1. Under the power of the referendum, as vested in the Legislature, the following measure, relating to early childhood development and health programs, is enacted to become valid as a law if approved by the voters and on proclamation of the Governor:
Notwithstanding section 42-3102, The department shall deposit, pursuant to sections 35-146 and 35-147, monies levied and collected pursuant to this article in the early childhood development and education fund established by section 8-1181 for use as prescribed by title 8, chapter 13 STATE GENERAL FUND. THESE MONIES SHALL BE SEPARATELY ACCOUNTED FOR AND SHALL BE APPROPRIATED FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES FOR CHILDREN.
1. Redirect the ongoing tobacco tax revenues that are currently deposited in the Early Childhood Development and Health fund for deposit in the state general fund, to be separately accounted for and appropriated for health and human services for children.
The Early Childhood Development and Health Fund consists of revenues generated by an $.80 per pack tax on tobacco products and donations and state appropriations. The fund is administered by the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board and is required to be used for the following purposes:
The Arizona Farm Bureau opposed this "budgeting by the ballot box" when it was first proposed, and we support repeal. Appropriation of funds and spending authority needs to reside with the legislature and the governor. We need to hold them accountable for their policies and decisions, and they need more control over the budget - not less. If nothing else is highlighted by our current budget crisis, this is, and we need to reverse from the excesses of these initiatives.
The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA), Arizona's only statewide taxpayer organization, supports Proposition 302. As all Arizonans are now painfully aware, the recession has had a devastating effect on the Arizona economy. Almost 300,000 Arizonans have lost jobs in recent years. The recession has also created historic budget challenges at the state level. Since the high-water mark in Fiscal Year 2007, state general fund revenues have fallen $3.6 billion or 37%. The state's current structural budget deficit is $1.7 billion.
In struggling to close state budget deficits over the last three years, state policymakers have faced a myriad of difficult decisions. Taxes have been increased over $1.2 billion. On-going state spending has been reduced $1.1 billion. However, despite the progress that has been made, Arizona will continue to be faced with major budget deficits for the foreseeable future.
If there is any silver lining with budget deficits, it is that policymakers are forced to re-prioritize spending within available revenues. However, in Arizona, those budget decisions are complicated by a series of voter initiatives that handcuffed lawmaker's budget authority. Those initiatives have mandated expenditures for education, low income health care, early childhood programs, and land conservation. Each has played a role in increasing the deficit.
Proposition 302 would redirect 80 cents of our current tobacco taxes that are earmarked for the Early Childhood Development and Health fund to the state general fund to be appropriated for health and human services for children. If passed, Proposition 302 will plug a $324 million hole in the current state budget. Failure will result in further reductions in the programs that receive state support: K-12 schools, universities, low income health care, and prison spending. Or worse, taxpayers will once again be looked upon to close this chronic budget deficit.
For the last two years, state government has faced multi-billion dollar deficits . Unfortunately, economists expect these mammoth deficits to continue for several more years. Long gone are the days when the state had the luxury of spending taxpayer money on programs that are outside the core functions of state government. Although well-intended, new non-essential government programs that were put in place when the economy was strong must now be re-evaluated. It is time to set clear priorities on where government should invest its scare resources to best serve the people of Arizona.
Proposition 302 essentially redirects funds from specialized preschool programs that serve a narrow population to core health and human services programs that will benefit far more children and families. Few options remain for elected officials to balance the budget. Without the flexibility allowed by Proposition 302, lawmakers will likely have to consider draconian cuts to the state's Medicaid program (AHCCCS) which serves low-income Arizonans, K-12 education, and universities. To make matters worse, if the state cuts funding for Medicaid, we will lose three times as much money from the federal government in matching funds. The implications for our entire health care system are profound.
Proposition 302 provides a pathway to avoid potentially painful cuts to essential children's health care services and education by making an additionally $345 million available for the next fiscal year. Join with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in supporting this measure to help refocus state government expenditures on those areas that matter most.
PROP 302 will repeal the First Things First Program, an early childhood initiative that was passed by Arizona voters in 2006. Voting NO on PROP 302 will protect the decision made by Arizona voters to fund early childhood health and development programs.
This repeal will divert over $300 million from the early childhood services program and put it into the general fund. Arizona voters approved a new tobacco tax in order to fund this program and taking these funds betrays the trust of Arizona voters and robs vital services from Arizona's families and children. Arizonans approved this tax increase for a specific purpose and repealing this program and diverting the funds for another purpose deceives Arizona voters.
As voters in this state, we must trust that the initiatives and funding we approve at the ballot will be respected and instituted as written. If we allow these funds to be raided by the state legislature, then Arizona voters will lose their rights to approve initiatives. Arizona will become a state that is governed by politicians and not its citizens.
Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW) believes that public resources should be invested in early childhood education and development to ensure our state's future. In 2006 Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved the First Things First voter initiative to make sustained and community-based investments in Arizona's children. Proposition 302 would dismantle the voter-approved commitment to investing in early childhood education and development. Accordingly VSUW is opposed to Proposition 302.
Since 1925, VSUW has developed and funded programs proven to help children enter school safe, healthy and ready to learn. Providing quality learning experiences in the home and in child care settings lays the foundation for lifelong learning and success.
By passing the First Things First initiative Arizona voters created community-based partnerships that are working to educate and develop Arizona children and strengthen Arizona's families. These community networks of individuals, service organizations like VSUW and businesses bring together and deploy the resources and expertise that children need to succeed in school.
In 2006 Arizona voters established a specific funding source for these investments in Arizona's children that would not be subject to conflicting priorities. Proposition 302 would reverse this commitment and open these funds to legislative appropriation. VSUW believes we should build on the foundation established by the voter initiative and continue dedicating these resources to the education and development of Arizona's youngest children.
The League of Women Voters of Arizona urges you to vote NO on Prop 302. In 2006, voters passed a citizen's initiative to fund statewide grants to programs that increase the quality of early childhood development and health services for children up to five years of age.
This initiative enacted its own funding mechanism (a tobacco tax of $0.80 per pack), which has never been collected into Arizona's general fund and as such never been calculated into the state's general budget or caused its current budget problem.
Now the legislature wants to benefit from the tobacco `tax' money without actually enacting the tax itself. Many legislators have taken a "no tax pledge" and yet this approach allows them to circumvent that philosophy. Ultimately they are taking a tax the people have self-imposed (to fund early childhood development) and putting it in the general fund for use as the legislators see fit. The stated aim is to allocate this money to benefit children, although without guarantee of such. If that is the true aim, the money would best be directed by the `First Things First' program. If not the true aim, we say - robbing young children of badly needed developmental programs is not the way to fix state budget issues.
In 1998, voters passed the Voter Protection Act, under which the legislature cannot tamper with voter-passed legislation without going back to the voters. The "First Things First" program falls under this Act.
