Arizona Education Reform Funding

Arizona: Court Kicks Education Funding Measure Off November Ballot

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Supporters of education had hoped to get a referendum on the ballot to raise taxes on high earners to generate a guaranteed revenue stream of funding for the schools.

But the Arizona Supreme Court kicked the measure off the ballot.

PHOENIX — Arizonans will not get a chance to decide whether to hike taxes on the rich to generate more money for education.

In a brief order Wednesday, the Arizona Supreme Court said petition signers were not informed that the measure would do more than increase the tax rate on those earning more than $250,000 a year. It also would eliminate the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation.

Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing for the court, said a majority concluded that omission “creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness.”

The ruling is a significant setback for the education community, and not just because it means there will not be a dedicated revenue stream for public education. There were hopes that having this measure on the ballot, coupled with a referendum already on the ballot over expansion of vouchers, would bring out voters who also would support candidates willing to put more money into public schools.

There was no immediate comment from supporters of the Invest in Ed initiative, including the Arizona Education Association.

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.

Organization president Glenn Hamer argued that hiking income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans “would just create a drag on the state’s overall economy.” And he said that if the state targets the rich, many would just choose to move elsewhere.

That question is now academic.

There is no dispute that the main provision of the measure would have imposed an 8 percent state income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. That compares with the current 4.54 percent rate.

And there would be a 9 percent tax rate on anything over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples filing jointly.

Proponents estimated that the additional revenues would generate about $690 million a year for public education.

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