Prop 100 a bridge to future

May 4, 2010

The Explorer

Pete Hershberger

Save our state's future: vote yes on Prop 100 in the May 18 special election.

Our state is teetering near fiscal collapse. State revenues are down 35 percent and are now coming in at 2004 levels. Yet, compared to 2004, in 2010 we have 150,000 more K-12 students, 11,000 more prisoners, and we have 475,000 more citizens on AHCCCS.

What we have is a revenue crisis. Those who oppose Prop 100 tell us we have a spending crisis. Not so. We have cut spending to the bone, to the tune of $ 2.2 billion. Eighty-one percent of these cuts have been to education and health and human services.

Make no mistake. There will be more cuts whether or not Prop 100 passes. Prop 100 is a temporary bridge to save us from devastating our schools, our health and human services and our public safety, so that we don't send our economy further into a tailspin.

Proposition 100 increases the state sales tax by 1 percent for three years only. A yes vote will salvage education, health care and public safety. It is absolutely necessary.

Opponents of Prop 100 will argue that this tax will never go away, because taxes are always permanent. This is absolutely not true. By law Prop 100 is temporary. It expires on May 31, 2013. This expiration date will be written into the Arizona Constitution.

Opponents of Prop 100 argue that it is an 18 percent tax increase. This is political spin meant to confuse voters. While the difference between 5.6 and 6.6 cents is 18 percent, the tax increase is 1 percent. What the citizens will pay is 1 percent extra, temporarily, for three years.

Because state law already enacted, if Prop 100 does not pass, the state must immediately cut $1 billion, taking away another $420 million from public education, $120 from higher education, $90 million from public safety and $200 million from health-care and human services.

To those who say we can't afford a temporary tax increase, I say we can't afford the alternative.

Parents of our school children say we can't afford not to pass Prop 100. Schools have already terminated classroom teachers and increased class sizes. Schools have already closed. Just recently, school governing boards all over Arizona enacted devastating cuts. Our schools are already among the lowest funded in the entire country. Any more cuts to education will have disastrous long-term impacts on our children. When class sizes reach and surpass 35 and 40 students, children cannot learn as well. Our children suffer now and our economy suffers later, because these students are tomorrow's workforce.

Our hospitals say we can't afford not to pass Prop 100. If Prop 100 fails, the state is projected to cut reimbursements for AHCCCS patients by 10 percent. Hospitals are already losing money and will have to terminate tens of thousands of jobs. Our economy will suffer immediately.

Our police, fire and corrections officers say we can't afford not to pass Prop 100. If Prop 100 fails, the plan is to have prisoners serve the last year of their sentences in county jails. How will counties pay that added cost? Raise property taxes. And property taxes aren't paid by out-of-state visitors. Ten percent of sales taxes are.

Our businesses say we can't afford not to pass Prop 100. Businesses need educated workers to compete in today's global market. Businesses looking to move to Arizona first look at the educational system. Businesses understand that good education is an investment in their future. The vast majority of businesses and business groups in Arizona support Prop 100. If Prop 100 fails we will lose jobs and businesses. Our economy will suffer immediately. When our economy suffers, the burden on the local taxpayer increases. So all Arizonans, whether or not they have school-aged children, have a stake in supporting Prop 100.

So when others say we can't afford Prop 100, I say we can't afford not to pass Prop 100. Our children, citizens and economy need this bridge for today and to safeguard our future.

Pete Hershberger is a former four-term Republican state representative from District 26.

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