House Democrats Support Educators, Vote to Reject Inadequate and Unsustainable GOP Budget

The Arizona House and Senate Democrats fought hard last night for education in this state. They lost every vote. Ducey calls what came out “bipartisan” — which would be laughable if the lie didn’t fall off his lips so easily.  What really happened is that Republicans in the Arizona Legislature tried to scam the people of Arizona in the middle of the night (again).

This time, however, the galleries were full and the video cameras were on for the people outside the Capitol as Republicans rejected Democrats amendments to eliminate tax benefits for country club memberships, fine art purchases, and corporate jet timeshares and to provide serious funding for our schools. #RememberInNovember #Red4Ed

Here is the full text of the Arizona House Democrats Press Release, providing details on last night’s events:

May 3, 2018

House Democrats Support Educators, Vote to Reject Inadequate and Unsustainable GOP Budget

PHOENIX, State Capitol – Raising up the voices of tens of thousands of frustrated educators who took over the Capitol this week, House Democrats unanimously voted against Gov. Ducey’s inadequate and unsustainable education budget in a vote early Thursday morning before the 2018 legislative session adjourned.

The Republican plan will not add up to a 10-percent raise for all educators (including support staff) next year or 20 percent by 2021. It only provides funds calculated on a narrow definition of teacher, which leaves out reading specialists, librarians, bus drivers, social workers and others who contribute strongly to the education of Arizona kids.

“Democrats absolutely support a 20 percent raise for our educators,” said House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios. “However, without a new, dedicated and sustainable revenue source, this proposal for a pay increase for educators will not be sustainable through 2021. We need to face the truth. Arizona cannot make up the billion dollars we’ve cut from our schools with the revenue stream we have now. We cannot continue to pass tax cut after tax cut, loophole after loophole, when our schools are in such need.”

Democrats advanced several amendments to better address Arizona’s poorly funded public schools and teacher pay crisis that sparked the monumental statewide “Red for Ed” grassroots movement, but all were blocked by Republican votes. Democratic amendments included:

• Repealing ineffective “results-based” school funding and using its $37.6 million for K-12 support personnel raises.
• Pushing for federal tax conformity (which would yield approximately $139 million) for support staff pay raises or to cap class sizes at 25 kids.
• Cap the corporate private school tuition organization (STO) tax credit at $100 million a year, which would save $76 million for public schools.
• Using the $53 million Volkswagen settlement for new clean energy school buses for public schools.
• Returning the corporate income tax rates to 2012 levels and tax carried interest, which would yield a combined $62 million for public schools.
• Eliminating sales tax exemptions for fine art, country club memberships and private jet timeshares.
• Rehiring all 130 corporate tax auditors and collections staff who the Governor fired over a year ago, leading to $70 million by 2021. The Governor’s disastrous decision encouraged cheating and led to a staggering drop in corporate tax collections.

“Republicans and Gov. Ducey wrote a check this morning that we very likely can’t cover beyond one year,” said Rep. Randy Friese. “Our schools are going to need additional revenue that the legislature can’t take away. Our own economic experts predict only a $2 million cushion by 2021, which means if the predictions are off even by a little bit — if there’s any economic slowdown no matter how small — our budget would be thrown wildly out of balance and the pay raises for educators would be jeopardized.”

Rios added that the education budget is a trap to blame school boards for the inadequacies of the Legislature. If school boards use part of this money for support staff, then there’s not enough to give teachers the promised 20-percent raise. If, as the plan suggests, school boards divert district additional assistance dollars to raise support staff salaries, then districts will be blamed for not addressing the dire need for new books, computers and classroom materials.

“It’s a dilemma by design.,” Rios said. “It’s a shell game that just uses the same amount of dollars spread very thin, with the hope that you won’t notice. Believe me, the hundreds of teachers who stayed with us through the night as we debated this budget noticed, and they weren’t happy. “

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