Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn: Expanded Thoughts

As I wrote last night, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to deny standing in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn.  The Court didn't rule in the merits of the case, as it hadn't gone to trial yet, but instead punted hard and made it virtually impossible for tax payers to bring law suits against a government for programs that they disagree with on the basis of being a tax payer.

I despise the dollar for dollar tax credit (up to $1000 for families) for those who "donate" to organizations that are supposed to provide "scholarships" to those attending private and parochial schools.  At a cost to Arizona tax payers of around $95 million a year, while funding to public schools is being slashed, its not only a waste of money but an unconstitutional subsidy to religious schools.  In Arizona it is actually part of our state's constitution that the government cannot provide funding to religious schools.

The Arizona legislature seems to have found a work around the prohibition and the U.S. Supreme Court has made sure that no one can challenge it in the courts.  So here is a question: Would the five conservative justices have punted by denying standing if the Arizona legislature was instead using tax credits to provide funding to LAMBDA Legal?  Would they even have taken the case after the 9th Circuit ruled that those bringing the suit had standing?

The 9th Circuit, in their ruling, made it very clear that the plaintiffs in A.C.S.T.O. v. Winn would most likely win the case on the merits if the suit were allowed to go forward.  But the Roberts Five couldn't allow that to happen, because then they would have to rule on the actual merits and I think even they would be hard put to find a constitutional way to support the Arizona tax credit law.  That is why they punted so hard using the issue of standing.

This ruling will also embolden the Arizona legislature to expand the tax credit program at the expense of public schools.  It will also embolden conservative legislators across the nation to mimic the program in their own states.  Public education and tax payers will be the losers and the only way to stop it is for liberals to control the various legislatures.  In Arizona, there is a better chance for Pima County to secede from the state than for liberals to take control of the legislature.  But one can hope and one can also hope that the makeup of the Court will change soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Phx Justice! I think you - and, most everyone - knows the answers to your questions! And, I have a feeling that some state (other than Arizona) will develop a tax credit program that may lead to a definitive answer.

    Recurring thought, related to yours, which I haven't yet gone back to check in detail: Are they (the Justices) going to be able to restrict this opinion to tax credits with religious implications, or are all tax credits now above citizens' challenge?

    Thanks for your passionate, well thought out posts, and for commenting over at www.ArizonasPolitics.com.


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