Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Props. 301 and 302 are toast, state budget now further in the hole

Almost half the first year’s half-cent sales tax increase passed in May went up in smoke tonight when voters overwhelmingly rejected Props. 301 and 302.

The state Legislature wanted to use the $80 million from the Growing Smarter Fund, Prop. 301, and the nearly $370 million from the First Things First fund, Prop. 302, to balance the state budget.

Though early results show just early ballot returns and about 10 percent of state precincts, both propositions are trailing by 2-to-1 and 3-to-1 margins. Those margins will likely hold up as the rest of today’s ballots are counted tonight.

Because both programs were created by voters, the Legislature had to ask voters to end them so it could raid their fund balances for the state budget. Now that voters have said they want the programs to continue, the Legislature has to find some other pot with $450 million in it to balance the state budget.

There is no such pot.

That means it will have to cut programs since Republican leaders stubbornly refuse to raise taxes (and several want to cut taxes somehow thinking it will magically make the economy better and increase economic activity).

More than half of the state budget goes to education, K-12 and community colleges and universities.

Which means it’s a sure bet that as soon as the dust settles on this election, newly elected Gov. Jan Brewer will call a lame-duck session and ask for more cuts to education.

Which she, other GOP leaders, the state teacher’s unions and others, all said wouldn’t happen if voters passed a half-cent sales tax in May, which they subsequently did. The tax is expected to raise about $1 billion a year.

Guess what? You can lop $450 million off that estimate now.

I hate to be an I-told-you-so, but I told you so.

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