First Things First was created in 2006 through voter initiative Proposition 203. Voters approved it overwhelmingly. This is a voter-protected initiative, meaning that the money must not be touched for 10 years. Prop. 203 created a new funding stream, generated from an 80-cent tax on tobacco, to be dedicated to early childhood health and development programs. Keeping the funding stream separate was done intentionally so FTF would not take money away from other state programs and services.
Now our legislators want the voters to rescind their vote of 2006. They want you to allow the FTF money that is essential for the education and health of young children - birth through 5 years - and their families to be placed into the general fund. Should this occur the funding provided to our county through FTF will disappear and FTF will cease to exist.
The 2006 legislation also required local control over the FTF funds. In Yavapai County that control rests with the Yavapai Regional Partnership. This year alone, it has distributed more than $7 million to more than 14 local organizations. Some recipients include: NACOG Head Start; Del E. Webb Enrichment Center; Yavapai County Community Health Services; Prevent Child Abuse Arizona; and Central Arizona Food Bank.
It is not only essential to the future of our state to ensure early health and education services to our most vulnerable young citizens, but also the morally right thing to do. It would be a disservice to our children and a rebuke of the voters' wishes to let this revenue source disappear into the state's general fund.