Governor’s Education Funding Plan

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Governor Doug Ducey has come up with a plan to ask voters for permission to use state trust land cash to help fund education. Hear from both sides of the issue as Representative Andrew Sherwood, who opposes the plan, and Representative Paul Boyer, who is for it, discuss the idea.

TED SIMONS: Governor Doug Ducey plans to ask voters for permission to use state trust land money to help fund education. Joining us now to discuss the idea is state representative ANDREW SHERWOOD, who opposes the plan, and representative PAUL BOYER, who supports the governor's idea. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us.

BOTH: Thank you for having us.

TED SIMONS: The idea of this trust money, using it for education, why not?

ANDREW SHERWOOD: Money for education is a fantastic idea. House democrats have been arguing for more money into education for a long time. My question is, is this the right way? As of right now, my answer is one this is too little, two, this is too late, and three this is too unreliable. Arizona right now has the lowest per pupil funding in the nation. We're always at the bottom. Unacceptable. Number two, the earliest this could take place would be in two fiscal cycles and that is if it gets approved at all by the voters. We need relief and help for education right now. Number three, Ted, this hasn't been written yet. This is an idea that we're talking about as if it is concrete. It has not been written yet. It will need to get approved by 90 members of the house and Senate and then have to go to voters and afterward if it passes, it will then be interpreted by lawmakers yet to be elected on what they should do. Just like education inflation funding.

TED SIMONS: Why is this a good idea for Arizona?

PAUL BOYER: Nearly $2 billion without a tax increase that keeps the general fund whole. I can't think of anything better.

TED SIMONS: Okay. Let's go to some of the ideas that representative Sherwood was mentioning here. Effective date, 2017, two-year wait, good?

PAUL BOYER: You know what, actually, I'm hoping at the end of this I can get by partisan consensus with my friend Andrew and we can come out of here an agree for you to work with your caucus and me work with mine to get this done quicker, I have no problems with that

ANDREW SHERWOOD: But Ted back to that point, yes, absolutely my caucus would love to work with yours about education funding. Ted, back to the policy proposal, too little too late. It is not going to kick in right away. And we need to be doing that. This is by the way a plan that is in motion because of events that have been happening for 10, 20, 30 years. For a long time Arizona republican party has not been funding education. If we look at performance of graduation rates, if we look at college readiness, career path for teacher testing, Arizona should be doing better and were not hitting those marks.

PAUL BOYER: Someone in the classroom nearly every day, $2 billion over five years I will take that tomorrow, next year, whenever it happens. That is why the education community is so supportive because they realize it is not perfect but a good start.

TED SIMONS: What happens to the kids, you say you are trying to find a way to make this happen quicker. The plan such as it is right now, will not happen for another two years. What happens to the kids and education funding in the intervening two years?

PAUL BOYER: Sure, I would love some support I would love for our caucuses; maybe have special elections, to make this happen quicker.

ANDREW SHERWOOD: Ted the reality, this is too little, too late, and too unreliable. We watched Governor Ducey slash funding in my home district of Arizona State University by $100 million. We have an entire budget process which for a long time has been done in the middle of the night by the majority.

TED SIMONS: Well, quickly, now, the idea though is that the legislature as it stands with this process is never going to increase taxes for education or much of anything. So why not take what this offers knowing that the alternative simply isn't viable.

ANDREW SHERWOOD: Great question. Step one, I would -- say this is an interesting idea but not ready for prime time. Step two, what I would say immediately, moving forward, go to the ways and means committee and say this committee should not slash revenue in the ways that we have been doing. Budgeting for state government is nothing like budgeting at your house. But let's say that it is. You could not and would not lower revenue if you already can't make your bills add up. What the ways and means committee does every year, Ted, it goes in and removes hundreds of thousands of dollars in state needs for spending, and then when I go to work on the budget process and say look I have single mothers who need help with safety nets. I have educators who have these issues going on, can we pay for it? Republican majority says I would love to help you out, but we don't have the money.

PAUL BOYER: Here's the bottom line this is new money, this is not replaced this is not new, this is $2 billion of new money for education funding. And in 2010, do you know how much the state trust land gave to K-12 education? Zero. Moving forward, this -- this is -- this is a game changer as far as I'm concerned for education.

