Prop 123 is Not New Money — And Possibly Not Legal

By David Boyles

Now that Doug Ducey’s minions on the state Supreme Court have knocked the Invest in Ed initiative off the ballot, and Ducey is up against a pro public education opponent in David Garcia, we are probably going to hear a lot from Ducey about how he pumped millions of dollars into public schools with the Prop 123 initiative that was passed in May 2016.

But here’s a reality check. Prop 123 was not “new” money.” The initiative to raid the state land trust for education funding was a stopgap solution to a decade-old lawsuit against the state legislature for not properly funding public education. After Arizona voters passed Prop 301 in 2000 to increase education funding, the Republican-controlled state legislature refused to spend the money as the voters intended. The legislature was sued and Prop 123 was the “compromise” solution presented by then-State Treasurer Doug Ducey to end the lawsuit. And by the way, the money in Prop 123 only partially pays back the money the legislature stole from Prop 301. Ducey claiming credit for it is like someone stealing money from your wallet and begrudgingly paying back half of it, then wanting you to thank them for it.

And also, Prop 123 might not even be legal. In March, a federal judge ruled the raid on the state land trust that provided the Prop 123 money was unconstitutional. But Ducey and the state legislature have simply chosen to ignore the court ruling while an appeal is pending, possibly leaving the state on the hook for repaying hundreds of millions of dollars to the land trust somewhere down the line, probably after Ducey is out of office and it’s not his problem anymore.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.