Arizona ballot initiative proponents unfazed by ‘millionaire’s tax’ ruling

Jun 20, 2018, 1:23 PM | Updated: Jun 21, 2018, 1:46 pm
In this June 5, 2018, photo, mathematics teacher Heather LaBelle, seated right, shows Roger Baker, ...
In this June 5, 2018, photo, mathematics teacher Heather LaBelle, seated right, shows Roger Baker, left, how to gather signatures for the Invest in Education Act, a proposal to raise money on high earners to fund public education. (AP Photo/Melissa Daniels)
(AP Photo/Melissa Daniels)

PHOENIX – Proponents of an Arizona ballot initiative that would raise taxes on the wealthy to fund education aren’t worried about by a recent court ruling in Massachusetts that struck down a proposed “millionaire’s tax.”

“We feel very good about our initiative and that it’s in good standing and that it will be on the ballot in November,” David Lujan, treasurer of Arizona’s Invest in Education initiative, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s legal expert Monica Lindstrom, however, said the Massachusetts case could be cited by opponents to the Arizona ballot measure.

“It is possible there will be legal challenges to the Invest in Ed initiative based on the ruling in the Massachusetts court,” Lindstrom said.

Lujan said he wouldn’t be surprised by a lawsuit because so many ballot initiatives in Arizona have undergone legal challenges.

“Clearly that’s something we anticipate,” he said. “Hopefully that won’t happen, but if it does, we’re prepared.”

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that an initiative to impose an extra tax on income above $1 million to fund education and transportation wouldn’t be put in front of voters.

The court said the proposal was unconstitutional because the ballot question covered two unrelated subjects.

Lujan, who also serves as vice president of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, said the Arizona initiative differs because it is limited to one topic.

“It’s no different than our current Prop. 301 that’s been on the books for several years, where our law allows money to be directed specifically to public education if the voters approve it,” Lujan said.

“The court struck down the Massachusetts initiative because they had more than one subject; it was not just public education, but transportation as well.”

The Invest in Education initiative would raise the income tax rate on individuals making more than $250,000 by 3.46 percent and on those making more than $500,000 by 4.46 percent.

The funds would be used for teacher salaries and other educational needs.

Supporters need to collect more than 150,000 valid signatures by July 5 to get the initiative on the November ballot.

Lujan wouldn’t say how many signatures have been gathered but expressed confidence that his group was “on track” to reach its goal of 200,000.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bob McClay contributed to this report.

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Arizona ballot initiative proponents unfazed by ‘millionaire’s tax’ ruling