Former Sen Jon Kyl: Let’s Debunk The Myth That Prop. 123 Will Hurt Us

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Former senator: I’m baffled by claims that Proposition 123 will do irreparable harm to Arizona’s permanent fund.[/pullquote]

I strongly support Prop. 123 and am baffled by opposition to it, most of which seems to claim it will do irreparable harm to the state’s permanent fund.

Jon KylThis simply isn’t true.

To help Arizona transition from a frontier territory to the 48th state, the federal government turned over to the new state about 11 million acres of land, to be held in trust for the support of public needs, the first and foremost of which was K-12 education.

The state accomplishes that role by selling and leasing state trust lands to produce revenue. The revenue from the sale of state trust lands are deposited into Arizona’s permanent fund. The money in the permanent fund is then invested by the state in stocks, bonds and other investments and produce additional returns.

We’re dipping into interest, not the fund

Arizona’s permanent fund is currently worth about $5 billion, and the trust earns money each year, with an average rate of return over 6.9 percent for the past 10 years.

Right now, 2.5 percent of the value of the permanent trust fund is distributed on an annual basis to beneficiaries like K-12 public schools. Voting “yes” on Prop. 123 would increase the distribution amount to 6.9 percent (roughly $342 million per year) from 2.5 percent (roughly $125 million per year) for a period of 10 years.

Given that the permanent fund has averaged a rate of return in excess of this proposed 6.9 percent distribution for the past 10 years, which includes the depths of this past recession, we should view Prop. 123 as an agreement to distribute the anticipated interest from the permanent fund to the trust beneficiaries – and not as an agreement to dip into the $5.1 billion corpus of the permanent fund.

Trust also includes $70 billion in land

We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the trust is composed not only of the $5.1 billion in the permanent fund, but also of the value of the remaining state trust lands, which have a current estimated value of some $70 billion.

As urban growth has reached formerly outlying areas of state trust land, it stands to reason that this value will very likely increase in future years as expanding infrastructure and growth drive values to those lands.

Using $3.5 billion of that combined $75 billion of value over the next 10 years to help educate our K-12 kids is hardly a wasteful dissipation of the trust assets. Indeed, the combined values of the state trust lands and permanent trust fund should very well be even greater in 10 years based on current and expected trends. In any event, the myth of destruction of the trust needs to be exposed.

Why not put this cash to better use?

Prop. 123 does not mandate the sale of any part of the land being held in trust for K-12. That asset will continue to be managed in the best manner possible to provide for this generation of students as well as future generations.

Prop. 123 does put appropriate pressure on the state to ensure it performs its role in producing a quality revenue stream to support the intended beneficiaries of the trust, including our K-12 system.

Here is my question. From what do we get greater value: sitting on the assets in the trust (earning a bit), or investing $3.5 billion to better educate millions of Arizona kids today?

An educated citizenry is the best guarantee of economic growth and societal health. In other words, this human capital will be much more valuable for the state than keeping the assets in the trust, which is supposed to exist to help educate our youth.

In addition, this funding will also satisfy a legal obligation resulting from court decisions holding that the state government had not devoted sufficient appropriations to K-12 education in the past. Without Prop. 123, it is likely a tax increase would be necessary to meet this legal obligation.

Let us keep in mind that the trust was intended from the beginning to provide support for our K-12 system. Rather than allowing the trust to continue to underfund our current students, we should support Prop. 123 and put those funds to work in our classrooms now.

Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl is senior counsel at Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C. 

Get the Facts on Prop 123


Early voting has started, so we want to make sure you have the facts about Proposition 123 before you cast your ballot.  Prop 123 is a sustainable plan to fund K-12 education in Arizona and give teachers and students the resources they need.

Please forward this post to at least one friend or family member to make sure they have the facts before voting in the May 17 special election.

Get the facts below, visit, or email if you have questions!

  • Prop 123 doesn’t raise taxes. Prop 123 uses additional dollars from the state land trust fund to give teachers and students the resources they need without raising our taxes. It’s a financially responsible and sustainable way to help our schools.
  • Prop 123 puts $3.5 billion into the classroom. This money will have a real impact over the next decade. It will give teachers and students stability and the resources they need to succeed.
  • Prop 123 gives local control to school districts. No one knows better where this money needs to go than principals, school board members, and teachers. Prop 123 will give individual districts control over the funds to ensure local decision-making and teacher input.
  • Prop 123 protects the trust. According to the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee, even with the higher distributions of funds from Prop 123, the state land trust will grow by over $1 billion over 10 years. The trust will continue to grow under Prop 123 so it can fund education for future generations.
  • Prop 123 keeps quality teachers. Teachers are fleeing Arizona because of a lack of financial support for education. This will reverse that trend and help pay our teachers what they deserve.

Learn more about why Prop 123 is a financially responsible solution in Robert Robb’s column, “Prop. 123 doesn’t bust the state land trust” below.


Team Prop 123

Why is Don Shooter Giving Government Special Treatment?

Toby Farmer

Toby Farmer Asks Don Shooter to Explain Intentions of Immunity Bill

Republican candidate Toby Farmer is asking State Senator Don Shooter to explain his sponsorship and support of a bill that gives the state and state employees complete immunity when they commit negligent acts on state trust lands. Sen. Shooter sponsored a bizarre amendment in the Appropriations Committee last week to a state trust lands bill. The provision, which Shooter authored, condones negligent acts of the state and its employees.

Right now as written, Shooter’s proposal would give the state complete immunity in the future, for example, in tragic wildland forest fires such as the Yarnell tragedy where 19 hotshot firefighters were killed last summer in northern Arizona. Families of the victims and property owners currently have claims against the state alleging negligence.

Toby Farmer asked, “Is Don Shooter okay with families, business owners, property owners and victims not receiving fair compensation when the state is in fact negligent? Why is Don Shooter okay with property owners who have been harmed by the state’s actions having no recourse for recovery or just compensation?” Farmer continued, “The potential harmful ramifications for the rural portions of my district and the landowners in Arizona cannot be understated.”

In committee, other Republican members and individuals who testified expressed their concerns and opposition to the language. In regards to the immunity language, Republican Senator Rick Murphy stated, “I’m not sure the Constitution would permit it.” A lawyer for one of the deceased hotshots and several landowners harmed by the fire called the provision “regrettable” and an “insult to firefighters.”

Farmer continued, “Why should government have special protections when there is clear negligence that businesses and regular people do not? It’s a scary world where a government can’t be held liable for its actions.”


 To learn more about Toby’s campaign, visit