We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!!
That’s right. Arizona finally leads the nation in something.
Nope, not in economic growth. We’ve fallen from the 10 best state economies, now ranked 21, according to Business Insider.
Nope, not in growth of per capita income; the Department of Commerce has us at 41 in that.
Nope, not in employment. Our unemployment rate is higher than the national average, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But we are No. 1 in education. We’ve led the nation in cutting state aid to universities, and we’ve led the nation in tuition increases. State funding has been cut by 48 percent, and tuition has risen by 86 percent since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Last year, the state actually increased funding a bit. But with the Ducey Budget, we’ve cut again; a $99 million cut.
And there are other cuts in a budget the governor claims reflects “the values of Arizona.”
Cuts to child welfare, cuts to foster families, cuts to public schools, cuts to health care.
Of course, the governor and his legislative homies would have you believe that education came out great. They proclaim that this is the largest expenditure for education in state history, almost 50 percent of the budget going to education.
Well, sure. More kids are enrolled in schools and universities, but we’ve actually cut the percentage of the budget going to education. In 1980, 61 percent of the state’s budget went to education. And with a few exceptions over the last decade or so, that percentage has been on a constant drop.
And the governor proudly tells us that he has funded schools with what he calls “new money.”
But most of that “new money” is for increased enrollment and inflation funding. If you take inflation into account, the state funds schools at about $1,000 per pupil less than it did in 2008, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the folks who analyze costs to the state of legislation.
Some of that “new money” is limited to only charter schools, which have money set aside by the state as a kind of loan for new building by them.
Cut, cut, cut. That is the hallmark of the Ducey Budget reflecting Arizona values.
But who knew that another cut was valued by Arizona? That cut? The corporate tax cuts scheduled for the coming year.
How much? Approximately $112 million worth of cuts this year to corporations.
Now, we know that Republican claim on these kinds of cuts: The job creators, as they’re called, need those cuts as an incentive to hire. A version of the old trickle-down claim.
We’ve tried this in Arizona for most of this decade, and it hasn’t worked. Our economy’s sluggish, our job growth is in mostly low-paying jobs, our employment rate is low.
But Ducey and Friends hold fast to the theory, even going so far as saying, as the governor did, that we “promised” these cuts to the corporations. Said Ducey at his inauguration: “If we change our plans they (corporations) will change theirs. It’s a high price to pay for going back on your word, and that’s why I say: Not on our watch.”
So of course we have to honor our word, we can’t postpone those cuts.
But governor, don’t you and your pals in the Legislature have another promise you are not honoring? You know, the promise to provide our kids with the opportunity for a decent education?
But I guess in the governor’s world, “Arizona values” place corporate health ahead of our kids’ health.
Quite the value.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.