By Linda Bentley | April 20, 2016

Early voting begins for May 17 special election

CAVE CREEK – By now, voters should have received their publicity pamphlet for the May 17 special election containing information about Propositions 123 and 124 to amend the Arizona Constitution, along with all the arguments for and against the propositions.

I’ll start with Prop. 124 because there were no opposition statements filed.

Prop. 124 allows modifications to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) that allows the legislature to revise the formula for providing pension benefit increases for retirees, survivors and current members of PSPRS.

The PSPRS includes 237 employers, including cities, towns, counties, state agencies and special districts, all of which are financially liable for the pensions of their own employees.

Like Prop. 123, there is litigation pending.

In 2011, the legislature passed SB 1609, modifying PSPRS benefits and other retirement systems.

Those changes affected the retirement benefits of both current retirees as well as current employees.

A court ruling has blocked changes to benefit increases for existing retirees, while litigation is currently pending to block changes for current employees hired before July 2011.

Maricopa County Superior Court has ruled in favor of the current employees and the ruling is being appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Prop. 124 will preserve the legislature’s current ability to modify public retirement benefits for future employees and reduce the percentage of unfunded liabilities.

Prop. 123, of which Gov. Doug Ducey is a proponent, will settle a lawsuit brought by Cave Creek Unified School District and others over Prop. 301 monies approved by voters in 2000, requiring the state increase K-12 funding each year to keep up with inflation.

Prop. 123 proposes to increase the amount of money schools receive from state land from 2.5 percent to 6.9 percent, which many, including State Treasurer Jeff DeWit say is bad policy by cutting revenue from the state land trust by more than $8 billion over 40 years.

The state land trust was set up at statehood to be a perpetual source of funding primarily for schools without cutting into the principal.

DeWit claims it will reduce the principal in the land trust by $3 billion over the next 10 years.
Prop. 123 will end the lawsuit and school districts and unions are urging its passage.

However, while the Arizona Education Association is urging passage of Prop. 123, its Vice President Joe Thomas stated, “Prop 123 is a big step, but it cannot be the end of the discussion.
That’s why our focus is Prop 123 GO. When voters pass Prop 123, the campaign to support strong public schools will just be starting. We need to increase and stabilize funding for public education so our children go to school in clean classrooms with up to date textbooks and technology and small class sizes. We need to attract and retain the best teachers and give them the resources they need. And we need to restore full-day kindergarten so our children get the start they need when they enter school.”

In other words, whatever money Prop. 123 bleeds from the state land trust, it will never be enough and school districts will still ask taxpayers to pass bonds and budget overrides.

Some opponents claim Prop. 123 steals money from future generations of Arizonans.

Voters need to read not only the pro and opposition arguments in the pamphlet but look at who wrote those arguments and the organizations that sponsored them.