October 1, 2019 / Modified oct 1, 2019 2:28 p.m.

Judge rules against Arizona education plan drawing on land trust funds

The ruling says Arizona violated federal law with the voter-approved Proposition 123.

ducey 123 Gov. Doug Ducey pushed for the passage of Proposition 123 in 2016.
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U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that Arizona violated federal law when it increased the amount of money it takes from the state land trust without first getting congressional approval.

The state land trust was set up by Congress when Arizona became a state. Sales and leases of the land are supposed to help fund education and prisons.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 123 in 2016. It was a constitutional amendment pushed by Gov. Doug Ducey that allowed the state to take an additional $2 billion out of the trust for education.

Backers of the change touted it as a way to increase education funding without raising taxes. It was proposed as part of settlement for a lawsuit the state lost over not fully funding K-12 education.

Judge Wake wrote that since the land trust was set up by Congress, any changes need approval from that body. He also wrote that a provision in the 2018 federal budget allowing the change is not good enough even though the budget is approved by Congress.

He wrote that U.S. representatives, senators and members of the public did not know that provision was added.

The governor's office has promised an appeal, and said the ruling does not affect the money already distributed to schools.

On Twitter, Patrick Ptak, the governor's spokesman, called the ruling "incoherent, poorly reasoned." He also said it overrules nearly every branch of state and federal government.

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