Are you as tired and frustrated as I am seeing Arizona ranked at or near the bottom on state rankings of education and well being of its children? First Things First was supported by the voters of Arizona to give all children the opportunity to start school healthy and ready to succeed. To date, First Things First has allocated about $300 million for educational and health services for children in every part of Arizona. It is estimated that First Things First funded services touch the lives of at least 350,000 of Arizona's youngest children - that's more than half of the children five and under in the state! Decisions about how to spend these dollars are made by local citizen councils because they know what is best for the youngest children in their community. First Things First is funded exclusively through voter-protected tobacco tax revenues. As such, it does not contribute to the state budget deficit
As a child psychologist and the director of a non-profit organization that is dedicated to making children's lives better, I know first hand how important First Things First is to children across the state. It is one of the few resources in Arizona that supports excellent early education, which is a key to ensure that children grow up ready to learn and able to achieve success in school. Our legislature has failed miserably to understand the importance of funding early childhood education programs. That is why the voters, in their wisdom, decided to use this tax on cigarettes to help children. Don't let the legislature undo the significant progress we are achieving - Please vote NO .
Preparing a child for Kindergarten begins the day they are born. That is what the voters of AZ knew and stipulated with passage of Prop 203 in 2006. Voters wanted to be sure that each child came to school healthy and ready to succeed.
When First Things First was established, keeping money in reserve for a period of time was done on purpose. It allowed the agency to spend within budget, knowing how much revenue there was and how much the 31 local Regional Councils could spend on programs. It was established outside of the general fund so there wouldn't be competition for dollars between educational and/or health programs. The intention was to enhance existing but limited programs.
First Things First has done everything within its legal authority to help the legislature with the budget crisis by earlier providing emergency funds of $48M. Then a loan was offered of $250M, interest free. At the request of state political leadership the loan was increased to $300M, again forgoing interest.
Legislative commitments were secured from both Republicans and Democrats to pass the loan option, but legislative leaders were unwilling to let the loan offer come before their members. This could have been a win-win situation for children, families and voters of Arizona.
But now voters will have to decide if they want to eliminate essentials such as quality child care, early literacy programs, home and community parenting support services, oral health treatments for infants and toddlers and helping teachers of young children enhance their professional skills.
Arizonans recognize the importance of the first years of life, the relative lack of services for Arizona's youngest citizens and the fact that Arizona ranks at or near the bottom for child health and education in almost any survey of States. So Arizona voters passed a new tobacco tax in 2006 specifically to establish The Early Child Health and Development program, known as First Things First, or FTF. This program is dedicated to enabling all Arizona children to enter school healthy and ready to succeed by improving child health, parenting support and early childhood education. 90% of funds go to programs and services directly helping infants, children and their families. As pediatricians we strongly favored establishment of this program. We are amazed at the creative programs that have already been established by local Regions to address specific needs in their areas, and by statewide programs available throughout Arizona.
We are appalled that the legislature, with Prop 302, now asks Arizonans to destroy this program so legislators can take the children's money for the General Fund. We are dismayed. Passage of Prop 302 would undo the systems and supports that have been developed and stop dozens of programs already established through FTF. It would waste the investment in infrastructure and studies of regional needs that are guiding program development. The clear message to young families, health care providers, businesses and employers would be that Arizona has no regard for the welfare of its youngest. Yet having a successful education system (birth to University) is critical to the economic development and success of our state.
United Way of Yuma County (UWYC) believes that public resources should be invested in early childhood education and development to ensure our state's future. Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved the First Things First voter initiative in 2006 to make sustained and community-based investments in Arizona's children. Proposition 302 would dismantle the voter-approved commitment to investing in early childhood education and development. UWYC is opposed to Proposition 302.
UWYC has funded and partnered with programs proven to help children enter school safe, healthy and ready to learn. Providing quality early learning experiences in the home and in child care settings lays the foundation for lifelong learning and success.
Voters established a specific funding source in 2006 for these investments in Arizona's children that would not be subject to conflicting priorities. Proposition 302 would reverse this commitment and open these funds to legislative appropriation. UWYC believes we should build on the foundation established by the 2006 voter initiative and continue to dedicate these resources to the education, development and health of Arizona's youngest children.
The mission of the Coconino Coalition for Children & Youth (CCC&Y) is to provide leadership in developing/coordinating community-wide strategies that can enhance the well-being of children and youth in Coconino County. CCC&Y is dedicated to ensuring that all children and youth have access to the resources and opportunities needed to reach their full potential. Given this mission and goal, the CCC&Y is encouraging voters to vote NO on Proposition 302 .
In 2006, voters supported the structure leading to First Things First, in order to ensure that children come to school healthy and ready to succeed. Since 2006, successful programs have been established at the local level to provide services for infants and toddlers, including quality child-care and preschool programs; parenting support services; and health, mental health, and dental treatment. You, the voters, once again, need to protect these essential programs by voting NO on Proposition 302 .
Given Arizona's recent budgetary problems, First Things First offered to the State an interest-free loan of $300M. The legislative leadership turned down the offer and chose to place before the electorate a proposition that would dismantle the First Things First organization and take forever the voter-approved, allocated funds. As approved by the voters in 2006, these funds were not part of the general budget and were to be used for children, ages 0-5, and their families. Stop the leadership from taking away the public's vote by voting NO on Proposition 302.
One divisive strategy of the legislative leadership is to imply that other educational programs will be negatively impacted if First Things First monies are not moved to the general fund. However, legislators have provided no indication of how they will use the First Things First funds. Prevent their attempts to divide and conquer by voting NO on Proposition 302.
A few years ago Arizona citizens voted for First Things First to improve the health care and education of Arizona children under the age of 5. Now the politicians want that money that you set aside for our kids. Don't let them have it!
First Things First is a great program. Thousands of citizens in cities, small towns and rural areas have worked hard to create programs for our youngest and most vulnerable children. Now is NOT the time to allow a few politicians to get their hands on money set aside for our kids. Vote No on Proposition 302. Who would you rather give control to - mothers, fathers, business leaders and educators, or a few elected officials? Who do you think will help our youngest children the most - teachers, parents and community leaders or the Arizona legislature?
I ask you to vote "NO" on 302. After years of the Arizona Legislature's failure to prioritize the needs of children ages 0-5, Arizona voters in 2006 created First Things First. Funded by taxes on tobacco products, First Things First supports programs which promote the health and school-readiness of Arizona's youngest citizens.
First Things First saves taxpayers money by detecting developmental problems in children, promoting healthy and safe child care programs, teaching families about raising healthy and school-ready children, and laying a solid foundation for success later in life. The mission of this program is absolutely consistent with the priorities expressed by voters not only in 2006, but again this past May, when Proposition 100 was passed by a landslide, protecting education and health care.
After years of reports showing Arizona ranking at the bottom for key indicators for children's health and well-being, the services First Things First supports are beginning to make a real difference. This program is working.
The Arizona Legislature, having spent our state deeply into debt, wants to break into our children's piggy banks like bandits in the night stealing their medical check-ups, therapy services, dental examinations, and visits to their child care program by a Child Care Health Consultant.
2. To date, FTF has allocated more than $284 million to early education and health services across Arizona. This includes childcare scholarships, professional development programs and scholarships for early childhood teachers, improving the quality of childcare programs, parent education, the distribution of food boxes, and improved healthcare coordination.
