Most Viewed Stories
Yuma legislator says appeals court ruling causing ‘grief'
State Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, is frustrated. As chairman of the Senate's Appropriations Committee, he's tasked with working up a balanced budget.
He believes that task just got much harder after Tuesday's ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which decided the state Legislature must provide additional funding every year to adjust for inflation, as mandated by voters in 2000.
Now Shooter is wondering where he and fellow budget-makers will come up with the additional money required to comply with the court's ruling.
“It's one more brick down the road, one more thing to take into account.”
It's not that he's against additional funding for education, he said. “There are unlimited wants and needs, but limited resources.”
Shooter also had sharp words for the appellate judges, calling them “activists.” “The courts, in their infinite wisdom, are causing us grief.”
Nevertheless, the senator added, “we'll try to do what we can for education.”
In 2010, during the state's budget crunch, Gov. Jan Brewer and state lawmakers slashed $61 million from the education fund, noting that the wording in the voter mandate, known as Proposition 301, allowed them the cut.
The appeals court said it was not ordering the Legislature to pay schools the money they would have received. But the ruling said any future appropriations should include the inflation adjustment or run afoul of the state constitution's Voter Protection Act, which requires the Legislature to obey voter mandates. The ruling overturned a trial court decision dismissing the lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office told The Associated Press that an appeal to the state Supreme Court is planned.
If the appeal is unsuccessful, it could throw a monkey wrench into Brewer's plans to boost school funding to pay for education priorities she laid out in her State of the State address Monday.
The appeals court ruling sympathized with lawmakers but said they were required to follow the law.
“Without question, the Legislature faces substantial challenges in preparing the state's budget, particularly during difficult economic circumstances,” the ruling said. “But our constitution does not permit the Legislature to change the meaning of voter-approved statutes by shifting funds to other purposes to meet other budgeting priorities.”
The Yuma Sun was unable to reach local legislators Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, Rep. Lisa Otondo and Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla for comment.
The Association Press contributed to this story.