Proposition 204 would amend the Arizona Revised Statutes that would make permanent a 1-cent sales tax increase Arizona voters approved in 2010 as a temporary measure. The 2010 referendum raised the state sales tax rate to 6.6 percent from 5.6 percent. The higher levy would remain the same under Prop 204 which is set to expire in 2013. Beginning in fiscal year 2014, the permanent sales tax would earmark funds for education programs, human services and infrastructure projects related to public transportation and is projected to raise at least $1 billion annually.
Proponents of Prop 204 include Democratic legislators, public school groups, and a coalition of business contractors. Supporters argue that the measure would provide dedicated revenues for educational institutions, prevent the Legislature from cutting K-12 funding, ensure continued support for public safety personnel and projects, and create jobs by subsidizing public transportation infrastructure projects. Supporters also say Prop 204 will encourage governmental transparency and performance-linked accountability through its mandated five-year audit cycle.
Opponents to the initiative include Republican legislative leaders, tax reform advocates, and conservative pro-growth advocacy groups. Opponents call Prop 204 “ballot-box budgeting” and regard the permanent levy as both unwieldy and unwise since it can only be altered by referendum. Critics also say the measure handcuffs the Legislature in deciding how to budget and set spending priorities under constantly evolving economic conditions. Opponents question the constitutionality of Prop 204 because it potentially interferes with the state’s budget-making process.
Proposition 204 would annually distribute the first $1 billion of additional sales tax as follows or if one billion dollars is not collected, the money would be proportionally distributed as follows:
– Five hundred million dollars into the “quality education and performance fund”, to be used to assist school districts and charter schools to comply with assessment and accountability requirements, including improvement plans for failing schools, to provide teacher and principal evaluation systems based in part on student achievement, to improve pupil reading proficiency by the end of third grade and to implement a system of testing and awarding Grand Canyon diplomas to high school students who demonstrate readiness for college level math and English.
– Ten million dollars into the “education learning and accountability fund”, to be used by the state Department of Education to maintain a system for compiling longitudinal student level data and school finance data to meet state and federal reporting requirements.
– Ninety million dollars into the “education accountability and improvement fund” to provide performance funding to school districts and charter schools based on performance measures to be adopted by the State Board of Education relating to academic progress, parental satisfaction and student engagement, to provide teacher training and for technology necessary to implement statewide academic standards and assessments. Monies in this fund that remain unspent for three consecutive years would be transferred to the School Facilities Board, first to pay down existing school construction debt and then to fund construction or repair of school buildings.
– One hundred million dollars into the “state infrastructure fund”, to be used by the state Department of Transportation for costs associated with a variety of transportation infrastructure projects, the acceleration of highway improvement projects, for public-private partnerships relating to transportation projects, to fund environmentally sensitive designs and to fund transportation-related wildlife improvement projects and pay for bonding and other finance costs related to transportation projects.
– Twenty-five million dollars into the “children’s health insurance program fund”, to be used for costs associated with the current publicly funded health care program for children under nineteen years of age whose household income is at or below two hundred per cent of the federal poverty level.
– One hundred million dollars into the “family stability and self-sufficiency fund”, to be distributed by the Governor’s office to state agencies and private nonprofit entities as a match for federal funds for programs that provide for the basic needs of children, families and vulnerable adults whose household income is below two hundred per cent of the federal poverty level.
– Fifty million dollars into the “university scholarship, operations and infrastructure fund”, to be distributed according to rules adopted by the Board of Regents. Between fifty and sixty per cent of the fund monies must be used to provide university scholarships to resident students based on financial need or academic achievement, and the remaining fund monies would be allocated to the three state universities for operating and infrastructure expenses based on performance in meeting goals set by the Board of Regents.
– Up to one hundred twenty-five million dollars to the state general fund to fund the required inflationary adjustment for the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade school system.
Proposition 204 would annually distribute the amount of additional sales tax over one billion dollars as follows:
– Thirty-three per cent to school districts and charter schools, based on the proportion of students participating in the federal free or reduced lunch program, to improve student achievement for those participating students and to provide voluntary preschool programs.
– Twenty-two and one-half per cent to community college districts, provisional community college districts and Indian tribal postsecondary institutions to support scholarship and career and technical training programs.
– Nine per cent to joint technical education districts to support career and vocational training.
– Two per cent to the state Department of Education to fund adult education programs.
– Twenty-two and one-half per cent to the “university scholarship, operations and infrastructure fund”.
– Eleven per cent to the “state infrastructure fund”.
In addition to the above distributions this proposition would also require the Legislature to increase certain components of the school finance formula each year and mandate the following:
– Require that an independent third-party audit of fund distributions be conducted every five years for all distributions
– Funding levels for K-12 schools and state universities cannot be reduced below the levels for fiscal year 2011-12 or 2012-13, whichever is greater.
– Limits on school district bonds and overrides cannot be below those in effect for 2012.
– Vehicle license tax and related highway user revenues cannot be diverted for any other purpose.
– Sales tax base cannot be adjusted in a way that causes the amount of sales tax collected to be less than the amount collected in the prior year, plus 6 percent, unless there is a corresponding change in the tax base that results in no reduction in the amount of sales tax collected.
Well as you can see this proposition has multitude of components to it. I support the goals of this initiative but I believe the method is reckless and does not accurate solve the problems that ail our education system. I don’t trust that simply throwing money at education with no guarantee of it being used in the classroom will improve education. I would equate it to a shotgun blast of earmarks that handcuffs the legislators ability to do their job. Furthermore I have my doubts if this is legal under the AZ constitution. The biggest problem I have with this initiative is we will have the second highest average sales tax in the United States at 9.12%. So where do all our tax dollars go right now? If you want to fix this then lets get involved and start hammering our representatives. How many of you have called or E-mailed your state reps on this issue. No worries somebody else will do it or they should already know. So instead of doing our job of holding our politicians feet to the fire we are willing to pass an ill conceived initiative with no guarantees and no getting out of it or changing it. No doubt this will take our money and give it to all these different agencies with no ability to EVER change it. Contact a politician today and let them know they are on notice if they do not improve our education system in AZ. But furthermore don’t say there is a problem with out first finding a solution and offering it to those you elected. See my page ‘Lets contact our politicians’ and start giving them a piece of your mind. Finally I would say for any piece of legislation that is this lengthy but does not go into the specifics of exactly what the desired end result of performance would be is just a waste of time and money.