3. First Things First provides funding for a system of local control and decision-making. Your friends and neighbors - not the state legislature - are the ones making decisions about what children in your town need most.
4. The majority of a child's brain development occurs in the first three years of life. Programs funded by First Things First ensure that each young child in Arizona, regardless of background, receives the very best care and education. First Things First, therefore, invests in children at the most critical time in their lives.
6. High quality early care and education is vital to this state's economy. A highly-educated workforce means more high-tech jobs will be located in Arizona. Workers will earn more money and invest in the local economy. Additionally, remedial costs, such as special education and juvenile justice, will go down.
Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC) is the leading voice for early childhood professionals, ensuring all young children have access to high quality early care and education. Please help us put our children first and vote "NO" on Prop. 302.
Voters expressed their overwhelming support of early childhood development and child health in 2006 through the creation of First Things First (FTF). Arizona citizens recognized how important the early years (0-5 years of age) of a child's life are and how the experiences during those years can shape their future. In addition to being created by voters, FTF program and funding decisions are guided by parents, educators, and business leaders to meet the specific needs of their communities. As education budgets are cut, it is even more important that our young children receive the services necessary to enter school with a positive foundation. FTF promotes quality child care and healthy children from birth to age five. FTF also supports the coordination of systems that provide health and social services to children and their families so that services are provided effectively and parents are aware of their availability. An investment in the early education and health of our children will generate unlimited returns for all of Arizona in the years and decades ahead. Arizona will gain healthier, productive citizens who will enrich the state as a whole.
The early childhood community of Greater Flagstaff is committed to helping children and families in northern Arizona achieve their full potential. We believe public resources should be invested in early childhood development and health, as well as programs that support family learning and commitment, to ensure our state's future success. That is why we ask the voters of Arizona to vote NO on Proposition 302 .
In 2006, Arizonans took a stand to support children and families by approving the voter initiative that created First Things First - an agency that makes sustained investments in Arizona's youngest children and families. However, there is a ballot measure before you - Proposition 302 - that would reverse our commitment to investing in children and families by doing away with First Things First and taking its funds. For this reason, we ask you to join us in voting "NO" on Proposition 302.
First Things First has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on thousands of children and families in our state. More than 10,000 children across Arizona have received child care scholarships, allowing their parents to keep their jobs and/or look for work while their child is cared for in a safe and nurturing environment. The parents of 80,000 newborns can leave the hospital with information about healthy parenting practices. Over 15,000 children have safer, more nurturing relationships with their parents through programs like the Coconino County Health Department's Healthy Families - one of many programs in northern Arizona that receives funding from First Things First to provide services and support for our region's most vulnerable children and families.
Voting "NO" on Proposition 302 will help save First Things First , ensuring that these types of investments in children and families continue. You can make a difference by joining us in voting "NO" on Proposition 302.
Our kids deserve safe learning environments that foster creativity and critical thinking. From birth to age five, a child's brain is rapidly growing. It's during this window of opportunity we should do all we can to make sure a child is healthy, developing normally, and ready to start school with the tools necessary for success. First Things First uses their resources to share critical developmental information with parents and educators as well as to design, fund and incentivize advancements in early care and learning.
Working with hundreds of child and family proponents across the state, First Things First is also able to provide outreach in the form of free literature to new parents and vital services like food boxes, diapers, and in-home care.
A high-quality early education system provides benefits for children and families of all income levels by ensuring high standards for quality childcare; highly trained workers; safe adult-to-children ratios and other common sense reforms that require resources. By requiring regional partnerships, these services are customized in communities all over Arizona. By region, Arizonans have agreed on the priority services that bring the most benefit to families in their pocket of Arizona.
Often we hear that services should only be paid for if a dedicated funding source can be identified. That is the case with First Things First . It is self-sustaining, not a burden on the state budget, and provides research-based services to parents and kids all over Arizona.
United Way of Northern Arizona (UWNA) believes investment of public resources in early childhood education and development is integral to our state's future success. In 2006, Arizonans supported this position by approving the voter initiative that created First Things First - an agency that makes sustained investments in Arizona's families and youngest children.
Approval of Proposition 302 will reverse voter commitment to investing in early childhood education and development by dismantling the voter-approved commitment to investing in early childhood education and development. For this reason, UWNA is opposed to Proposition 302.
By passing the voter initiative in 2006, Arizonans helped create community-based partnerships that are working to enhance the education and development of our children and strengthen families. For example, UWNA, in partnership with First Things First , has helped children and families living with low incomes in the Coconino Region gain and maintain access to high-quality child care by providing scholarships to licensed and/or accredited child care centers and homes. UWNA and First Things First have also helped child care providers in the Coconino Region expand capacity and increase the quality of care at their centers or homes to better serve children and families living with low incomes.
The establishment of First Things First created a dedicated funding source specifically for these investments; however, the passage of Proposition 302 will open the funds to legislative appropriation. Rather than allowing the legislature to sweep the funds, we should build upon the foundation established by First Things First and honor voter intentions by continuing to dedicate these funds to helping Arizona's young children and families achieve their full potential.
Nothing is more important than our children. They are the future. The biggest part of our state budget is spent educating them. The second largest part of our budget is spent keeping them in prison when we fail.
Numerous studies have shown that the most critical time in a child's development is the first three years. Yet, this is where we historically have done nothing. First Things First was passed by you, the voters, to provide comprehensive healthcare and development programs for our young children to give them the best possible start in life. This will insure that they're healthy and prepared to start school and better able to succeed once there.
This program is funded by a special tax on tobacco products and takes no money from the state general fund or the budget of any other program. Our legislators, unwilling to do their jobs and balance the state budget, have decided to do away with this important program that was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters and steal the money for their own purposes, leaving the tax in place.
The Arizona Dental Association, representing more than 3,500 Arizona dentists and dental allied team members, strongly urges voters to vote "No" on Proposition 302. The loss of First Things First education and health care funding for young children would damage our state's future generations.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. Statistics provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services find the average Arizona child has five teeth affected by decay, a rate three times higher than the national average. More than one third of Arizona children (34%) under the age of three have untreated dental decay, an alarming statistic. By the time these children enter school, their untreated dental decay leads to severe pain and discomfort, poor nutrition, impaired speech development, inability to concentrate and reduced self esteem. Dental pain is also the leading reason for school absences.
First Things First emphasizes quality and access to early childhood health programs, along with initiatives to support preventive health screenings. This is consistent with the Arizona Dental Association's goal to stem the epidemic of dental disease among Arizona's children, as well as dentistry's emphasis on prevention.
First Things First, through both its statewide programs and regional partnerships, has cited oral health care as an area for priority funding. Programs already funded through First Things First have demonstrated the value of education and prevention. The loss of this valuable source of funding for children's oral health initiatives would be a significant setback to vulnerable children throughout Arizona. Vote "No" on Proposition 302.
