Although Democrats make up 48% of the Arizona Legislature and represent more than 50% of the state’s population, Arizona Republicans crafted the next fiscal year’s ~$13 billion budget — complete with a fiscally dangerous Flat Tax and $2 billion in tax cuts for wealthy cronies — behind closed doors with a only a handful of their members.
It’s no wonder that it is June 24, 2021, and we have no budget. They have been twisting their members’ arms and cutting deals to stuff everyone’s failed legislation into the budget to buy votes. This is no way to run a government.
It makes me wonder how much money and what special interest groups are behind the Republican plans to destroy the state’s economy, the public school system, and our mail-in voting system — while cementing power for the powerful — all in one Legislative session.
The Republican budget completely ignores the needs of the people of Arizona and the desires of the voters. Voters said they wanted the rich to pay their fair share in taxes to support public education when they voted overwhelmingly for Prop 208 Invest in Ed in 2020. They also said overwhelmingly that they did not want expansion of empowerment scholarships (ESAs AKA private school vouchers) when they voted against Prop 305 in 2018.
Cornerstone pieces to the Republican education budget are dramatic expansion of Student Tuition Organizations (STOs) thanks to Rep. Shawnna Bolick (candidate for Secretary of State and wife of Ducey appointee to the Arizona Supreme Court Clint Bolick) and expansion of ESAs thanks to Senator Paul Boyer. The Bolicks got into the STO business early on and now are in positions powerful enough to promote privatized education in a major way, to the detriment of Arizona children. Bolick’s bills, which passed her committee but didn’t go anywhere, would have dramatically expanded STOs and allowed parents to receive more than school tuition per child. (STO grants for private school are limited to the cost of tuition now.) She also had a failed bill for privatized school transportation. All of these and ESA expansion are in the budget because they didn’t have the votes to pass on their own.
In addition to expanding privatized education, Republicans are doing EVERYTHING they can think of to eliminate the Prop 208 fee on the wealthy. Besides the Flat Tax and other tax breaks in the budget, they are reviving Senator J.D. Mesnard’s special Prop 208 mitigation tax rate for wealthy small business owners. They are also doing everything they can to promote state payments for private and religious education.
Their under-the-cloak-of-darkness expansion of ESAs in the Senate will open up school vouchers to 60% of Arizona students. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in separation of church and state. The state provides free public education. If you want your child to go to a religious school, you pay for it, not the state. The state of Arizona offers free choice in education, but the state is not obligated to pay all of the choices and all of the bills. There is a certain amount of responsibility parents must shoulder.
Desegregation vs Segregation of Schools
Republicans are simultaneously trying to destroy public education, force infrastructure deterioration in school systems, and promote privatized education for the connected. How did we get here? How did the Republicans become sooooooo radicalized and extreme in their entitlement and beliefs?
If you often scratch your head at the bad bills that the Republicans pass and wonder what their end game is, you should read Democracy in Chains by Nancy McClean.
What you may think are random bad ideas are actually part of a grand scheme that has been playing out since Brown vs the Board of Education attempted to desegregate public schools in the United States.
An academic, McClean has studied the articles, books and letters of James Buchanan, the economist not the former president. Buchanan was the primary theorist of public choice theory. In the 1950s, public choice theory was used as a rationale to close all of the public schools in the state of Virginia (rather than comply with desegregation). Today, public choice is being used to support state-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. In Virginia in the 1950s, the state gave money to white parents for private school vouchers and allowed hundreds of black children to go uneducated for years. We know that Arizona’s decades long push to defund public education and push state funds to private and religious schools has had the effect of increased segregation in our schools.
Buchanan was also a proponent of “economic liberty.” His writings provided the early framework for what Libertarians and some Republicans are doing now. In Buchanan’s world, economic liberty meant that government should have the smallest possible footprint and concentrate solely on protecting the public, as in providing police, fire, and the military. Everything else should be done by the private sector, according to them. You’ll note that public education, public health and affordable housing are not on the Libertarian list of “must haves” from the government.
The Flat Tax — which benefits the wealthy to the detriment of the rest of the state — is a classic “economic liberty” tactic to help those at the top.
Democracy in Chains connected a lot of dots for me: privatization of public schools and public services; attacks on unions and any collective endeavors by people; attempts to eliminate public education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, childcare subsidies, real pensions, and KidsCare; tax cuts for big corporations and the rich; voter suppression; big-money politics; and an Article V Convention (very scary).
It is interesting to note that economist Buchanan, worked in right-wing, privately funded think tanks at universities. These institutions were the precursors of the Koch Brothers Freedom Schools at Arizona universities. Although Buchanan’s work is strictly theoretical, not recognized in academia, and not tested with economic modeling, his ideas have been eagerly embraced by the right, like supply side economics (AKA trickledown economics). Buchanan’s writings are the basis of today’s Libertarian thought, which is on full display in the Arizona House … privatization, small government, deregulation, and unbridled capitalism to the detriment of the environment and workers.
“Democracy in Chains” is particularly instructive as Arizona suffers through one of the longest and most extreme Legislative sessions in state history. It’s a great book for Democrats and activists who are fighting against greed and for equality. You will recognize ideas, buzzwords, and policies from the Arizona Legislature in the pages of this book.
Read Democracy in Chains. It will put Arizona Republican behavior into perspective.
I am seriously concerned that the Republican and the Flat Tax will destroy Arizona’s economy for years in the future.
Check out Supply Side Jesus. If you watch the Legislature, some of this will sound familiar.