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Attorney general: No Funds for Vouchers
Amanda J. Crawford
The Arizona Republic
The speaker of the state House of Representatives can’t use excess House funds to pay for two private-school voucher programs axed in the state budget, according to an opinion released Wednesday by the Attorney General’s Office.
House Speaker Jim Weiers announced last week a plan to use $5 million of about $9 million in a House contingency fund to pay for the programs, which provided scholarships to hundreds of disabled and foster-care children to attend private schools. The programs, which were declared unconstitutional by the Arizona Court of Appeals, were not funded in the new state budget that began July 1.
“I am very disheartened and very upset,” Weiers said of the opinion, written by the state solicitor general. “It seemed like a perfect solution for a god-awful situation.”
Weiers said he planned to meet with state schools Superintendent Tom Horne next week to see if there are other ways to save the programs.
Last week, Weiers and Horne entered into an interagency agreement to fund the programs with the House monies. They then requested that Attorney General Terry Goddard approve the move, which Horne said he needed before going forward.
In the informal opinion, Solicitor General Mary O’Grady said Weiers does not have the authority to give money to the programs. Under the state Constitution, public money must be appropriated by the House, Senate and the governor.
“I know this is an emotional and personal issue for the families who have received these scholarships in the past, and I appreciate their frustration,” Goddard said in a statement. “But the law is clear. The Speaker of the House of Representatives has no power to spend funds for these scholarships, or for any other purpose, without going through the appropriations process.”
July 09, 2013
Amanda J. Crawford
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