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Monday, October 15, 2012

California Nightmare: Why Arizonans should vote NO on Proposition 204

"I have seen the future, and it works"
                    Lincoln Steffens, after his 1919 visit to the Soviet Union

In addition to Proposition 121, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona (PFFA) has also endorsed Arizona Proposition 204, the Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment.  Proposition 204 would make permanent the temporary one cent state sales tax increase that Arizona voters approved as Proposition 100 in May 2010.  Proposition 100's intent was to close a large budget shortfall and prevent cuts to education.  The sales tax will end on May 31, 2013 if Proposition 204 is not approved in November.

Proposition 204 mandates how revenue would be spent with the bulk going to education and smaller amounts designated for social programs and infrastructure.  Proposition 204 also puts several restrictions on the state legislature.  These include setting a minimum spending level on education and restricting how vehicle license tax and highway user funds can be used.

As with Proposition 121, we again see the influence of California politics in another ballot measure, but a little more history is in order in the case of Proposition 204. In 1988 California voters approved Proposition 98, the Classroom Instructional Improvement and Accountability Act, which amended the California Constitution to require that 40% of general fund revenue go to K-12 education and community colleges.  The rallying cry at the time was similar to that of supporters of Arizona's Proposition 204: legislators can not be trusted to fund education and a designated revenue stream is needed to bring the state's schools up to where they need to be.

Proposition 98 has done such a fantastic job solving California's education funding problems that, flashing forward to the present, Governor Jerry Brown is now pushing a new referendum.  Proposition 30, the Sales and Income Tax Increase (2012), will raise the state sales tax by a quarter of a cent from 7.25% to 7.50%, as well as income tax on those earning over $250,000 a year.  These new revenues would again be used to fund K-12 education and community colleges.  The income tax increase is listed as temporary and is supposed to expire seven years after enactment.

Financially pressed California voters are currently being treated to veiled threats of blackmail.  College students are being threatened with tuition hikes, parents are being warned about the harm to their children, and all citizens are being warned about dire conditions if they do not vote for Proposition 30.

This should make Arizona taxpayers feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when the Ghost of Christmas Future showed him what lay ahead if he did not change his ways.  Arizonans are being sold the same nonsense that Californians were in 1988.  The revenue designated for education in 1988 was never about quality education but was meant to lock up funds for those special interests involved in education, mainly school and college employees and their union representatives.

The citizens of Arizona did a noble and unselfish thing in 2010 by approving a temporary one cent sales tax to close a historic budget gap.  Now supporters of Proposition 204 are trying to flog them with their own kindness.  Voters should realize that no amount of funding will ever be deemed enough by those advocating Proposition 204.  Voters may be frustrated by their legislators, but there still exists some influence over them through the ballot box.  If Proposition 204 passes, voters will further lose control of how Arizona is governed, empower special interests, and push Arizona closer to California's dysfunctional nightmare.

As general guidance, voters would be wise to reject any idea that comes from California.  Vote NO on Proposition 204.

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