A tale of two propositions

Glenn Hamer

December 17, 2015

Voters next May will head to the ballot box with the opportunity to do something profoundly positive for the future of Arizona. In November’s election, though, they have the chance to inflict real damage on the state.

Proposition 123 will appear on a May 2016 special election ballot. That measure will ask voters whether to end a lengthy and costly lawsuit and inject $3.5 billion into the state’s K-12 education system.

Proposition 123, expertly negotiated by Gov. Doug Ducey, legislative leaders, and the education community, keeps our state budget in balance, protects other state spending priorities, such as universities, works toward ensuring that our schools have the resources they need to deliver top-quality education, all without raising state taxes.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is strongly supporting passage of Proposition 123. This column will not be the last time you hear from me about the critical importance of the measure and its positive impact on the state’s education system.

But six months later, in November 2016, we are anticipating that a proposition to legalize recreational marijuana will appear on the ballot. Legalizing pot is as potentially harmful to Arizona as Proposition 123 is positive.

The Arizona Chamber is strongly opposed to pot legalization, and we’ll expend the same amount of energy to defeat it as we will to pass Proposition 123. The two measures are diametrically opposed to one another.

While Proposition 123 will strengthen Arizona’s economy by sending a signal to employers that we are committed to ensuring that our education system can and will produce graduates prepared for college and career, legalizing marijuana will only be a drag on our talent pipeline. Employers will be faced with diminished worker productivity and compromised workplace safety. Additional negative effects include the resources that will be expended to manage the bureaucracy to regulate marijuana, roads that will be less safe, and costs that come with drug treatment and rehabilitation due to higher rates of addiction. These are unnecessary risks to incur in order to legalize a substance at the state level that the federal government, despite the current administration’s ambivalence, still considers illegal. The next occupant of the White House in January 2017 might be more unequivocal on drug enforcement than the current one.

Proponents of the dangerous legalization experiment claim that because pot will be taxed and revenues will be earmarked for education, our kids will be benefit. Don’t buy it. The costs outweigh any supposed upside. In Arizona’s long debate over education funding, no credible education advocate has called for the legalization of a harmful drug as the answer to what ails us.

Arizona’s K-12 system is on the verge of something special. With our best-in-class choice environment already in place and Gov. Ducey’s Classrooms First Council identifying ways to modernize our overall funding system, passage of Proposition 123 will put Arizona on the map nationally as a state that is smartly marrying reforms with resources in order to get results.

We’re poised to make real, substantive progress with the passage of Proposition 123. Let’s not let it go up in smoke.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.