The very first patient admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, 115 years ago, was a young child and we have been committed to helping children in need ever since. We support the continuation of First Things First and are opposed to the state legislature's attempt to divert funds from this important program. First Things First has dedicated more than $150 million annually into early childhood development and education. If it is allowed to continue, it will support prenatal care, early medical screenings and ensure appropriate healthcare for children so they are better prepared for success in school and in life. It has already helped thousands of children in Arizona and we want to see this program continue to preserve the quality of life for children in years to come. Please join us in supporting this effort by voting NO on proposition 302.
Proposition 302 would eliminate the voter approved and tobacco tax funded First Things First program and transfer all current and future funds to the general fund virtually overnight. If approved, all the First Things First services to children and their families will terminate on December 1st.
The language of the ballot initiative that states "these monies ...shall be appropriated for health and human services for children" is deceptive. This initiative contains absolutely no assurance that current general fund spending for children will be maintained. In fact, the legislature has already made cuts and built in the First Things First funds in as backfill for state agency reductions, thus assuring a net loss of children's services. If First Things First funds are transferred, nothing prevents even more cuts to services for children next year.
Dr. James Heckman, Distinguished Professor and Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has proven that there are great economic gains to be had by investing in early childhood development. He found that prevention through early childhood development is more cost-effective than remediation and that economic returns come from investments in early childhood development. Providing resources for children pays dividends for society as a whole by providing better future outcomes in economic productivity. As private businesses and non-profits that provide early care and learning services to young children throughout Arizona, we observe daily the value of investments in children's early years.
The Arizona Child Care Association urges all Arizonans who do not want further cuts to children's' services and want to continue investments to vote NO on Proposition 302. Let's keep a dedicated funding stream for children, early education, and our future.
We oppose Prop 302 and the redirection of these dedicated funds for investments in early childhood education and health development to the state general fund for general use by the Legislature. There is no guarantee that the Legislature will not use these funds to supplant current funding for children's' program, funding which is already inadequate.
The will of the voters that established the "First Things First" program must be respected. The First Things First programs represent a sound and dedicated economic investment in the future of the state's children.
First Things First early childhood programs are important for the education and development of young children and their families. These current investments will pay off for generations in Arizona and must be protected. First Things First represents a unique investment strategy by Arizona's citizens for their children and families and must be protected.
Proposition 302 is wrong for Arizona. It flies in the face of the voters' will and common sense. If there is one thing we can all agree on, no matter our political party, no matter our hometown, no matter our economic status, it is that Arizona's children deserve a quality start in life.
A NO VOTE ON 302 takes a stand for children. It reaffirms the message sent by voters with the passage of Prop 100 in May, and sends a strong message about the value of First Things First, created by voters just four years ago. First Things First has touched every community in our state and has made our entire educational system stronger by strategically investing resources to ensure children begin school ready to succeed. Ask anyone who works in the education system: They will tell you the best way to combat illiteracy, behavioral and health issues is to stop problems before they have a chance to take root.
First Things First understands the dire need for early childhood spending. In a state that has cut more than $2.2 billion in services over the past year, First Things First invests in our children, making sure they have access to doctors, better teachers and specialized services. It assists parents, as well, making sure they have high quality child care available to them while they work or go to school. Over the last four years, First Things First has helped more than 300,000 young Arizonans.
With more than 6,000 members - fire fighters and EMS professionals all across the state of Arizona - the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona always has the best interests of our state firmly in mind. That's why the PFFA supported Proposition 100, which protected core needs like education for our children, and why we stand steadfastly against Proposition 302, which if passed will rob our kids of much-needed funding and early child development services.
As firefighters, we see life up close, in neighborhoods, cities and towns all across the state. We know what it's like to respond to an alarm, and what it's like when children suffer. Prop 302 is an alarm like that, a shrill reminder that we need to choose what kind of state we want live in. It must be defeated or children will in fact suffer.
If 302 fails, Arizona can be the sort of state that cares for its youngest citizens, that gives parents vital information and resources, and helps send kids to school ready to succeed. That follows the will of voters, who created First Things First just four short years ago, to make childhood in this state a positive experience. That mandate was echoed a few weeks ago, with the landslide passage of Prop 100.
If 302 passes, Arizona will take a step backward. Again, we'll leave children shortchanged, and again those without a voice will suffer because of the failure of our Legislature. We cannot allow this to happen. It's wrong economically and morally, wrong politically and practically.
We ask you to vote "NO" on 302. We must not betray our children and forsake our future. Children should not have to bear the brunt of the bad choices made by the irresponsible adults in the Arizona Legislature.
Since 2006, when it was created by voters, First Things First has been funded successfully by taxes on tobacco products. It has not been a drain on the state budget. Instead, First Things First saves taxpayers money by detecting developmental problems in children, providing quality early education, teaching families about health, and laying a solid foundation for success later in life. The mission of this program is absolutely consistent with the priorities expressed by the voters, not only in 2006, but again this past May, when Proposition 100 was passed by a landslide, protecting education and health care. We, the voters of Arizona, have already decided twice that this is important for our children and our state. Now, once again, the legislature is trying to subvert our decision.
Numerous studies show children provided quality education and comprehensive health care stay in school and are less likely to commit crimes. Because of the services First Things First provides, we can be confident Arizona's youngest citizens will grow into productive members of society and help Arizona become even more prosperous in the future.
Since 2006 when it was created by voters, First Things First has been funded successfully by taxes on tobacco products. It has not been a drain on the state budget. Instead, First Things First saves taxpayers money by detecting and working with families to fix developmental problems in children, providing quality early education, teaching families about health, and laying a solid foundation for each child's success later in life. First Things First has touched every community in our state-- more than 330,000 young Arizonans-- and made our K-12 education system stronger by strategically investing resources to ensure our kids begin school ready to succeed. Ask anyone who works in the education system: They'll tell you the best way to combat illiteracy, behavioral issues, and child health problems is to stop the problems before they have a chance to take root. Focusing on children from birth to 5, helps to ensure that our kids will grow into productive members of society and help Arizona become even more prosperous in the future.
In Arizona, educating our children actually begins outside the classroom, by fighting to preserve the resources necessary to do our jobs. That's why voters and the Arizona School Boards Association strongly supported Proposition 100, which will help protect funding for K-12 education, and why we're urging you to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 302 , which supports the continued preparation of children as they enter our public schools.
In 2006, Arizona's voters wisely created First Things First. The voters recognized what all of us in education experience every day: The best way to combat illiteracy, behavior problems and unhealthy childhood environments is to fight those problems before they take root. First Things First has been extremely helpful to Arizona students and educators, annually funneling $150 million in tobacco tax funds into education and health care for children up to age 5. Having kids begin school healthy and ready to learn has primed the pump for educational success in every Arizona community.
We simply must defeat Prop 302. We must protect and keep whole programs and funding critical to education and to our children's success. We cannot allow a shell game with this revenue, snatching it from children with one hand and shoveling it over to the General Fund with the other.
In more than 30 years as a public servant helping four governors to lead in Arizona, no time, position or effort meant more to me than the work I did helping to establish First Things First. As the program's inaugural executive director, I saw up close how much these critical early childhood development and education services are needed to help so many young children all across Arizona get the right start in life.
