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State Capitol News

Public School Attorney Asked Judge to Force Lawmakers to Come up with More Funding

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/knau/local-knau-951333.mp3

Phoenix, AZ – In 2000 voters agreed to hike state sales taxes to help fund
education. Part of that required the Legislature to adjust state
aid to schools every year for inflation. But last year, with
money in short supply, lawmakers concluded that wording gives
them an out, letting them increase only the part of the formula
that pays for transportation -- $5 million versus $60 million.
The schools sued. But Assistant Attorney General Kevin Ray said
the only grounds for suit would be if the state illegally paid
out public funds.

(There was no illegal payment of public monies in this case. What
the plaintiffs are challenging is the non payment of monies, the
non-appropriation of monies.)

Attorney Don Peters said the schools he represents ARE entitled
to sue when legislators refuse to follow the laws. Peters also
brushed aside contentions that the state's financial condition
left no choice.

(The constitution says, and I quote, the Legislature shall make
such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall ensure the
proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, closed
quote. That's a mandatory duty. The constitution has told them
the answer to this supposed dilemma.)

The judge gave no indication when he will rule. For Arizona
Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.