Response to Al Melvin’s column in the Oct. 19 edition of The Explorer.
I am Jo Holt, and I’m running for the Arizona State Senate seat currently held by Sen. Al Melvin. I have never run for public office before, but I feel compelled to do so now. The choices made by Senator Melvin and his friends in the state legislature are fiscally irresponsible. They reject federal funding for unemployment insurance and for poor children’s healthcare, while they actively seek federal dollars for a nuclear waste power plant. I do not want the nation’s nuclear waste brought to Arizona. Senator Melvin touts the fact that China is building nuclear power plants. We aren’t China, and we don’t want to be.
Senator Melvin and his friends are responsible for the continuing erosion of our multi-generational investment in public education. From 2009 to 2011, over 30 different bills to cut state funding for public education were passed by the Arizona legislature -- cuts to K-12 education, technical education, adult education, community colleges, and state universities. Senator Melvin voted in favor of every single one. And yet he now maintains that he “protected” K-12 education.
This is a very surprising statement from our incumbent Senator. In the course of my campaign, I have listened to one story after another from teachers, parents, school administrators, and their families about the lack of resources in our K-12 public schools and the impact these shortages have on the quality of education. Are these folks exaggerating?
A national study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that no state cut their K-12 education funding more deeply and dramatically than did Senator Melvin and his friends in the legislature. Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee reports that state funding for K-12 schools has been cut by 20% since Al Melvin took office. AZ Fact Check calls Senator Melvin’s claim that K-12 education funding was protected “mostly false.”
He takes his argument that he protected K-12 education a step further by connecting it with the ill-conceived sale/leaseback of our state buildings. This desperate act of selling and then leasing back our State Capitol and other buildings in 2010 was a national embarrassment. Worst yet, it effectively constitutes borrowing and will end up costing Arizona taxpayers more than it brought in. It was a stop-gap gimmick used to balance the budget for one year.
This is the bottom line: state funding for our K-12 traditional public schools has been cut by 20% since 2008. Senator Melvin voted in favor of each cut. He has to take his share of the responsibility for the largest cuts in the nation to K-12 public education.
What he and others in the legislature “protected” were the tax breaks for special interests that have been woven into the state tax codes (sales tax, income tax, and property tax) over the years. We need legislators who are willing to work with each other to reform our tax codes and fix, not strangle, the state’s revenue stream.
(Editor’s Note: Democrat Jo Holt is running against incumbent State Sen. Al Melvin in Legislative District 11 in the Nov.. 6 election.)