For many children, the help they get from First Things First in the child care, Head Start or other classroom, or in a medical setting may well be the most positive childhood experience they have, and potentially the difference between beginning school ready to succeed or starting out already behind. Why our Legislature wants to end this program and seize its funding isn't necessarily beyond me - I understand these are hard times for our state - but, regardless, this decision strikes me as short-sighted and a slap in the face to voters who approved this vital program in 2006.
Just as the voters did with Proposition 100 in May, we must again send a clear message: That we value education in Arizona, that our children matter and that we are willing to invest today to create the smart, versatile and skilled workforce our state will need to succeed tomorrow.
Please join me in protecting the core services our youngest children need. VOTE NO ON 302 and let our Legislature know that sacrificing our children's future by balancing the budget on their backs is absolutely unacceptable.
For 22 years, Children's Action Alliance has worked with lawmakers, community leaders, parents and voters to be a voice for children statewide...and it's clear to us that Arizonans have always made children's health, education, and security a top priority. Just four years ago, Arizonans created First Things First so hundreds of thousands of children and their families would have better learning environments, higher quality childcare, access to specialized therapists, and mentoring for parents. Through First Things First, we all contribute to giving young children the care, learning and safety they need to grow up healthy and strong.
With this proposition, politicians are trying to dismantle the success we've built for kids and families through First Things First. The lawmakers who put this on the ballot want to repeal First Things First so they can take these tobacco tax dollars away from young children and families and use them for something else. It is clear that children will come out the losers if those politicians get their way. This move is an insult to us as voters and a real threat to our children and their future success.
Thanks to voter foresight and the First Things First programs, 330,000 children who may not have had a fair chance are now entering kindergarten healthy and with the critical early literacy skills they need to learn to read and succeed. (Voters initiated a tobacco tax increase four years ago to fund First Things First early childhood development services.)
The First Things First programs are providing a quality start in children's lives before they are at risk of getting to school unprepared, falling behind, failing, dropping out, and possibly perpetuating a life of poverty and crime.
Don't let our legislators undermine what we the voters have already decided. If we start early and deal with the core risk--illiteracy--we won't need to keep spending $3.5 billion in tax money annually on welfare, Medicaid, and crime.
Improving literacy in our communities is good for everyone. It is the single best way to ensure a prosperous economy. With First Things First, Arizona voters took a stand to ensure a better life for all of us. Let's keep it that way.
Arizona's Children Association works with children and families in every county in the state. We provide workshops to help parents understand how their babies' brains are developing. We provide parenting classes. We support the health needs of children and families through our activities at Golden Gate Community Center.
We also counsel teens that are addicted to drugs and work with families whose children are in crisis. We see first hand, every day, that it is most effective and least expensive to reach out to children and parents in the early years. When children don't get what they need to succeed in the earliest years of their lives, they may never become the well rounded and successful members of society we hope for.
Studies by the Zero to Three Policy Center show that high-quality, research-based interventions for at risk infants and toddlers such as those provided by First Things First, not only benefit individual children but would also benefit Arizona in ways that far exceed the cost of the programs. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by numerous economists clearly demonstrate that for every dollar invested in early childhood programs, savings of $3.78 to $17.07 can be expected. This is because early interventions for young at-risk children help keep children in school, improve the quality of the workforce, help schools to be more productive, and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy and dependence on welfare.
Arizona voters have already approved First Things First - an initiative that uses a tax on tobacco products to fund early childhood development and education. Now, our state legislature is attempting to seize the revenues from First Things First for their own spending.
In 2006, Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative, using tobacco-tax generated funds that would be one of the best investments in the state's long-term economic success - the development of a statewide system dedicated to the healthy development of Arizona's children ages birth to five.
In less than five years, First Things First, a statewide system is well underway and has invested over $250 million in community-based early education and health services that will help Arizona's children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. In addition, more Arizonans are actively engaged through First Things First regional councils in driving local improvements to early childhood initiatives. With 90% of a child's brain development occurring by age 3, more parents and grandparents understand the critical importance of quality early childhood programs in setting the foundation for long-term success in school and life.
By preserving this dedicated source of funding for quality early childhood health and development programs, Arizona and its citizens are sure to reap long-term economic rewards. Early childhood education is proven to save taxpayers up to $16 for every dollar invested by reducing the need for remedial education, juvenile corrections and other public support services.
The redirection of these tobacco-tax generated funds to the general fund and the elimination of First Things First - Arizona's first and only statewide early childhood health and development system - is shortsighted and will set our state back for generations. Even in tough economic times, we must stand firm in our decision to invest now. VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 302.
Expect More Arizona encourages Arizona voters to VOTE "NO" on PROPOSITION 302. The elimination of this dedicated stream of funding for early childhood health and development programs across our state and the elimination of First Things First will have a profoundly negative impact on the lives of Arizona's youngest children - ages birth to five.
Research shows children exposed to quality early childhood opportunities are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to succeed, read at grade level by 3rd grade and graduate from high school. This voter-approved initiative is grounded in the research-proven belief that investing in Arizona's children during the earliest years prevents long-term societal costs in the form of remedial education, juvenile justice programs and other taxpayer-funded support services.
Expect More Arizona is a movement of Arizonans working to strengthen the entire education continuum - from birth through career. The continued investment of funds dedicated to early childhood health and development is critical to increasing the academic performance of students in K-12 and postsecondary education. It lays the foundation for the LONG-TERM success of Arizona's children, contributing to our economy and overall quality of life.
The statewide system built over the past four years dedicated to early childhood health and development is good for Arizona and its citizens. The dollars raised through the 80-cent tobacco-tax are being invested in outcome-based programs and initiatives statewide that better prepare all children to succeed. Our progress as a state cannot be derailed by imprudent budget decisions.
In November 2006, Arizona voters passed a citizen's initiative, that funds quality early childhood development and health programs. It is a voter protected initiative, known as First Things First (FTF), and has a dedicated funding stream that does not encumber the state general fund and provides resources for children 0 - 5 years old. The accountability structure ensures that those investments work and deliver on the promises FTF made to voters, families, and children. Repealing this citizen's initiative would eliminate the funding that is dedicated to improving the health and development of children ages birth to five. Therefore the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages a NO vote on Proposition 302.
From a pediatric and a medical science prospective, the argument to vote NO on Proposition 302 is overwhelming. The science of early childhood tells us that the most rapid period of brain development occurs between birth and age 3. By age 3, a child's brain has formed more than 1,000 trillion connections - or double the number grown adults have.
We also know that different regions of the cerebral cortex (the brain center that processes attention, thought and language) grow when exposed to stimulating conditions. Research bears out that an enriched environment can boost the number of nerve connections that children's brains form.
That's why First Things First made perfect sense when voters created this comprehensive program to direct tobacco-tax-funded resources at Arizona's youngest and neediest children - and why keeping these core services flowing by defeating Prop 302 makes sense today.
As doctors, we see children and families in need all too often, and we understand the critical importance of applying government's limited, taxpayer-funded resources in a measured, targeted way. First Things First does exactly that. It should not end - and Proposition 302 should not pass.
