The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a ballot initiative that would have raised income taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents to increase funding for schools across the state, a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona.
The court said that the wording of the “Invest in Ed” ballot initiative was confusing. According to the Court, initiative petition signers were not informed that the measure would do more than increase the tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year. It also would eliminate the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation.
The announcement is a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona, not only because of the removal of the initiative, but because of the possibility that voters inclined toward supporting public schools, in general, may stay home on Election Day.
According to The Arizona Daily Star:
“I hope that people don’t go, ‘Oh, this isn’t on the ballot, I’m not going to participate in November,’” said Joshua Buckley, chairman of the Invest in Ed initiative and a Mesa teacher. “I’m hoping that educators and public school advocates are still fired up.”
Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which led and financed the legal fight to block a public vote on the initiative.
Chamber president Glenn Hamer argued that increasing income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans “would just create a drag on the state’s overall economy.”
The proposal would have imposed an 8 percent state income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples, a significant increase of the current rate of 4.54 percent. The initiative would have also imposed a 9 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples filing jointly.
Education advocates estimated that the additional taxes would generate about $690 million a year for public education.
Maryland voters in November will decide whether to approve a mechanism to prohibit the state from spending casino revenues on anything other than K-12 education. The ballot question will ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas.