Following is a statement by Meg Wiehe, deputy director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, regarding the pending teachers’ strike in Arizona.
“The Arizona teachers’ strike, like other recent strikes and walkouts before it, is as much a state fiscal policy story as it is an education story. Year after year, lawmakers in many states across the nation have promised their constituents that they can have tax cuts and adequately funded programs and services. The dubious promise, of course, is that tax cuts will lead to economic growth and pay for themselves. And all too often, when these supply-side assurances fail to come to fruition, public services such as education face collateral damage via funding freezes or spending cuts.
“In Arizona, multiple tax cuts enacted since the 1990s have resulted in $2.2 billion less in annual revenue (more when adjusted for inflation), according to the Arizona Center for Economic Progress. Yet earlier this year, lawmakers attempted to push through a handful of tax cuts that together would reduce state revenue by another $170 million. At the same time, Arizona ranks 48th in the nation in average teachers’ pay.
“Even in the face of a teachers’ strike, lawmakers continue to insist on further reducing funding sources for programs and services most affected by years of disinvestment. According to ITEP’s Who Pays? analysis, Arizona has one of the most fundamentally unfair state and local tax systems in the country—taking a greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from the wealthy. The need for more revenue is becoming increasingly apparent, but Arizona lawmakers should steer away from tax policy solutions that would deepen the state’s reliance on regressive taxes that already lean too heavily on low-income households.
“Teachers striking over low wages and inadequate funding for students’ needs reveal the harsh truth that continually cutting taxes and adequately funding public services are, in fact, mutually exclusive. The era of injudiciously cutting taxes without regard for the consequences needs to end. Progressive revenue-raising options that include the restoration of the state’s income taxes are the fairest, most adequate path forward for Arizona.”