Proposition 302 is wrong for Arizona. It flies in the face of the voters' will and common sense. If there's one thing we can all agree on, no matter our political party, no matter our hometown, no matter our economic status, it's that Arizona's children deserve a quality start in life.
A NO VOTE ON 302 takes a stand for children. It reaffirms the message sent by voters with the passage of Prop 100 in May, and sends a strong message about the value of First Things First, created by voters just four years ago. First Things First has touched every community in our state and made our K-12 education system stronger by strategically investing resources to ensure our kids begin school ready to learn. Ask anyone who works in the education system: They'll tell you the best way to combat illiteracy, behavioral issues, and child health problems is to stop the problems before they have a chance to take root.
First Things First understands the dire need for early childhood spending. In a state that has cut more than $2.2 billion in services over the past year, it invests in our kids, making sure they get access to doctors, better teachers and specialized therapists. It invests in parents, too, making sure they have the childcare information and help they need. Over the last four years, First Things First has helped more than 300,000 young Arizonans.
As a parent, educator and advocate for Arizona's children, I want to take an opportunity to say please VOTE NO ON 302 . The Legislature's taking of this money is a step backward for Arizona and flies in the face of what we voters hold as our highest priority: Protecting education and health care for our children.
As a mother, I remember the gnawing worry that my children wouldn't "be okay." That's why I worked so hard in 2006 to get First Things First passed and why I cheered the passage of Prop 100 in May. These measures' central mission is one we all share: Every Arizona child should begin school healthy and ready to succeed .
First Things First has done exactly that, something I've seen firsthand as a board member. This statewide program, locally controlled, led by councils of volunteers, has made use of voter-created tobacco taxes to help more than 330,000 children from birth to age 5. Families have been assured of medical check-ups for their babies, educational resources, even basic necessities like food and diapers. These core services have touched every corner of Arizona.
Unfortunately, these vital services are in jeopardy. The success and funding of First Things First has garnered the attention and envy of our Legislature. The same lawmakers we elected to uphold our State's best interests now want to take these funds out from under our children. Mind you, they don't want to end the tax, they just want to redirect it away from Arizona's children.
We now know that early educational development is the most critical factor to life success. This fact is acute for those children who for whatever reason cannot experience focused development in their own environment alone. If we want to have better social outcomes and reduced costs for crime and drug abuse every dollar we spend as a community aimed at early childhood education will reduce those later costly public expenditures. Look at the budget of the state.....costs of prisons now increase faster than nearly all else. In this case the people have already spoken by supporting First Things First. That support was wise and that wisdom should be continued.
Dear Voter: Here we are again, back where we were in 2006 - arguing about the wisdom of something that couldn't be more obvious. I'll tell you again what I said back then. In more than 50 years serving the State of Arizona, including three years as your Governor, I have not encountered a proposal as smart or as overdue as First Things First .
We must vote "NO" on 302. We must continue to give our youngest children and their families tools to ensure that our kids are healthy strong and well cared for during their earliest years of life. We must make it possible for these children to begin school healthy and ready to achieve to their fullest potential. Again, let me repeat exactly what I said in 2006: Nobel Prize winners, economists and child development experts all agree that this is one of the smartest things a state can do to strengthen its families and its economy alike.
That said I know these are tough times for Arizona. I understand our Legislature needs revenue, but a short-sighted theft from vital services for youngsters is exactly the penny-wise, pound-foolish non-solution we must avoid. The voters created a tobacco tax to help children and it's done exactly that.
As a lifelong resident, a businessman and a community advocate who deeply cares about our State and its children, I'm urging you to vote No on 302. We must protect positive childhood experiences for our kids, and help them start school ready to learn and prosper.
Quality education for all is of utmost importance to me. For the past 30 years, I have worked to improve Arizona's education system. I have served on the Chandler School Board, the State Board of Education and the Arizona Board of Regents. As a businessman, I understand that a strong education system means a strong economy and a prosperous state. We helped lay a foundation for a better Arizona in 2006 with the passage of First Things First, which created an 80-cent-a-pack tobacco tax to ensure that all children have a fair start and that they are ready for success.
As I said four years ago, studies show that the best place for the public to invest tax dollars is in early childhood development programs. Economists tell us that by investing in early childhood development and health programs, we will increase the number of successful students, reduce dropout rates, welfare families, and subsequently, the crime rate.
We must continue to invest our money in First Things First. In just a few years, it's proven successful with its outcomes and accountability. We must say NO to the politicians who have their eye on this tobacco tax revenue for use to pay bills they created but refused to face. We cannot balance our state budget on the backs of Arizona's youngest children. It's morally wrong and demands a strong response.
As a businessperson, I know Arizona needs an educated workforce to compete in the 21st century. As chairman of the board of First Things First, I know how much investment in early childhood development creates educational success all over Arizona. First Things First is a rare entity in government ... something that really works. That's why we must defeat Proposition 302.
I understand why the Legislature wants to abolish First Things First and the core services we provide to children - they want to take our funding. It's that simple. With an annual revenue stream of $150 million, we're an attractive target. That theft is not only sad, but it absolutely defies the will of the people. Arizona's voters in 2006 - tired of the Legislature's failure to fund services for young children - created a special tax on tobacco to pay for early childhood development. First Things First has efficiently and effectively served kids age 5 and under, and their families, all over the state.
For years, the Arizona Legislature has failed our youngest children, resulting in diminished educational achievement, high drop rates and a ready workforce that's too thin for the robust economy Arizona must have. Prop 302 is another legislative failure ... one we must all help defeat.
When you live 94 years, serve as a prosecutor, a Superior Court Judge and as your state's Governor - and have the good fortune to travel the world extensively - you experience enough to gain some certainty about people. I am sure that an educated mind coupled with perseverance is the key to achievement, and that those two qualities are not the result of luck. They begin in childhood, with engaged, informed parents and with access to the necessities that every youngster needs: nutritious meals, health services, adults who care and quality learning environments.
Our state has done many things well, but showing our dedication to child learners has never been one of them. In 2006, voters made a strong push to change that, setting aside $150 million annually in tobacco taxes to be deployed directly to children under the age of 6. That message struck a deep chord with me - I credit my own education with every bit of my success - and I was proud again this past May, when those same voters said yes to Proposition 100, again to uplift key service for our kids. To me, Proposition 302 is a step backward, a return to an Arizona that does less than we should for our children and less than we should to secure our state's future success.
For 40 years, I've had the privilege of serving Arizona statewide. I've been the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Arizona. I served on the Arizona Board of Regents, hospital boards and worked as a court mediator. I've seen what our taking care of children in childhood means to this state.
Not only does First Things First address the importance of early education and healthcare for kids aged 0-5, it empowers new parents with the tools needed to prepare for this next chapter of life. It is crucial that each child's life begins with a solid foundation. By the age 3, more than 85% of a child's core brain structure is formed, making nurturing interaction with parents and/or caregivers essential to positive growth and development. This is why early childhood development programs need to be carefully planned and continually supported.
This investment also makes sense financially: According to the Perry Pre-School Longitudinal Study, every $1 invested in quality early care and education saves more than $17 in future costs associated with remedial education, delinquent behavior and public support services. Eighty-one cents of every dollar from First Things First is used at the local level to provide support to Arizona's families and ensure our state's children get off to a healthy start once they begin school.
