Phoenix, AZ – In 1998 voters approved the Growing Smarter program providing $20
million a year for 11 years to set aside open space. There's
currently about $104 million in that account. The measure would
borrow $40 million of that over the next two years, with most of
that going to parks. But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said the funds,
having been earmarked by voters, are off limits.
(The Arizona Legislature does not have the right, the ability or
the constitutional authority to take these dollars out of Growing
Smarter funds and put them to any other purposes. And by doing
so, even if we are saying it shall be a loan and we shall repay
it, still violates the state constitution.)
But Rep. Warde Nichols said there is an exception. Lawmakers can
make changes when they further the purpose of the original
(Even being voter protected, I believe that it is expanding the
purpose of the Growing Smarter by keeping our state parks open,
keeping open space open.)
Even if he's right, exercising that exception requires a three-
fourths vote of both the House and Senate. At this point, if all
the Democrats remain opposed, there aren't the necessary votes.
Whatever the outcome, it can't come fast enough to keep the state
from closing 13 parks in the next few months, the first two of
these on Monday. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.