I moved to Arizona almost five years ago, after visiting family here for over 30 years because I love it here! But, after five years, I also understand we have our share of problems. One is legislators who are big on ideology and rhetoric, but low on facing facts and finding solutions.
Clearly from his guest opinion in the March 6th Explorer, LD11’s Senator Melvin either doesn’t know Arizona has problems, or believes they only exist because the “left-wingers” aren’t on board. Here’s some facts that help describe the “wellness” of our State with regard to business climate and education.
FACT: Arizona was recently ranked the 47th worst run state in America[i]
FACT: Arizona’s business startup rate has been relatively high, but, many of these were sole proprietors (no other employees) who started a business because they lost their jobs. This ‘jobless entrepreneurship’ trend negatively affects job creation and the larger economic recovery.”[ii]
FACT: In terms of job gains, Senator Melvin is correct, in the decade preceding 2012, Arizona ranked fourth in private sector job creation, while our population rose at the second highest rate in the country. Keep in mind, that he didn’t take office until 2009 and any legislative impact he had on jobs, most likely didn’t take affect until at least 2010.[iii]
FACT: Arizona’s most plentiful future jobs aren’t going to be “living wage” jobs unless something changes. Most of them between 2012 and 2016 are predicted to be low paying: retail sales, customer service, cashiers, waitresses and waiters, janitors and housekeepers, food prep and service.[iv] Only one of these jobs (customer service) result in a living wage for a family of three if combined with another of these jobs. In other words, someone working two of these jobs still doesn’t earn a living wage.[v]
FACT: Arizona’s Legislature’s “Balanced Budget” has impacted our wallets. For example, Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) from fuel tax, vehicle registration and licensing, etc., is supposed to pay for roads and road repairs. The state legislature has taken over $200 million of these funds from cities and towns, using money meant for fixing potholes to shore up budget holes instead.[vi] Another is the $50M that was taken from the national mortgage assistance settlement in 2010. It should have gone directly to families suffering because banks gambled with their mortgages, and the families lost – thanks to our legislators, Arizona families lost twice.[vii]
There is a strong correlation between well-educated populations and generally well-managed states, as cited by at least one rating source, so let’s look at education.
FACT: State-appropriated funding for education declined to an estimated $3,780 per student in fiscal 2012 from $4,901 in fiscal 2008. This was a decline of $1,121 per student — or about 23 percent.[viii]
FACT: Mortgaging the state buildings raised $735 million in immediate revenue, but cost us more than 63% ($465 million) that much in interest.[ix]
FACT: In 2011, ALEC’s 17th Report Card, ranked Arizona at #36 on National Association of Educational Performance (NAEP).[x] The 2013 Quality Counts Report ranked Arizona 43rd with a C- grade in the nation in educational policy and performance.[xi]
FACT: Of the four school districts Senator Melvin cited as “outstanding”, only the Catalina Foothills United District was awarded an “A” grade by the Arizona Department of Education, under the state’s new A-F accountability system.[xii]
FACT: There is no requirement to measure Arizona’s home school program and in fact, state law prohibits the state Department of Education from requiring testing or reporting of test results.[xiii] It’s anyone’s guess how well home schooling works in Arizona, and my guess is that not all of it is “great”.
FACT: The Individual Tax Credit program favors private schools by a factor of five to one and the Corporate Income Tax Credit contributions have grown to over $55M in 2010, all monies not available to the State general fund.[xiv]
FACT: Of the tax credit money given to School Tuition Organizations (STOs) for private schools in 2012, 63.2% of the scholarships went to children in families with incomes from 185% of poverty level ($41,348 for a family of four) to greater than 342.25% of poverty level ($76,494 for a family of four). Keep in mind the law also allows these STOs to keep 10% of the tax credits themselves.[xv]
In his guest opinion last week, Senator Melvin said: “we need to pull together and not engage in class warfare, including the left’s fixation of soaking the so-called rich. By pulling together we can all succeed.”
With this accusation, he continues to be archaic and divisive. Arizona is better than that. We can all come together, but we need straight talk and inclusive action from our politicians.
A politician thinks about the next election, a leader things about the next generation. Melvin says a leader shouldn’t mortgage the next generation. We agree, but isn’t that exactly what he did with the state capitol buildings?