With all due respect to Bob Robb, we think he’s playing a little bit of Monday morning quarterback with his recollection of the Proposition 100 election. In his Friday column, he claims, “Virtually nothing voters were told about the tax prior to approving it turned out to be true… Voters were told that passage of the temporary sales tax would prevent additional cuts to K-12 education, health and human services and public safety.”
What Robb seems to forget is that the legislature had passed two budgets, one with sales tax revenue and one without. The alternative budget, as passed, required the state to cut another $1 billion immediately. In fact, the budget cuts were quite clear and the major impacts were shared prominently throughout the campaign:
- K-12 schools, Cut $420 million
- Higher education, Cut $100 million
- Public safety, Cut $85 million
- Health and human services, Cut $110 million
The voters were left with a binary decision, pass Proposition 100 or face more than $1 billion in additional cuts. So the reality is Proposition 100 did prevent immediate, impending cuts to K-12 education, health and human services and public safety, just as promised.
No doubt, as he points out, many would have preferred to spend more money on education and public safety. If that had been the case, the state would have been facing a similar financial hole it was facing three years ago. All along, Robb has advocated for addressing underfunding in key areas (increased spending) and even called for the extension of the sales tax.
However, just as with any issue, you have to deal with the problem in front of you and plan for the best. When Proposition 100 was passed, there were no Vegas odds on the Republicans winning a 2/3rds majority in both legislative bodies which gave them overwhelming authority over how Prop 100 proceeds were spent. Therefore, while the state was indeed saved from nearly $1 billion in impending cuts, the same conservatives who opposed the tax in the first place used the increase in revenue to balance the budget and refill the rainy day fund and the Lord above chuckled about the plans we mortals make.
Certainly, the economic recovery did not happen as quickly as everyone would have hoped. In addition, there are areas that remain underfunded. However, having sufficient funds for the government we want is not the same as the voters being misled about what they got for voting for the temporary tax increase.
It is time to address the fiscal realities of Arizona’s future, but it does no good to misrepresent the past in the process.