PHOENIX -- Two leading anti-abortion groups are urging voters to reject Proposition 204 under a theory that some of the money raised by the tax could wind up in the coffers of Planned Parenthood.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said her concern is the initiative sets aside 10 percent of the first $1 billion raised for a new “family stability and self-sufficiency fund.”
Herrod contends that language would allow a future governor, who would control those funds, to any organization which can provide for services. And that, she said, opens the door to Planned Parenthood getting a share.
She acknowledged none of the funds could actually finance elective abortions. But Herrod said any money that goes to Planned Parenthood for any purpose frees up other cash -- cash that can be used for abortions.
Arizona Right to Life is taking a similar stance, asking for a “no” vote on the measure.
But Ann-Eve Pedersen, organizer of the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, said Herrod is looking for problems where none exist.
Proposition 204 would create a permanent one-cent sales tax surcharge, to kick in June 1, the day after the temporary levy approved by voters in 2010 expires.
Most of the money is earmarked for public education, with other funds for road construction and health insurance for the children of the working poor. But there also is $100 million out of that first $1 billion for the fund that concerns Herrod which a governor can allocate to “basic needs of children, families and vulnerable adults” whose income is less than twice the federal poverty level.
The initiative defines “basic needs” as preventing hunger, homelessness and family and domestic violence and providing child care.”
But Herrod said it is the rest of the definition that causes her heartburn.
“ 'Other community services that lead to family stability and self-sufficiency' could mean anything,” she said. And Herrod said a future governor -- one not as opposed to abortion as Jan Brewer -- could decide that includes some of the services that Planned Parenthood provides.
“You've seen it through the years,” Herrod said.
Pedersen said the language is nowhere near as broad as Herrod contends, pointing to the language about things like preventing hunger.
“I'm not sure that Planned Parenthood provides any of those services,” she said. And Pedersen dismissed Herrod's claim that the “other services” language about family stability and self sufficiency could somehow provide an opportunity for that organization to get any of the funds.
“This is intended, and the language is clear, that these are for human services and specifically talks about providing for basic needs,” Pedersen said. “It doesn't talk about providing for health care.”
Herrod, however, remains unconvinced that there are not unintended consequences.
She said that's what happened with a law which allows people to get a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit for donations to charities that spend half their funds on the poor, chronically ill or physically disabled. But it turned out that people were claiming credits for donations to Planned Parenthood, something Herrod said was never the intent of lawmakers.
It took two years and two amendments to lock Planned Parenthood out of the program.
Herrod said she fears the language in Proposition 204 is similarly “vague and ill defined.”
Pedersen said she sees something more sinister in Herrod's opposition.
She said Herrod is well connected with the Republican majority in the Legislature, lawmakers who oppose the initiative. And since they cannot convince voters themselves to kill it on its merits, Pedersen said they are having their “surrogates” like Herrod do the job for them.
Herrod denies that's the case, saying she routinely reviews all legislation for possible effects on issues of concern to her organization.
Pedersen said lost in the criticism is the reason for creating this new family stability program. She said it relates to the goal of improving education, especially those living near or below the poverty line.
“If you've got a kid coming in and they're hungry, they're not coming in ready to learn,” she said.
“If they are living out of a car, they're not ready to learn,” Pedersen continued. “For others to disingenuously, knowingly say otherwise is very disappointing.”