PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey has declared Proposition 123 to fund education in Arizona won voter approval, and the leader of the opposition campaign conceded defeat Friday.
A narrow lead of “yes” votes for Prop 123 grew to more than 19,000 votes Friday afternoon, according to an unofficial vote count, eking out an apparent victory for the measure to bring more than $3.5 billion to Arizona schools over the next decade. Thousands of votes remained to be counted, according to The Arizona Republic, which projected it would pass. The money, which mostly comes from the state land trust, will start flowing to schools this year.
The unofficial statewide results show 51 percent “yes” votes to 49 percent “no” votes. Supporters of the measure said it would add much needed funds to Arizona’s education system at the benefit of both teachers and students, while opponents such as state treasurer Jeff DeWitt said it would drain the state land trust and ultimately hurt education in the long run.
“The votes have been counted and the result is clear,” Ducey said in a statement on his website. “This is a huge victory for public education in Arizona.”
“Thanks to the voters, schools will soon see a cash infusion, with billions of new dollars flowing in the years ahead,” Ducey said. “This will make the difference in the lives of kids and teachers all across this state, and that can’t be understated.”
Ducey thanked those who had fought for the measure.
“This was truly a broad, bipartisan coalition that brought individuals together who don’t always agree,” Ducey said.
Morgan Abraham, who chairs the Committee Opposing Proposition 123, said the supporters of Prop 123 had won, but he is proud of a campaign that had vastly fewer resources than the proposition supporters.
“We got 49 and half percent of the electorate,” Abraham said. “That alone should tell anyone that Prop 123’s a really bad idea.”
He suggested the election results were skewed by the millions supporters spent on marketing and advertising to convince voters to approve Prop 123.
Campaign finance records show the opposition committee spent about $7,000 compared to the support campaign’s $4.5 million.
“I don’t think Arizona voters wanted this,” Abraham said. “If you spend $5 million dollars, you’re going to convince some people, especially when the opposition campaign doesn’t have that kind of money.”
“Once we have to deal with the consequences of this action, once the next generation is the one paying the bills, people are going to very angry about this,” Abraham said. “And they are going to look back and see who supported this, and it’s not going to be a popular thing long-term.”
In Maricopa County, unofficial results for Prop 123 show 52 percent “yes” votes to 48 percent “no” votes.
The unofficial results of Proposition 124, which would reform Arizona’s pension system for firefighters and police officers, showed it easily passing with 70 percent of voters approving the measure.
Official election results will be released next week, according to the Secretary of State’s office.