Voters should reject a one-cent sales tax for education and highways, but embrace a ballot measure attempt to take over federal lands in Arizona, Republican candidates running as a slate for two house and one senate seat told an intent crowd at last week’s Payson Tea Party meeting.
“If there’s one proposition you vote against, it’s got to be 204,” said Rep. Chester Crandell (R-Heber). He represents all of Gila County now in the House, but wants to move up to the state Senate in the redrawn Legislative District 6, which runs from Heber, through northern Gila County, into the Verde Valley and Sedona and on up to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.
He’s running against Flagstaff Democrat Rep. Tom Chabin, who says he reluctantly supports Proposition 204 because the Legislature has failed to support education and made the deepest proportionate cuts in the nation in K-12 funding.
But Crandell said that Proposition 204 is supported by special interest groups like teachers and contractors, who would benefit from the estimated $1 billion annually in funding from the permanent extensions of a one-cent sales tax voters approved to minimize cuts to education during the recession.
Backers put Proposition 204 on the ballot after the Legislature cut education spending by $2 billion despite the voter approved, temporary sales tax increase. The Legislature also cut corporate taxes by $600 million. The state now has a nearly $500 million surplus and $450 million in a Rainy Day fund.
However, Crandell said Proposition 204 would hamstring the Legislature in a future budget crisis, since it includes a provision that would prevent the state from cutting K-12 funding below $3,000 per student — currently the lowest in the nation.
“It will never go any lower than that — and it also says you have to fund inflation. If we go off the cliff again, then who picks up the tab? It comes out of the general fund.”
Also supporting that position were Rep. Brenda Barton and Bob Thorpe, Flagstaff Tea Party head, constitutional author and former businessman. They’re running against former city planner and current Flagstaff resident Doug Ballard and former corporate executive and child advocate Angela LeFevre, who lives in Sedona. Ballard and LeFevre have made increases in school funding a central theme in their campaigns.
Barton said Proposition 204 would provide about $600 per student, “but it’s not guaranteed. It goes to the school board. It doesn’t say anything about” what the school board spends it on.
Thorpe called on the audience to get involved in campaigns and run for office, even if they’re running in a heavily Democratic district. “There’s too many districts where Democrats are running unopposed. We cannot allow that to happen. That just gives the Democrat Party money to put into other races. We need to go on the aggressive attack and ensure Arizona remains a red state — even redder than it is today.”
He said that his opponents are “lying through their teeth” in criticisms they made during a recent Clean Elections debate (for complete coverage of that debate, see the Roundup’s General Election supplement next week).
For instance, he faulted Ballard for criticizing the support the Republican slate offered for a resolution that told the U.S. Department of Energy to include Arizona on a list of state’s potentially interested in becoming the site for a facility to reprocess waste from nuclear reactors shipped in from all over the country.
Ballard in the Clean Elections debate opposed locating a nuclear processing facility in northern Arizona, citing problems with pollution that affect many areas as a result of uranium mining after World War II. That includes Workman Creek in the Sierra Anchas, closed to public use because of contamination from tailings from an abandoned uranium mine. Ballard in that debate also strongly opposed Proposition 120, a measure authored by Rep. Crandell and supported by Barton and Thorpe, which would revoke constitutional provisions adopted as a condition of statehood that accepted federal ownership of some 45 million acres of land in the state.
“All those mines in the 1940s were under federal authority,” said Thorpe. “(His opponents) really love the idea of being under the thumb of the federal government. Proposition 120 won’t solve all our problems, but it’s a good start. When you’re under a bully, sometimes you have to get their attention. They’re deathly afraid we’re going to resume logging in the Petrified Forest. These are city slickers and our job is to educate them.”
Barton strongly supported the legislative resolution welcoming a nuclear waste reprocessing facility, saying it would potentially bring an investment of $250 million and perhaps 1,000 new jobs. “If there are people looking for work, they need to get creative.”
Crandell turned the discussion of a nuclear facility back to Proposition 120, noting that if the proposition passed, the federal government couldn’t some day force the state to accept a nuclear waste reprocessing or storage site.
He also offered a somewhat contradictory criticism of Chabin, who in the debate had insisted that Proposition 120 would hurt the tourist economy and saddle the state with the enormous costs of managing the forests and fighting wildfires. Chabin said that’s why Republican Gov. Jan Brewer last year vetoed a similar measure. Thorpe dismissed that as a “lie,” saying that once the governor vetoes a bill it can’t come back as a proposition. However, Crandell later said that the bill he sponsored that put Proposition 120 on the ballot had to go through the Senate twice to get enough votes and only made it to the ballot because backers did an end-run around the governor’s office.
“I guess if it had to go through the governor’s office, we wouldn’t have seen it (on the ballot). If we don’t take this opportunity to be in lockstep with a new President (Republican Mitt Romney), we’ll miss a golden opportunity to get our state’s rights back” and urged his listeners to hold the governor’s “feet to the fire” in taking more conservative positions.
He said that the state “has been swayed to the ideological right because that’s what people want.”