Ballot initiative filed to fund education through increased income tax

A new ballot initiative has been created to increase income taxes on individuals who make over $250,000 as a way to fund public education.

The ballot calls for a little over three percent income tax hike on individuals who make more than a quarter of a million or household that earn $500,000. There will also be a 4.5 percent hike on individuals who make over $500,000.

Why not a sales tax? David Lujan from Arizona Center for Economic Progress says that Arizonans are getting tired of sales taxes. The state already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation, with some communities paying over 10 percent. Taxes have been cut every year in Arizona for the last three decades, and Lujan says it wouldn’t be fair to make teachers pay for their own salary increase.

“When we rely on the sales tax, that hits Arizona’s middle income and low income families in much more of a dramatic fashion in terms of having to pay a higher portion of their income than wealthy families,” Lujan says. “What we are doing is trying to create a solution where we have guaranteed, sustainable revenue for public schools but doing it in a reasonable manner, which is asking those who can pay the most to pay their fair share.”

The proposed income tax is expected to raise about $690 million. It would go to a classroom site fund which helps to make sure the school board is distributing the money to where it needs to go. He says that ballot includes clear language that requires 60 percent of the funds to go to teachers and the remainder to be spent in the classroom.

Governor Doug Ducey proposed a plan to give teachers a 20 percent salary increase by the year 2020 using revenue generated by a successful economy. Lujan, along with many others, do not see that as a sustainable plan.

“What the governor has proposed is progress,” Lujan says. “He went from one percent to 10 percent for this year. As many people have raised, it’s not backed by sustainable revenue. We’ve gone through three decades of classroom funding crisis. We need sustainable revenue that’s going to be there.”

$1.1 billion was taken away from public schools in 2008 during the recession, and the money has yet to be returned. Lujan says there is no way that gap can be closed by just relying on economic growth. A new revenue stream must be created if this is going to get anywhere, he says.

The initiative needs 150,000 signatures by July 5 to go on the ballot. For more information on this proposal visit investinedaz.com.

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David Lujan: Arizona Center for Economic Progress

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