Every dollar invested in a child is a dollar invested not just in an individual, but in our state as a whole ... our work force, our safety and our future. Carefully investing those dollars where they are most needed means striking a balance between short-term expedience and long-term vision.
That balance and that vision is exactly what Arizona's voters had in mind when they voted yes to Proposition 100 this past May 18th and when they voted to establish First Things First in the fall of 2006. Both times, the voters knew what we were voting for - protecting the health and education of our children. Both times, we sent a clear message, one the state Legislature would do well to heed:
We want to live in a state that does right by its children. A state where a 6.8 percent high school dropout rate is not good enough; where a 73.4 percent four-year graduation rate is cause for redoubled efforts to engage kids early; where ranking 43rd nationally on Education Week's overall "chance-for-success" index is met with not indifference, but with determination to do better.
The Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC) advocates "NO" on PROP 302 . Arizona needs an infrastructure for a strong workforce and increased quality of life. To achieve increased learning, youngsters must "hit the road, running" in kindergarten to assure reading on grade level by third grade. If they don't, a new Arizona law will require holding third-graders back. First Things First (FTF) ensures Arizona's youngest children begin school healthy and ready to learn, the very foundation for increasing our chances for improving our economy. Eliminating FTF takes away a key tool educators need to ensure success for every child by third grade.
Funded by a tax on tobacco products, local, informed citizens determine how FTF money is spent in their community. FTF is no cost to the state. Conversely, legislators rejected an interest-free, $300 million loan offer this past session - a compromise that would have helped the state budget AND keep FTF. Instead, legislators want to end the program voters approved in 2006 - but keep the tax - directing the use of the money.
FTF is an investment in our children's future. It strategically invests to ensure kids begin school ready to learn, get access to doctors, better teachers and specialized therapists. It invests in parents, too, by providing information and help they may need.
FTF saves taxpayers money by detecting developmental problems in children, providing quality early education, teaching families about health, and laying a solid foundation for success later in life in order to combat illiteracy, behavioral issues, and child health problems and stop problems before they have a chance to take root.
I have a doctorate in Educational Psychology and Child Development, and I can say with certainty that a successful child requires an engaging, cognitively stimulating set of childhood experiences. The science of human growth and development tells us high-quality healthcare and adequate nutrition before and after birth are fundamental to promoting healthy development.
As the Dean of the University of Arizona College of Education, I can attest to First Things First's lead role in doing all the above. Knowing that, I believe a NO VOTE ON PROPOSITION 302 is essential for Arizona's children and our future success.
Since its creation by voters via an 80-cent-a-pack tax on tobacco products in 2006, First Things First has delivered vital early childhood resources, from well care to child care, food to diapers, all over our state. And, rather than simply spending funds with no eye toward return on investment, First Things First stands dedicated to careful measurement of success and accountability standards.
As you read this, I am leading a longitudinal study unlike any research project ever attempted by a state. We're tracking participants in First Things First programs across 20 years. This scientific evaluation will not only ensure that First Things First continues to work, but it will serve as a resource and information hub for Arizona families and children, early childhood service providers, educators, researchers, and the early childhood community nationally and internationally.
The bottom line: Eliminating these core services for children between birth and age 5 would be short-sighted and a shameful waste of the investment made thus far. It will set Arizona back ... and drastically impact the one-half of our state's children who live in or near poverty levels.
Choosing a childcare provider is one of the most important decisions parents and families make. By voting "no" on 302 you're helping to ensure all Arizona's children continue to have the opportunity for high-quality childcare, allowing them to do better in school and develop better language and social skills.
As child care center owner and director and a member of the First Things First all-volunteer Central Pima Council, I have come to understand a sobering fact of life: In our state, more than half of the children under six years old live in families where all the adults work, making quality child care an educational and economic necessity.
First Things First created Quality First to ensure that all Arizona children have access to the quality early learning opportunities that will help them arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. Many centers in our area benefit from Quality First through expert coaching, literacy support, nurse consultation and enhancement materials and equipment.
In addition, hundreds of early childhood educators are now attending colleges throughout Arizona, learning to be more effective teachers and earning certificates and degrees - paid for by themselves and in combination with First Things First and their child care center employer.
Furthermore, the local Central Pima FTF council provided funding to provide child care for over 1000 children in 2009 and 500 children in 2010-2011. This funding allows children to continue learning and parents to continue working.
We all need to take a stand for children. We know children are our most valuable resource. They are the future of our state. That is why we must vote "no" on 302 and continue the success of First Things First.
What happens to children and youth in our cities and towns is more than a family or school issue. It is an issue that affects the future of entire communities. For this reason, I urge you to vote No on 302.
I'm proud to call the City of Chandler home. I've seen my community go through many changes since graduating from Chandler High School. Now, as a Chandler City Councilmember, I'm working to maintain the integrity of the home that I, and so many others, love. It's an honor to represent Chandler on a local, regional, and national level, including my involvement with the National League of Cities' Council on Youth, Education, and Families. As a community leader, I'm aware we must never cease in our efforts to plan for a successful future. That begins with making quality early experiences for children aged 0-5 a top priority. First Things First recognizes key areas helped by high-quality childcare:
I ask you to vote NO on Prop 302. We should not betray our children, nor should we betray the voters. In 2006, we passed the First Things First proposition by a wide margin. The proposition was assigned to tax tobacco products for designated programs for children. No one expected that someday people try to use this money for general purposes.
Children shouldn't have to live with promises made by the voters and then have those funds go for a different purpose. Since 2006 when the fund was created, First Things First has been successfully funded. It has not been a drain on the state budget. It saves taxpayer's money by detecting developmental problems in children, providing quality education, teaching families about health and laying a solid foundation for success later in life.
Please join me and VOTE NO on Prop. 302. I have a stake in the money involved in this issue. As a smoker, I've been paying the premium placed on tobacco products for the last 4 years to fund First Things First. I didn't vote for it in 2006, but we are a land of laws and when it passed it became necessary for me to pay a higher price for my tobacco products. First Things First has been a very successful program and has raised a lot of money. Now our legislature wants to raid that fund which was dedicated to early childhood development programs. I wasn't for it, but the last thing in the world I want is for the state to grab that money and spend it in any fashion they choose. As we all know, they are not stellar when it comes to spending. If I must be penalized for my tobacco use, at the very least I want to money to go to the dedicated purpose for which it was designed.
Do not give money dedicated to helping the children of Arizona over to the state to squander because they mismanaged what they already had. First Things First was put in place to help children. None of us should want to take that money and throw it in the general fund because our legislators have performed so poorly.
Children and their healthy development are critical to our future. We, the people of Arizona, know this to be true. We made our children our priority and, in 2006, voted for the First Things First funding using tobacco tax monies. These funds provide Arizona's youngest children, from birth to 5 years, with specialized health care, early education, and family support to foster healthy development and school readiness. In 2006 we knew that without these funds our future would be in jeopardy. We also knew that we needed to separate and protect these funds for the sake of our children. We acted on our knowledge and protected our children.
