is potentially available without raising taxes.
In an April survey of likely Arizona voters conducted by the Center for the Future of Arizona, 82% supported increasing school funding and 65% of the total strongly supported the idea. This is a majority opinion among all political affiliations.
In the upper house, Republican Sen. Paul Boyer has called for a “big deal” on education funding that replaces Prop money. 208 through increased state funding. He said he wouldn’t vote for a budget without it.
But he is not the only Republican in this chamber to opt for a spending increase on this scale. Sen. TJ Shope, a Coolidge Republican, said Wednesday “I think it’s maybe half a dozen” of the 31 Senate Republicans who would opt for such a proposal.
He said he liked a proposal released last week that would have increased education spending by $250 million to $300 million, but he would also happily go higher.
“If there is (budgetary) capacity on an ongoing basis, we should go ahead and do more,” he said.
Rep. David Cook, a Globe Republican, told me he was more interested in paying back money still owed by the state to school districts after the 2008-09 financial crisis. He’s thinking about $600 million, but on a one-time basis.
“Let’s pay back the money we owe them,” he said. “So we’ll be in a better position next year.”
Rep. Michelle Udall, a Republican from Mesa, said she wants the Legislature to fund “a pretty big chunk” of the $900 million proposed by Boyer.
Instead, however, the latest proposal passed by a House committee is to expand the vouchers again and make increased funding conditional on voucher expansion. The bon proposal is similar to a 2017 bill that passed the Legislative Assembly only to be returned to the ballot and voted down by voters by a 65% to 35% margin in 2018.
So, in order for the majority of state voters to get some of the funding increase they want, they are being asked to swallow an extension of vouchers that they have completely rejected before.
Trump approves in AG race
As former President Donald Trump reels in endorsements in Republican primaries across the country, he made up his mind in the Arizona attorney general’s race this week.
Trump endorsed Abraham Hamadeh, a former Maricopa County prosecutor who had perhaps the most uninhibited rhetoric claiming that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election in Arizona. (He did not do it.)
“Abe Hamadeh knows what happened in the 2020 election and will enforce voting laws so that our elections are free and fair again,” Trump said in his endorsement announcement.
“Being endorsed by President Trump is the honor of a lifetime and I will not let it down,” Hamadeh said in a statement.
Five other Republicans are running for the party’s nomination to replace current Attorney General Mark Brnovich: Lacy Cooper, Rodney Glassman, Andrew Gould, Dawn Grove and Tiffany Shedd.
Gould said in a later statement, “I am aware of President Trump’s recent endorsement of my opponent. My campaign and I will not be distracted by this announcement.”
Watkins sues Rogers
Just because they’re both on the wacky right wing of Arizona politics doesn’t mean they get along.
Ron Watkins, the congressional candidate implicated in handling the QAnon conspiracy theory, filed an ethics complaint on June 10 against State Senator Wendy Rogers. He asked the ethics committee “to determine if she is fit to serve the people of Arizona due to behavior unbecoming a senator.”
He noted a series of incidents, but only one involving him: Rogers, who has already faced ethics complaints this session, posted on his online Telegram channel in February: “Dear Groyper Army, please knock Ron Watkins. Love, Wendy »
“Groyper Army” is the name of a loose association of online white supremacists, far-right nationalists and provocateurs that Rogers embraced. Watkins and Rogers quarreled over election issues.
He said in his complaint that the comment amounted to a threat against him. Of course, as the Arizona Mirror noted, Watkins himself has partnered with prominent Groypers on several occasions. And Rogers said in response that Watkins had been friendly with her for the past few months until she endorsed rival Eli Crane in the 6 Congressional District race.
Watkins is best known for being deeply involved in the posts of “Q,” an apocryphal federal employee who accused Democrats and “globalists” of being part of a Satanist pedophile ring.
Senator Sine Kerr, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, dismissed the complaint on Wednesday.
Contact columnist Tim Steller at [email protected] or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter