As an effort to demand a higher salary, Arizona teachers wore red on Wednesday in the #RedForEd campaign sparked by West Virginia teachers.
A teacher strike is the last thing anyone wants, but it may be necessary if nothing is done. West Virginia’s campaign was successful in that they won a five percent salary increase. Arizona’s teachers, who are currently paid the least in the country, may demand a little more than five percent.
Related: Diane Douglas calls for more taxes to support pay raises for teachers
Democrat Assistant Senate Minority Leader Sen. Steve Farley points out that in a sense, many teachers have already gone on a permanent strike, as over a thousand educators have left the state since the start of the school year. Because Arizona pays so little, other states offer teachers a bonus or some other incentive. Oftentimes that’s all they need to move.
“[A teacher strike] is a frightening prospect,” Democrat House Minority Leader Rep. Rebecca Rios says. “If we do nothing, it’s a real possibility… I would support us getting off the dime and coming up with revenue to give them a pay increase. We can find the resources so there’s no need to wait for them to go on strike. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Farley says that lawmakers need to get behind teachers and their push for better salaries. It’s a cause that both sides of the political spectrum can agree on that needs to be fixed. He says that if nothing is going to be passed in the legislature, then lawmakers need to support the teacher strike.
“We do have the money here in Arizona,” Farley says. “We do have the money. We have chosen to give it away to large scale corporate interests, many of whom are out of state, instead of paying our teachers. The kids are paying the price right now. Why push it to a teacher strike? Go ahead and give teachers a real raise, a 20 percent raise, right now.”
Governor Doug Ducey has explained that one of his goals for the year is to increase education funding. Rios explains that right now, all the governor has in the budget is to give educators a one percent salary increase. In actuality, it’s basically a stipend and not a real investment in teachers, Rios says.
Related: Education funding needs to be addressed “now more than ever”
The politicians also discussed the bill that is trying to make clear which online goods and services should include a sales tax. The bill is focused on highlighting what online purchases are exempt from such a tax. Rios says that 47 percent of the state’s budget comes from sales tax, so it would only help the state if businesses were able to tax products on the internet as well. Farley says that the bill “directly discriminates against brick-and-mortar sales.”
Related: Experts discuss what online purchases should be exempt from sales tax
There may be a new vehicle registration fee in order to pay for road maintenance and repair. Farley says it’s good that the state is investing in itself, but they would have more money for the roads if they would “stop stealing gas tax money.”
Ted Simons-WHAT DO STATE LAWMAKERS THINK OF A TEACHER STRIKE? WE ASK THAT AND OTHER QUESTIONS TONIGHT IN OUR WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE UPDATE. THIS WEEK WE WELCOME ASSISTANT SENATE MINORITY LEADER STEVE FARLEY AND HOUSE MINORITY LEADER REBECCA RIOS. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THIS IDEA OF A TEACHER STRIKE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?
STEVE FARLEY- IF YOU LOOK AT ARIZONA, A LOT OF TEACHERS HAVE GONE ON STRIKE. A THOUSAND TEACHERS HAVE LEFT. OTHER ARE OFFERING OUR TEACHERS SIGNING BONUSES AND THEY ARE LEAVING AND OTHERS LEAve BECAUSE THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO LIVE ON THE SALARY WE ARE PAYING THEM. WE ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF IT. WE HAVE TO PAY THEM MORE.
Ted Simons-THE IDEA OF A TEACHER STRIKE, YOUR THOUGHTS?
REBECCA RIOS- IT'S A FRIGHTENING PROSPECT, BUT IF WE DON'T PAY TEACHERS A LIVEABLE WAGE, WE ARE GOING TO PAY FOR THAT. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF INQUIRIES ABOUT THE TOPIC OF A TEACHER STRIKE. THOSE ARE THE SEEDS WE ARE TRYING TO SEE OF A PROBLEM WE IGNORED SO LONG, IF WE DO NOTHING, IT'S A POSSIBILITY.
Ted Simons-AFTER SEEING WHAT HAPPENED IN West Virginia, WOULD YOU SUPPORT A TEACHER STRIKE?
REBECCA RIOS- I WOULD SUPPORT US COMING UP WITH REVENUE TO GIVE THEM A PAY INCREASE. WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE'S A WAY. WE CAN FIND THE RESOURCES. THERE IS NO NEED TO WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE GONE ON STRIKE.
Ted Simons-SO NOT NECESSARILY SUPPORTING A TEACHER STRIKE?
REBECCA RIOS- NO, I HOPE IT DOESN'T COME TO THAT.
Ted Simons-WOULD YOU SUPPORT A TEACHER STRIKE?
STEVE FARLEY- I THINK NEED TO FOLLW THE TEACHERS IN THIS CASE, AND NOT FOLLOW TEACHERS OUT OF STATE. WE DO HAVE THE MONEY HERE IN ARIZONA. WE CHOSEN TO GIVE IT AWAY TO LARGE SCALE CORPORTATE INTRESTS MANY OF WHOM WHO ARE OUT OF STATE INSTEAD OF PAYING OUR TEACHERS AND OUR KIDS ARE PAYING THE PRICE RIGHT NOW. SO WHY PUSH IT TO A REAL STRIKE AND GIVE THEM A RAISE. 20% RIGHT NOW.
Ted Simons- IN A STATE LIKE ARIZONA THE CURRENT POLICTAL CLIMATE WOULD A STRKE BE COUNTER PRODUCTUVE?
STEVE FARLEY- IT’S HARD TO TELL BUT PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS SUPPORT TEACHERS.
Ted Simons-- WOULD YOU SUPPORT A STRIKE?
STEVE FARLEY- IF THE TEACHERS ARE LEADING IN THIS DIRECTION AND WE ARE NOT GETTING ACTION, WE SHOULD SUPPORT WHERE THE TEACHERS ARE GOING. LET'S CHANGE THE LEGISLATURE TO GET PEOPLE IN PACE AND SOMEONE IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE TO LEAD A SALARY INCREASE.
Ted Simons-IS ANYTHING ALONG THOSE LINES HAPPENING?
REBECCA RIOS-NO. WHAT WE ARE SEEING ANOTHER 1% INCREASE IN TEACHER SALARY THAT WE ARE HEARING FROM REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE DON'T WANT TO PUT IN THE BASELINE. IT'S NOT GUARANTEED YEAR AFTER YEAR. IT'S A STIPE END. LAST YEAR, TEACHERS GOT A STIPE END. THAT'S NOT A REAL INVESTMENT. IF THEY CONTINUE, THE POSSIBILITY OF A TEACHER STRIKE BECOMES REAL.
Ted Simons- THE IDEA OF ELIMINATING TAXES ON STREAMING SERVICES, TAX PREPARE, MOVIES, THESE SORT OF THINGS, WHAT ARE YOUR IDEAS? CRITICS SAY IT COULD PUNCH A HOLE IN THE BUDGET. SUPPORTERS SAY IT CODIFIES WHAT IS OUT THERE AND WHAT CAN BE TAXED.
STEVE FARLEY- NOT ONLY DOES IT TAKE MONEY FROM THE VITAL SERVICES OF POLICE, FIRE AND ROADS, IT'S SOMETHING THAT HURTS OUR LOCAL BRICK AND MORTAR RETAILORS. ONLINE SALES ARE TAKING A LARGER PERCENTAGE OF SALES. THIS BILL ITSELF DIRECTLY DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BRICK AND MORTAR SALES. IN COSTCO, YOU PAY SALES TAX, UNDER THIS BIG YOU PAY SALES TAX. IF YOU DOWNLOAD IT, YOU PAY SALES TAX. IF YOU STREAM IT, YOU DON'T PAY SALES TAX ON IT. THAT INCENTIVIZES PEOPLE TO GIVE TO AN OUT OF STATE PROVIDER OPPOSED TO A BRICK AND MORTAR RETAILOR THAT GIVES JOBS IN ARIZONA, SO THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.