Now, four years later and with these hard times, our duty to protect our children has become especially vital. Our future is more in jeopardy than ever before. Because of the poor planning, bad decisions, and desperate acts caused by these times, many valuable and beneficial programs have been abandoned and our children are no longer a priority to our legislators.
Before us, Proposition 302 is asking to repeal our 2006 vote, overturn our promise to our youngest citizens, and surrender First Things First and its statewide, child-focused programs that are continuing to expand and benefit hundreds of thousands of Arizona children. There is too much at stake. Now, more than ever, we must restate our priority. We must reaffirm our promise to protect our future.
I urge you to join me in voting NO on Proposition 302. Voting no tells the Legislature that we knew what we were doing in 2006 when we approved creation of First Things First. Voting otherwise would be an admission that the Legislature really needs to direct our votes.
In 2006 we, the people voted to create First Things First because we understood that it would give all of Arizona's youngest children the fair shot they deserve but weren't getting to enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed.
Now, they have it. With a voter-approved tobacco tax providing real funding - and therefore concrete results - more than 330,000 Arizona children have directly benefited from the promise we voters made to them. Hundreds of citizen volunteers throughout Arizona meet in their communities to actually direct where First Things First funding is spent locally, rather than rely on central mandates from distant state legislators.
A "yes" vote would take all of these advantages back. Mind you, it would NOT eliminate the 80-cent-per-pack tobacco tax. It would simply hand the Legislature that tax to use as they see fit, and break the promise we made in 2006 to Arizona's kids age 0 to 5. Prop 302 is NOT a citizen's initiative. It is a question put to us by the Arizona Legislature, and that alone should give all voters pause.
On behalf of my three kids, all of whom are under age 5, and on behalf all Arizona kids their age, I am voting "no" and I strongly urge you to do the same. Their future - and our own - is at stake here.
Proposition 302 is wrong for Arizona. It flies in the face of the voter's will and common sense. If there is one thing of which we can all be certain no matter our political party or the economic status, it is that Arizona's children deserve a quality start in life.
A NO VOTE ON PROP. 302 takes a stand for children. It reaffirms the message sent by the voters with the passage of Prop. 100 in May and sends a strong message about the value of First Things First, created by the voters four years ago. First Things First touched every community in our state and made our K-12 education system stronger by strategically investing resources to ensure our kids begin school ready to learn. Anyone who works in the education system will tell you that the best way to combat illiteracy, behavioral issues and child health problems is to stop the problems before they have a chance to take root.
First Things First understands the dire need for early childhood spending. Our state has recently cut $2.2 billion in services, First Things First is a funding mechanism that invests in our children making sure they have access to doctors and specialized health care. First Things First has helped more than 300,000 young Arizonans.
In May of this year, Arizona voters overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition 100, keeping preserving quality education, public safety and vital health care for thousands of our fellow Arizonans. This isn't the first time voters came together to support our state's children and keep intact the safety net for those in need.
In 2006, Arizona voters approved First Things First - an initiative that uses a tax on tobacco products to fund early childhood development and education. Because of First Things First, Arizona's youngest children begin school healthy and ready to learn. These core services, focused on kids ages 0 to 5, ensure that our kids are set up on a path to becoming well-rounded and successful members of society.
Those vital services, which have already improved the lives of more than 330,000 children, are now in danger. The Arizona Legislature, having spent our state deeply into debt, wants to seize the First Things First revenue stream for their own spending. If they have their way, they'll put an end to programs that help pre-schoolers with doctor's visits and early learning; simple things that make a significant impact.
I ask you to vote "NO" on 302. We must not betray our children and forsake our future. Children should not have to bear the brunt of the mistakes made by the irresponsible adults who populate the Arizona Legislature.
Since 2006 when it was created by voters, First Things First has been funded successfully by taxes on tobacco products. It has not been a drain on the state budget. Instead, First Things First saves taxpayers money by detecting developmental problems in children, providing quality early education, teaching families about health, and laying a solid foundation for success later in life. The mission of this program is absolutely consistent with the priorities expressed by voters not only in 2006, but again this past May, when Proposition 100 was passed by a landslide, protecting education and health care.
Numerous studies show children provided quality education and comprehensive health care stay in school and are less likely to commit crimes. Because of the services First Things First provides, we can be confident Arizona's youngest citizens will grow into productive members of society and help Arizona become even more prosperous in the future.
As decisive issues abound, there is one commonality: We all want what is best for our children. And, as Americans, Arizonans and adults, we know that what sets us apart from the rest of the world is hope. Though, as of late, it may not seem as if we live in the land of opportunity, the land of prosperity, that place where if you work hard you and your family will flourish. Now more than ever, it is our responsibility to consider how we might best provide that same hope for our children as those before us did. We know we will leave them encumbered, but we can help by providing them with the most important tools they will ever have in their arsenals ... a good start ... education ... the preferred weapons of their century.
As smokers, we supported First Things First when it was on the 2006 Ballot. We understood that the additional taxes we would pay would directly benefit children. There was a method to our madness and FTF has done right by our kids and with our trust. But, that is not the case with the Legislature; it wants to abscond with these tax revenues forever ... not temporarily. Where's the equity in that? If you didn't hear us then, hear us now: NO ON 302.
In 2006 the voters approved the First Things First project which funded early childhood development programs in Arizona by taxing tobacco products. It has been in place for the past 4 years and by all accounts has been successful in its goal to help children with health and behavioral problems.
Once again, the legislature wants to ignore the will of the people and use the money in the First Things First fund for other purposes. This is absolutely wrong. The voters gave their approval for First Things First. When the state gets into financial difficulty they should not be allowed to dip their fingers into pots of money that were meant for a purposed the voters decided. The state needs to cut spending in areas that are not dedicated. First Things First is not a piggy-bank to be raided at will.
Your first thought is probably that this is a good solution. Your second thought needs to be the realization that repealing First Things First means ELIMINATING LOCAL CONTROL over how the money is spent in your community. First Things First is a unique state agency in that they provide the administrative support and oversight, yet it is the local regions, with community input and the direction of committed volunteers, serving 2-4 year terms, who decide how the money is spent. First Things First creates the situation that each Council can make decisions based upon their citizens' needs. This means locally-responsive programs and priorities are selected by local experts from your community, not Phoenix administrators making plans based upon what works in Maricopa County. Let local, committed community members determine priorities and select qualified programs to meet the overwhelming mandate of the voters in 2006 to support early childhood programs. Vote NO on 302.
First Things First purposefully built-up a fund to support programming through the ten years of its existence because smoking rates and the rate of population growth have declined. This fund has been offered to the Governor and legislature as a no-interest loan. This cash could support the matching funds that Arizona needs to obtain federal money for health insurance for children. This is a win-win situation. First Things First has been flexible in releasing additional funds to meet the needs of Arizona's youngest citizens and their families as cuts to state agencies have devastated young families. Support First Things First supporting families. First Things First has managed their money well; see for yourself at www.azftf.gov Don't let the money go into the general fund. Vote NO on 302.
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