Recently Arizona voters received the Publicity Pamphlet for Proposition 100, the statewide sales tax election. That pamphlet contains dozens of "pro" and "against" arguments concerning the ballot question as to whether to temporarily increase our state sales tax. I was impressed by the number of caring Arizonans who were willing to offer their opinions. Almost without exception, the arguments on both sides were sincere and well written.
In filtering through all of the arguments, the central points in the sales tax debate seem to come down to (1) big government versus small government, (2) the wisdom, or lack thereof, of raising taxes in a recession and (3) the financial efficiencies of state government, in this instance, the K-12 public school and state university systems. Over the past decades, whether Americans are debating education, health care, social service or any other government function, these three questions consistently surface and will likely continue to be debated in many contexts for years to come.
Coming back to Proposition 100, I am greatly concerned that Arizona voters may choose to draw the "line in the sand" on these fundamental political questions at exactly the wrong time and on the backs of our children and grandchildren by compromising Arizona's ability to effectively compete in the national and global economy with a highly educated workforce. I, like so many supporters of the sales tax increase, consider myself to be a fiscal conservative. I am the proud president of the Kyrene School District Governing Board, which ranks No. 1 in the state of Arizona for districts of its size in administrative efficiency and in putting money into the classroom. We hold this ranking while also being the home of 22 Excelling schools and three Highly Performing schools. Since Kyrene is already among the most fiscally efficient school districts in the state, further large funding reductions like those we will experience if Proposition 100 fails are especially damaging to us since we don't have any significant budgetary "fat" left to cut. Our budget cuts come right from the classroom in the form of larger class sizes and salary reductions.
I urge my fellow Arizonans to please do two things. First, show your commitment to education in Arizona by voting yes on Proposition 100. Second, demand that your elected officials, at every level, work diligently and cooperatively during the three years of temporary sales tax increase to get Arizona's state and local finances in order and to overhaul and stabilize our taxing systems. We should view the next three years of increased sales tax not as a bailout or a Band-Aid. We must view our YES on 100 votes as an ultimatum from voters to elected officials to make education the top priority in this state and to get our fiscal house in order once and for all.
Education and our global competitiveness are not issues that should be decided on the basis of philosophical arguments. If we as a nation and as a state have any hope of climbing out of the deep deficits we are facing, we must do so with a first-class education system and a highly educated and competitive workforce.
Ross Robb is president of the Kyrene School District Governing Board.