Pass Prop. 100, get AZ off ledge

May 2, 2010

Arizona Daily Star

Arizona voters have a choice to make about whether to support a 1-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase: Make a financial sacrifice to try to preserve public education, public health and public safety, or say our state isn't worth the effort.

We believe Arizonans are worthy of the sacrifice. Prop. 100 should be passed.

Some of you have voted early, and others will go to the polls May 18.

Prop. 100 is the best among limited options facing the state as we deal with the effects of a massive budget shortfall.

Education, public health and public safety have already taken the brunt of budget cuts under the Legislature, and more are guaranteed if the sales tax doesn't pass.

Much of the talk back and forth about Prop. 100 involves giant numbers - millions of this, billions of that. These figures are so massive it's difficult to put them into a scale that makes sense.

So think of Prop. 100 in this way:

  • Paying one penny more in tax every time you spend a dollar on something that's not food, you are helping a schoolkid have textbooks, a teacher stay in the classroom.
  • You are helping to ensure that when your neighbor calls 911 in an emergency, the police and fire departments will respond ASAP.
  • That penny will help make sure a person who has been laid off can see a doctor when he or she is sick.

You may ask: What will Prop. 100 do?

Will Prop. 100 fix Arizona's problems? No.

Will Prop. 100 give extra money to schools or law enforcement? No.

Will Prop. 100 get rid of the budget shortfall? No.

What Prop. 100 will do is this: It will help keep Arizona from tumbling off a cliff.

The Republican majority in the Legislature has shown no inclination toward anything but cutting its way through the state budget problems.

Rejecting Prop. 100 in the hopes that the resulting dire financial situation would force lawmakers into forward-thinking decisions is foolhardy.

If the legislative majority could be shocked or pushed into responsible actions that benefit the state, it would have happened by now.

It hasn't.

There are problems with Prop. 100. The language of the proposition does not prevent lawmakers from reducing general-fund money for schools and public safety, even while the new sales-tax revenues are channeled to education and public safety.

So, yes, it is possible. Compare that possibility, however, with the certainty that if Prop. 100 does not pass, education, public safety and public health will most definitely be decimated by cuts.

Prop. 100 is not a magic wand that will make everything in Arizona better.

But what passing the 1-cent-per-dollar temporary sales tax will do is to proclaim that public education, public safety and public health are priorities now and for the future in our state. And that's a statement that, ultimately, will matter most.

Prop. 100 should pass.

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