Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The smoke is clearing, and the mirrors are cracking

The Jan Brewer and the Republican caucus of the legislature "balanced" the state's budget this year with a LOT of smoke and mirrors (possibly illegal fund sweeps, or counting on revenue from the voters overturning previously-approved measures, or not funding things that they are legally obligated to fund, and so on). 

Their scheme to *not* do their jobs properly is starting to fall apart.

From the Arizona Republic -
In a decision that could put a $10 million hole in the current state budget, a judge has ruled it's unconstitutional for Arizona to use money from proceeds of trust-land sales to help pay for running the Land Department instead of having it flow to schools and public institutions.

Land Commissioner Maria Baier said Monday the state plans to appeal the ruling, which Judge Gary Donahoe of Maricopa County Superior Court issued Friday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of taxpayers and a Phoenix school district, Cartwright Elementary.

A 2009 law approved by legislators struggling to close big budget shortfalls authorized creation of a management fund consisting of up to 10 percent of the annual proceeds of trust-land-sale proceeds.
The judge's ruling is here.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services has coverage here (courtesy the East Valley Tribune)

Just in case anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the specific sections of Arizona's constitution that requires that all proceeds from the sale of state trust lands go to education, Article 11, Section 8 of the AZ constitution reads:
Section 8. A. A permanent state school fund for the use of the common schools shall be derived from the sale of public school lands or other public lands specified in the enabling act approved June 20, 1910; from all estates or distributive shares of estates that may escheat to the state; from all unclaimed shares and dividends of any corporation incorporated under the laws of Arizona; and from all gifts, devises, or bequests made to the state for general educational purposes.

B. The rental derived from school lands, with such other funds as may be provided by law shall be apportioned only for common and high school education in Arizona, and in such manner as may be prescribed by law.
From Article 10, Section 7 of the Arizona constitution (this one is cited in the judge's ruling) -
Section 7. A. A separate permanent fund shall be established for each of the several objects for which the said grants are made and confirmed by the enabling act to the state, and whenever any monies shall be in any manner derived from any of said lands, the same shall be deposited by the state treasurer in the permanent fund corresponding to the grant under which the particular land producing such monies was, by the enabling act, conveyed or confirmed.

B. No monies shall ever be taken from one permanent fund for deposit in any other, or for any object other than that for which the land producing the same was granted or confirmed.
The case info can found on the website of the Maricopa County Superior Court.  Use the "find a case" function, and search the civil court docket for case number CV2010-012871.

The ruling is a small victory for education in Arizona, and for the rule of law.

It's a good start, but we need more of these, in courts across the state and at the ballot box on November 2.

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