May 29, 2024 - News

Agreement on Prop 123 renewal eludes lawmakers

Illustration of an eaten apple with a skin made of a dollar bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Time is running out for lawmakers to put the renewal of an expiring K-12 funding measure on the November ballot, and there's still no agreement among them.

Why it matters: Proposition 123 provides K-12 schools more than a quarter-billion dollars annually in funding from the state land trust.

The big picture: The 10-year measure expires next summer, and this is the last general election in which it could go on the ballot before that happens.

  • If it doesn't make the ballot, lawmakers could still call a special election next year to renew Prop 123 before it expires.
  • It was originally passed in a 2016 special election.

Zoom in: Legislative Republicans unveiled a plan late last year to renew Prop 123 and use the land trust revenues exclusively for teacher pay instead of general funding for K-12 schools.

  • Gov. Katie Hobbs responded with her own plan that would increase distributions from the land trust fund above the level established by Prop 123, with the additional money going toward raises for non-teacher support staff and general education funding.
  • Lawmakers don't need Hobbs' signature to send something to the ballot.

State of play: House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Glendale) tells Axios Phoenix there are ongoing discussions at the Capitol but "nothing concrete" has emerged and "we simply don't have a workable solution yet."

Between the lines: Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), who sponsored the Prop 123 proposal this year, tells Axios Phoenix there still isn't agreement among all 31 House Republicans.

  • Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) tells Axios he believes the plan has the support of all 16 Senate Republicans.
  • Republicans have one-vote majorities in both chambers, so they can't afford to lose any GOP votes unless they have Democratic support.

Friction point: Gress and Toma declined to comment on what the sticking points are in their caucus.

  • The Arizona School Boards Association's primary objections are the way it locks in salary schedules and limits who gets the money, ASBA lobbyist Chris Kotterman tells Axios Phoenix.
  • If Prop 123 is renewed but the money is directed to teacher salaries, the state will have to backfill the general funding that schools lose, Kotterman notes.

The other side: Hobbs said earlier this month she considers GOP lawmakers unlikely to reach a deal this session but it's "very likely" she'll call the Legislature into a special session to address the issue this year.

  • If that doesn't happen, she said, she looks forward to working with a new legislature on Prop 123 next year.

What's next: Gress says he is hopeful they'll reach an agreement to put Prop 123 renewal on the ballot this year and says if that doesn't happen there will be time to do it in a special election next year.

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