Monthly Archives: April 2018

Late last week the simmering dispute over teacher pay finally boiled over, and now the legislature and Governor Ducey are racing to meet the demands of angry educators. On Thursday, the Governor held a press conference announcing his commitment to fund a 20 percent pay raise for all teachers, to be implemented over two years.

The good news is that the Governor remains committed to raising teacher pay without raising taxes. The downside is that his administration may be relying on unrealistic revenue projections over the next couple of years, which if overstated could lead to a new budget deficit for Arizona. After fixing the structural deficit in his first year, it would be a major disappointment if his new proposal puts Arizona back in the same hole that Ducey inherited in 2015.

The Governor’s plan isn’t the only proposal circling the halls at the capitol. A small group of Republican lawmakers were pitching their own teacher pay plan, with one big difference—the 20 percent raise would be paid for primarily through middle-class income tax increases and an “undisclosed” tax hike in 2020.

Notwithstanding the fact that any spending plan that relies on mystery tax increases in the future isn’t a real plan, it is startling that some lawmakers support the idea to use tax conformity dollars generated through federal tax reform to pay for higher teacher salaries. Make no mistake, any revenue kept by the legislature as a result of tax conformity is an income tax increase.

Earlier this session a coalition of organizations sent a letter to the legislature and the Governor urging our elected leaders to return to the taxpayers any additional revenue generated by the State as a result of Federal tax reform.  Currently the Department of Revenue and JLBC have estimated that individual taxpayers will pay between $175 to $235 Million more in individual income taxes if action is not taken by lawmakers.

Despite the wishes of politicians, this is not new revenue generated by Jack’s magic beans. This is a looming tax hike that could undo the benefits of federal tax reform if not properly addressed.

If policy makers want to implement a 20 percent teacher pay raise, they should do it through other spending cuts and reasonable projections in future revenue. And if lawmakers do want to raise taxes to increase teacher pay, then they should at least be transparent in their actions and not hide their tax increase proposals in the shadows of income tax conformity.

In a historic vote, the Board for the Maricopa County Community College District voted to end “meet and confer” process at their meeting in February.  Meet and Confer is a form of collective bargaining by which the district’s faculty association has input into faculty benefits such salary schedules, code of ethics, and workload.

The decision was opposed by the faculty association and allies in organized labor and resulted in a frivolous lawsuit claiming damages in excess of $850,000. Lest anyone confuse the faculty board’s motivation with benevolent concern with ensuring the more than 1,400 full-time faculty members of the district get a fair shake – it is important to note that each of the four executive members are claiming $150,000 worth of personal damages for each of them.  The other $250,000 are claimed on behalf of the association which pays the board to negotiate on behalf of its members.  That’s a lot of upside for association board members.  It is less clear how the rest of the 1,404 faculty members benefit.

Although the faculty association isn’t an officially recognized union, their actions leave hardly any room for distinction.  When the district board was discussing the policy change as a way to streamline faculty policy-making and save valuable county resources – the association immediately ginned up opposition by spreading fears of the worst-case scenarios.  Which was a convenient ploy to boost association membership – and dues.

A bureaucratic and “labor-intensive” process like meet and confer wastes time, money and resources – all of which could be directed into better compensation for faculty members who deserve it. Many communities and political subdivisions have eliminated meet and confer, and the alternative has proved to be far superior.

Individual faculty members communicate their individual concerns, needs, and desires to their management team.  Under this more tailored approach of employer-employee negotiations, compensation is based upon the merit and accomplishments of individual faculty members, not from the collective bargaining of a few well-compensated representatives who must negotiate for the lowest common denominator.

At the end of the day the board members are the elected representatives of the people and all college policy decisions are their responsibility.  They must balance the use of taxpayer dollars with the optimization of educational outcomes.  Eliminating meet and confer is a proven, common-sense policy decision that will better serve students, faculty, and taxpayers alike.

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The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is a free market policy and advocacy group dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.