When Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican state lawmakers unveiled their budget plan to give teachers a raise and increase school funding, predictably, naysayers in their political opposition pointed to problems .
Still, the plan did signify the first attempt in a long time to give educators a substantial pay raise. So it was surprising that when that bill became state law, that Democrats opposed it almost unanimously, especially when one considers that it is Democrat-supported ideas that have created such fiscal nightmares for public schools.
Oh well, that’s politics.
It is truly sad that when it comes to almost any subject these days if one party is for something the other is automatically against it. Although Democrats wanted a lot more funding for education, why couldn’t they have at least been supportive of what was done? The answer: politics.
The governor was also playing politics, because one of the primary ways the pay increase is being financed is through a new, roughly $18 car-registration fee — with some vehicles it could be as high as $24. He claims this isn’t a tax. Hmm, it seems something similar was argued by the Obama administration regarding the individual mandate that forced people to buy health insurance. Yet, Ducey declared the GOP plan would include “no tax increase.” Obviously, he was being disingenuous. And why? Again, politics.
The fact is, there just wasn’t enough money in the old budget to allow for the pay increase. The new GOP-approved “tax” along with some accounting maneuvers have allowed for the average teacher’s salary in the state to increase by 19 percent! That’s significant. Still, critics complain.
One fair point is that the car registration fee isn’t legally mandating monies to schools. It is only promised funds. As with anything, they could potentially be withheld.
Other more ridiculous complaints are that not everyone will receive the same increase. Teachers who are already making higher wages will see slightly less of a raise while those, like teachers in the Tucson Unified School District, which is my home district, who are at the bottom of the pay scale will be the beneficiaries of greater than 19 percent raises on average. I’m not sure how that’s a problem.
This brings me to some of the clever accounting gimmicks by the Ducey team that freed up more money. He is being criticized for being the cause of a coming tax increase to the property owners in places like TUSD. Why? By placing the cost of desegregation programs on the districts that still have them .
By state, constitutional law, the primary property-tax rate is capped at 10 percent of “full cash value.” Anything over that, if listed on the primary levy, is the responsibility of the state, not the local taxpayer. The new budget puts the cost of desegregation programs in the secondary levy, the one for local, voter-approved measures — which has no cap. You may have noted how high property taxes are. One reason is the secondary tax.
TUSD, for example, is under a desegregation order, which it has never complied with for 40 years. This has allowed the district to extract additional property-tax revenue to the tune of $64 million per year! Now the state has shifted this burden to the local taxpayer, and people are flipping out. Leftists love programs that they don’t have to pay for themselves!
Democrats — the majority party in TUSD — have always supported these types of programs, which have been a national failure, yet, when faced with having to pay for these on their own, they cry foul. Why? Politics.