Ted Simons- SUPPORTERS SAY IT CLARIFIES WHAT SUPPORTS REVENUE.
REBECCA RIOS- IT CLARIFIES WHAT ELSE WE ARE GOING TO EXEMPT. PERHAPS WE SHOULD HAVE SAID WE CAN TAX THE ITEMS. WE ARE LOOKING AT $120 MILLION HIT THE FIRST YEAR. THE BUDGET COMMITTEE WASN'T ABLE TO IDENTIFY HOW MUCH MONEY WE ARE GOING TO BE LOSING. TO THE SENATOR'S POINT, THE CITY ALONE WILL LOSE $10 MILLION FIRST YEAR. THAT IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE OVER TIME. PHOENIX, 75% OF THE GENERAL FUND GOES TO FIRE AND POLICE. THIS HAS AN IMPACT ON CONSTITUENTS.
STEVE FARLEY- IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO THE TAXPAYER EITHER. IF YOU RENT THE SAME MOVIE AND DOWNLOAD IT TO YOUR DEVICE ON A PLANE, YOU PAY SALES TAX. IF YOU STREAM A MOVIE AT HOME, YOU DON'T PAY SALES TAX. THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. IT'S THE SAME PRODUCT. YOU OUGHT TO TEST IT THE SAME WAY.
Ted Simons- IS THIS A DONE DEAL?
KATE STILLEY STEINER- IT WENT THROUGH WITH 39 AYE VOTES IN THE HOUSE. I HOPE IN THE SENATE THEY'LL BE MORE SENSIBLE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE STATE BUDGET, 47% IS BASED ON SALES TAX REVENUE. WE ARE LOOKING AT ADDING TO THE NUMBER OF $4 BILLION, SO WE HAVE LOST YEAR AFTER YEAR BECAUSE OF THE GIVE AWAYS WE PARTICIPATED IN. THIS IS GOING TO ADD TO THAT.
Ted Simons- WE HAVE A MINUTE LEFT. I WANTED TO TOUCH ON THE IDEA OF A VEHICLE TAX ROAD MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR. GOOD IDEA?
STEVE FARLEY- IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO STOP STEALING GAS TAX MONEY THAT'S SUPPOSED TO REPAIR RURAL AREAS AROUND STATE. RURAL AREAS ARE SUFFERING. THIS GOVERNOR AND THIS LEGISLATURE HAS BEEN STEALING THE MONEY FROM THE ROADS FOR YEARS NOW. IN GOVERNOR DUCEY'S BUDGET, HE PROPOSES ANOTHER $90 MILLION THIS YEAR.
Ted Simons-HIGHWAY USER FUND MONEY HAS BEEN SHIFTED. LET'S PAY WHAT THE SHIFTED MONEY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PAID FOR. LET'S GET ROAD MONEY WHERE IT BELONGS.
REBECCA RIOS- THERE IS ANOTHER THAT TAKES MONEY FROM PIMA AND MARICOPA COUNTY SAYING WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH IN RURAL AREAS. THIS MAY BE A SOLUTION.
STEVE FARLEY- THIS IS A FEE NOT A TAX. FOR EVERY BILLION DOLLARS YOU SPEND, YOU CREATE 19,000 NEW JOBS. YOU GET RID OF JOBS. WE NEED TO INVEST IN OURSELVES FOR ONCE.
Ted Simons-GOOD CONVERSATION. NICE TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. UP NEXT, MEET THE PRODUCER OF A FILM THAT FINDS COMMON GROUND IN A DIVIDED COUNTRY.
Sen. Steve Farley: (D) Assistant Senate Minority Leader
Rep. Rebecca Rios: (D) House Minority Leader