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Judge: Ducey’s boost of land trust pay for schools illegal

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

A federal judge says Arizona may have to repay at least $344 million to the state land trust because a school funding settlement championed by Gov. Doug Ducey violates federal law.

But the governor’s lawyer says Congress approved the payouts this month.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled Monday that the payouts under a 2015 settlement of a school funding lawsuit that were approved by voters in 2016 needed prior  Congressional approval.

The case was bought by state resident Michael Pierce shortly after Proposition 123 was approved by voters in May 2016. It allowed increased payouts from the permanent land trust created by Congress at Arizona’s statehood to fund schools, universities and other services.

Wake says he still needs to determine if the money spent so far must be repaid.

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