Just Taxes Blog by ITEP

Newly Unveiled Ballot Initiative Aims to Tax Arizona’s Top 1 Percent to Fund Education

May 1, 2018

Today marks Day 4 of the Arizona teachers’ walkout. After decades of tax cuts and underfunding of public education, education advocates are now driving the debate and urging lawmakers to act. Their newest proposal would raise taxes on incomes above half a million dollars for married couples, or above $250,000 for single taxpayers—that is, the same wealthy taxpayers that just received a generous tax cuts under last year’s federal tax overhaul.

A coalition of Arizona education advocates filed a ballot initiative, the Invest In Education Act, late last week that would raise income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans—implementing a 3.46 percent surcharge on income over $500,000 married, $250,000 single and a 4.46 percent surcharge on income over $1,000,000 married, $500,000 single. The ballot initiative would put the decision of whether the wealthiest Arizonans should be pitching in more to fund education in the hands of the voters. If passed, it is estimated to bring in nearly $690 million annually. The revenue would go to fund teacher salary increases, full-day kindergarten, school education programs and some operating costs.

While this is the most sustainable and fair proposal to be unveiled in Arizona thus far, it is not the only one. Gov. Doug Ducey, for example, announced a plan to give teachers a 20 percent pay increase by 2020. That’s a 9 percent raise this fall on top of 1 percent already allotted for this year, followed by 5 percent raises in each of the next two school years. While that may sound appealing, the plan to fund this proposal lacked any detail on a revenue source to pay for it. The governor announced that he would fund the increase with a reliance on rosy revenue projections, potential fund sweeps and spending cuts. This week the Legislature released a budget proposal that laid out a slightly tweaked version of the governor’s funding plan that would do much of the same while also shifting more of the cost onto local taxpayers.

Today Vice President Mike Pence is also visiting Phoenix on a Tax Policy Tour. His presence in the state is a perfect reminder of why the state’s wealthiest should be pitching in now more than ever. The recent federal tax law provided the wealthy a huge federal tax windfall. As Arizona seeks to reverse recent declines in its public investments, they should look no further than those beneficiaries to recapture some of that gain.



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