So did you hear the one about the masochist and the sadist? The masochist begs, please, “whip me, hit me.”
The sadist gives him a long look, grins wickedly and say: “No.”
Well, the relationship between the long-suffering taxpayers and students of Gila County looks more and more like the outlandish punch line to that sick joke.
We’re referring to the attempt by the House Higher Education Committee to keep a decade-long swindle of Gila County going by denying Gila Community College access to the workforce development funding long enjoyed by all the other colleges in the state.
That comes on top of another bill that would finally let GCC become independent — but only if we give up the rights to equalization funding received by other rural community colleges.
Now, somehow we were prepared to sit quietly and let lawmakers rip us off when it comes to the equalization funding.
The Legislature set up that pot of money years ago when it basically locked the doors to the formation of any new community college districts. The equalization money was intended to make up for the lack of an adequate property tax base in five rural counties, where the federal government owns most of the land.
If GCC got into that pool, it would be entitled to $6 million — effectively doubling the district’s budget. But that would have a big impact on the other community college districts in the pool — so it seemed likely that standing on our rights would doom the bill that provided a path to independence.
So we didn’t say anything about the first, and no doubt greatest injustice, especially when Senate President Pro Tem Sylvia Allen, who sponsored the bill, said the bill would never have escaped the Senate without that huge concession.
So then along comes the workforce development money, another fund from which GCC was barred by its status as a provisional community college.
Voters, including those in Gila Country, approved a surcharge on the sales tax a decade ago to provide crucial job training programs through the state’s network of community colleges. Gila County taxpayers have been paying their share ever since — even though their college gets none of the money and their children get none of the benefits.
Sen. Allen’s bill would have fixed that nagging injustice.
Each district gets a base payment of $200,000, plus an additional allotment based on enrollment. That would make GCC eligible for $280,000, which it could use to provide vocational and technical training in a county with an 11 percent unemployment rate and no easy access to any four-year colleges.
The other community colleges would have lost a relative pittance if GCC got its fair share. Nonetheless, several of their representatives objected. As a result, the House Higher Education Committee put a hold on the bill. Bowing to the opposition, Sen. Allen agreed to an amendment that would cut GCC’s workforce development funding to $80,000.
That’s outrageously unfair.
Of course, in a bitter irony — the House Appropriations Committee apparently swallowed up most of the workforce development money for the whole state in a mad scramble to balance the state budget on the backs of local taxpayers.
Still, we’re outraged by the maneuver — and the blatant, unapologetic unfairness of the whole, sorry situation.
We hope that the last-minute efforts of GCC advocates will bear fruit and the Legislature will reverse the House Committee and do the right thing — adopting the same provisions as the Senate.
But then, expecting good things from the Legislature these days is something only a masochist can enjoy.