State Capitol News
9:17 am
Thu December 16, 2010

State Land Department Will Have Enough Money to Keep its Doors Open

Phoenix, AZ – Last year, looking to balance the budget, lawmakers took away
state tax dollars, directing Commissioner Maria Baier to instead
use some of the proceeds her agency gets from the sale and lease
of state trust land. But in October, a trial judge said those
lands -- and the profits -- exist solely to benefit public
schools and blocked further transfers. Baier said without those
funds she would have to lay off 106 of her 115 workers. On
Wednesday the state court of appeals said she could keep
diverting cash -- but only through the end of this budget year --
while the case makes its way through the legal system. Attorney
Tim Hogan who filed the original lawsuit, said he can live with
that.

(Our interest isn't to shut down the Land Department. What I did
not want is an open-ended stay during the entire appeal process.)

Hogan said that deadline should force lawmakers to come up with
an alternate -- and legal -- source of cash. But Baier said she
has no plans now to seek state funds.

(This is a lawful method of funding. So, first and foremost, we
intend to continue to rely on the trust land management funds for
the operation of the state Land Department.)

In his October ruling, the trial judge said the constitutional
language requiring the proceeds from trust lands go to the
beneficiaries is -- quote -- unambiguous. For Arizona Public
Radio this is Howard Fischer.