Arizona initiative to fund education by raising taxes qualifies for Nov. ballot

Aug 21, 2018, 5:03 PM | Updated: 9:04 pm

(AP Photo/Matt York)...

(AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Arizona voters are one step closer to being able to vote on a ballot initiative to raise the income tax on high wage earners to fund public education in November, barring any future legal challenges.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday that the Invest in Education Act has met the signature requirements to be placed on the ballot.

There were 187,628 eligible signatures that were turned in relating to the ballot measure, which well exceeded the 150,642 minimum signatures to qualify for the ballot, the office announced.

It will be known as Proposition 207 on the ballot.

The measure was filed at the Secretary of State’s office in April by organizers outside of the Red for Ed movement, which mobilized a historic 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, and channeled their efforts toward signature gathering for the Invest in Education Act.

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

Individuals who earn more than $500,000 and households who earn more than $1 million would pay 9 percent above those cutoffs.

But the ballot measure has not come without controversy: Opponents of the measure with Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy claimed that Invest in Education Act petitions contained errors that should disqualify it from the ballot.

The lawsuit claimed the petitions included a misleading description of the tax hike, among other concerns.

While Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith rejected the challenge earlier this month, the organization said it plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The group is backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and claims the tax hike will harm the state’s economy.

If the measure does end up on the ballot, it is likely to have strong support: A June poll found that 86 percent of Arizona voters surveyed see a need for more education funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona initiative to fund education by raising taxes qualifies for Nov. ballot