TED SIMONS: Is this new money or used to satisfy the inflation lawsuit --

PAUL BOYER: No, the governor has already said, sorry for --

TED SIMONS: Please, please.

PAUL BOYER: Governor said this is new money, not going to replace funding lawsuit. I'm your education chairman, I wouldn't support that. You have the governor and education chairman saying this is new money in the classroom.

TED SIMONS: Respond quickly to that. We hear from the other side, year after year it is not being addressed. Not being properly addressed at the legislature, and while this is an interesting idea, why isn't the traditional, more readily acceptable idea being offered?

PAUL BOYER: Meaning.

TED SIMONS: More money from the legislature?

PAUL BOYER: Ted, We have tried to increase funding for education. I was on staff during the fiscal crisis and saw members take federal stimulus dollars, they were philosophically opposed, accepted it because they wanted the education cuts. I have seen republicans refer a sales tax to the voters for education funding. It is not accurate to say the republicans haven't worked on education funding, we have.

ANDREW SHERWOOD: Let's be careful to say this could be a bait and switch. I don't doubt that my colleague here is sincere. 90 members at the capitol and the governor that I have not spoken to about this, I don't know that this could be carried across the finish line and then have a budget with it moving forward and saying yeah, we will add now money in and not decrease money over here in the left hand. That is one of the problems that we are facing.

TED SIMONS: I have heard that this would just justify more tax cuts in the future, you get new money in one direction, here comes the tax cuts in the other.

PAUL BOYER: The governor and myself, education chairman, already said that is not going to happen. So moving forward, I mean, that is solid.

TED SIMONS: He says it is not going to happen.

ANDREW SHERWOOD: What this man says happens or not happens is fine. There are Eight, nine other members. He can't speak for all of them today or the governor -- we elected tea party members in 2010, a lot of them have matriculated into becoming leaders in the Republican Party right now and I don't know they share that sentiment.

TED SIMONS: $1.8 billion over five years, $3 billion over 10 years, and sunsets, I won't ask you about the wisdom of that, but $10 billion -- $3 billion over 10 years, $1.8 over -- you're saying no --

ANDREW SHERWOOD: I'm saying this is completely unreliable. Fiscally irresponsible for me to support this right now.

TED SIMONS: Is it fiscally responsible to allow this money coming in at these percentages and after ten years it all goes away?

PAUL BOYER: I don't see why we shouldn't use a state asset whose intended purpose is for education funding. So let's talk about the Mechanism, proposition 119, gave us $80 million, based on 2.5% of the valuation of the trust. This bumps it up to 10%. I don't see why we shouldn't use that as an asset that is already intended for this exact purpose that has to go towards education. Why should we not use that for education funding?

TED SIMONS: Why not

ANDREW SHERWOOD: Paul, Don't you get any heartburn over some of the money from that anticipated to generate will drop off after the first five years after this governor gets reelected. I feel like so often here in Arizona, we are not doing long-term solutions. We kick the can down the street through one more election cycle, one more session, or whatever. This is not a fix. By the way, important to recognize, I am still saying absolutely yes to more money, no one is more pro education than the house democrats or the senate democrats but if this passes through all of these hurdles and all of, we will still not have nearly enough money for Arizona education institutions to be where they should be on a national playing field.

PAUL BOYER: You're telling me if this comes up on the board, $2 billion for K-12 education, you are going to vote no?

ANDREW SHERWOOD Paul, I'm telling you I would love to see what this proposal looks like in the final stages at the legislature. Right now, other solutions we should be pursuing. This to me does not look like a bulletproof plan for Arizona. By the way, it is still not enough. It is so important to recognize

TED SIMONS: Last word.

PAUL BOYER: K-12 education funding, $2 billion without a hitch to the general fund without raising taxes as a teacher, absolutely. We need this money, and I would like to see it happen quicker.

TED SIMONS: Got to stop it right there. Gentlemen, great conversation. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Both: Thank you.

Andrew Sherwood, Paul Boyer

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