August 30, 2018

Court Bars From Ballot Tax on Wealthy to Fund Education

A majority of the court found that the measure's description of the change in tax rates creates a danger of confusion or unfairness.

Day 3 RedforEd #RedForEd demonstrators at the Arizona Capitol, April 30. The protests continued a walkout that started the previous Thursday to demand education funding. (PHOTO: Christopher Conover, AZPM)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has barred a ballot proposal seeking to raise income taxes on the wealthy to fund schools from appearing on the November ballot.

In an order Wednesday, Chief Justice Scott Bales said a majority of the court found that the measure's description of the change in tax rates creates a danger of confusion or unfairness. The order reverses a lower-court ruling earlier this month that rejected the legal challenge to the measure.

The secretary of state's office had previously said organizers gathered enough petition signatures to appear on the ballot, but opponents kept pushing their lawsuit.

Opponents said the tax hike would have harmed the state's economy, while supporters say it would have raised an estimated $690 million for schools.

The tax proposal came after a six-day teacher strike where tens of thousands of educators walked out of classrooms and protested at the state Capitol to demand increases in education funding. They sought $1 billion in new funding for schools, while Republican Gov. Doug Ducey pushed for a plan to raise teacher salaries by 20 percent by 2020.

Ducey's proposal passed as part of the state budget, along with a partial restoration of nearly $400 million in recession-era cuts and a pledge to fill in the rest within five years. But many striking teachers said that wasn't enough to address classroom needs. They channeled their efforts toward signature gathering for the Invest in Education Act.

The proposal sought to raise the income tax rate to 8 percent for individuals earning more than $250,000 annually and households earning more than $500,000 annually for the portion of their income above those cutoffs.

Under the measure, individuals who earn more than $500,000 annually and households who earn more than $1 million annually would have paid 9 percent above those cutoffs.

"Republican opponents of public education have once again found a way to keep our schools at the bottom of the barrel," Arizona House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios said in a statement Wednesday night. "Arizona voters have been robbed of the opportunity to weigh in on our kids' future."

Education Funding in Arizona
Stories on the statewide debate over teacher pay and education funding. Read more coverage here.
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