Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are expressing no support for legislation to avert nearly $1.2 billion in education cuts this school year, which could result in the layoff of teachers and the closing of schoolssome keeping quiet on the issue and others actively supporting GOP lawmakers who oppose the effort to avert more than $1 billion in public education cuts.
Following last week’s vote in the House of Representatives to increase the constitutional spending cap for K-12 schools, Republican front-runner Kari Lake retweeted a message of support for the 14 GOP lawmakers who voted to authorize the cuts, which amount to 16% of school funding, take effect in the current academic year.
“Take note! Vote for the names in RED on this list. Defend the rights of parents. Defend our children. Show the backbone! lake tweeted.
It’s unclear why Lake views the vote against raising the limit as a vote for the rights of parents and children. His campaign did not respond to multiple inquiries from the Arizona Mirror.
Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox
Voters in 1980 approved an amendment to the Arizona Constitution that created a formula-based cap for K-12 spending, known as the Aggregate Spending Limit, or AEL. The legislature has the power to approve one-year suspensions of this limit with a two-thirds vote in each house. Due to a combination of increased K-12 funding and the expiration of a law that exempted about $600 million a year from the cap, schools are on course to significantly exceed that limit. during the 2021-22 school year.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate Speaker Karen Fann sponsored resolutions to raise the limit to $1.154 billion for the current fiscal year, which would allow public schools to spend the money that the legislature has included in the budget for the current fiscal year. The House approved the resolution on February 15, but the Senate has yet to follow suit.
Lake wasn’t the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to oppose raising the limit, though Matt Salmon did so on narrower, more limited grounds. Salmon’s campaign told the shimmer that he opposes raising the limit until lawmakers are sure it won’t open the door to registering Proposition 208. It’s the tax hike on income that voters approved in 2020 and that the Arizona Supreme Court ruled illegal if, and only if, the income it generates pushes school funding above the spending cap.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court judge to determine whether Prop. 208 will exceed the cap. The judge’s decision is due in mid-March. Some Republican lawmakers say they’re ready to raise the limit, but only after the judge ruled he won’t allow the income tax hike for high earners to go into effect.
“The harmful income tax hike imposed by Prop. 208 must be rejected, and I am only willing to have a fuller conversation on this matter after it has been dealt with and we have more ‘information,” Salmon said in a statement. shimmer.
The campaigns of Republican candidates Steve Gaynor and Karrin Taylor Robson declined to comment on the matter.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates strongly support raising the cap. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic favorite, asked the Senate to raise the limit and save K-12 schools from “this manufactured funding crisis.” Aaron Liberman chastised the senate for not raising the cap last week. And Marco Lopez tweeted on voting day in the House, “It’s time to #WaiveTheAEL.”
Bowers rejected the idea that Prop. 208 and resolutions that would increase the cap are intertwined, or that increasing the cap by the limited amount he and Fann proposed would risk allowing the tax hike to go into effect.
“I don’t think the two are related in any way. If they do connect, it would be sad,” Bowers told the Arizona Mirror.
Advocates for Investing in Education, pro-Prop. The 208 campaign, which pitted GOP lawmakers against each other in a dispute over tax hikes, also underscored the lack of connection between the two issues.
In a filing that opposes legislative leaders’ demand for the Arizona Supreme Court to force a speedy resolution, the pro-Prop. 208 The Invest in Education campaign noted in its High Court filing that the plaintiffs acknowledged that even if the tax hike came into effect, no revenue would be collected or spent in the current financial year. That means the litigation surrounding Proposition 208 has no bearing on the current debate over whether to raise the spending cap, the filing says.
Conversely, some opponents of Proposition 208 fear that if the Legislature raises the spending cap, which the Legislature has done periodically in the past, Invest in Education will use to argue that raising taxes cannot be illegal. , even if it pushes K -12 spending over the cap, because lawmakers can suspend that limit in any given year.
Arizona’s Constitution says lawmakers have until March 1 to lift the cap, though schools still have a month before they must begin implementing their budget cuts, as state law sets the limit. April 1 deadline for schools to complete their revised budgets.
As of Feb. 15, the day the House voted to raise the spending cap, there were at least 19 votes in the Senate to suspend the cap, including five Republicans, one shy of the 20 needed to achieve a two-thirds supermajority. Fann has since said she wants a majority in her caucus, in which case she would need nine Republicans instead of just six to support the resolution.