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Tell the Legislature: Arizona Needs K-12 Reform, Strong Spending Limit

Tell the Legislature: Arizona Needs K-12 Reform, Strong Spending Limit

Click on this URL to take action now

First, the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP Arizona) wants to thank grassroots activists around the state for their hard work (and their votes) against the Prop 100 tax hike.
We are now asking taxpayers and grassroots activists to contact Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature, and urge them to go back into special session. State politicians have a lot of work ahead of them. They need to make fundamental reforms to the state’s education system and they need to give voters a chance to impose a strong spending limit on state government.
We Need K-12 Education Reform
We do not have a resource problem in Arizona’s K-12 school system. We have an allocation problem. The state superintendent’s 2009 report showed that district schools had total resources of $9,424 per student, and that unified districts had non-capital resources of $7,834 per student. But according to the state auditor general, only 57 percent of available monies are getting into K-12 classrooms, a proportion that has remained the same since 2001, despite the Prop 301 sales tax increase and despite large increases in property taxes in the middle years of the decade.
Also, according the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the state’s K-12 system has failed to achieve significant increases in reading and math scores during the past decade, and 44 percent of Arizona fourth graders cannot read.
In 2008, we were spending 34 percent more per pupil than we did in 2001. The fact that we have nothing to show for all that extra money is a scandalous failure. Legislators must combine strict accountability with robust school choice measures, a formula that has yielded strong results in student performance in Florida.
Our governor and legislature also need to work quickly to remove K-12 spending mandates, so that by August school districts will be able to put a greater proportion of the available money into their classrooms and pay good teachers good salaries. School districts need maximum flexibility to reduce excess administration, cancel frivolous capital projects, suspend wasteful non-core classes, and fire bad teachers.
We Need a Strong State Spending Limit
Sadly, the Governor and Legislature have so far done nothing to address the root cause of Arizona’s ongoing budget deficits: OVERSPENDING.
Arizona’s current budget deficit is worse than normal, but this is a recurring problem for our state government. State spending is on a dangerous rollercoaster ride.
During years with strong economic growth, state politicians allow spending to shoot up to unsustainably high levels. Then, during economic slowdowns, when revenues fall off, state spending goes crashing downward.
From 2002 to 2008, Gov. Janet Napolitano and majorities of the Arizona Legislature chose to grow state budgets at rates that were not only faster than population plus inflation, but also significantly faster than the rate of growth of the state economy, as measured by personal income.
Large deficits are dangerous for many reasons, but one of the worst results is tax increases. Gov. Brewer and a majority of legislators put the billion-dollar Prop 100 tax on the May 18 ballot, and a veto last year by Gov. Brewer increased our annual property tax burden by $250 million.
Arizona’s budget problems really got out of control in FY 2006 and FY 2007, when the size of state government as a portion of the state economy exceeded 6.5 percent.
Without voter-imposed spending restraints, future governors and legislators will inevitably go back to the big spending we saw from 2002 to 2008.
The good news is that Arizona already has a constitutional spending limit. The bad news is that the limit—which allows government to spend 7.41 percent of state personal income—is far too high to provide meaningful restraints on state spending.
Senator Russell Pearce has a plan for a referendum bill that would allow Arizona voters in November to reduce the spending limit from 7.41 percent of personal income to 6.4 percent. Last year, his bill failed narrowly in the state Senate: 14 Republican senators voted for the bill, but four Republicans did not.
The 6.4 percent bill is a fiscally moderate proposal: It would allow state government to grow, but only as fast as the state economy. If a legislator believes that government should get larger as a portion of the economy, he or she is a Big Spender, not a fiscal moderate.
Every budget from FY1998 to FY2005 would have qualified at the 6.4 percent level. The spending limit also allows the Legislature to lift the cap in emergency situations with a two-thirds vote. This is a common-sense solution that is long overdue.
Please tell your legislators to work to give Arizona the education reforms we need and the strong spending limit we deserve.
Click on this URL to take action now

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