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Backers of wealth tax to fund Arizona schools plan kickoff

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — Backers of a proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Arizonans to boost school funding have filed a revised citizen’s initiative and say they will formally kick off a signature-gathering effort Monday.

The Invest in Education Act initiative was refiled Friday after what proponents say are relative minor changes prompted by a Legislative Council review. The measure is backed by Arizona’s largest teachers union and other groups.

Backers need to collect 237,645 valid signatures by July 2 to put the question on the November ballot.

The proposed initiative would impose a 3.5 percent income tax surcharge on income above $250,000 for an individual or above $500,000 for couples.

The proposed ballot measure is the latest outgrowth from a teacher strike two years ago that highlighted low wages for educators and a slow rebound from budget cuts enacted during the Great Recession. The walkout secured higher wages for teachers, but many education interest groups said it fell short.

Backers say the initiative will raise about $940 million a year. Half would be devoted to raises for credentialed teachers, 25 percent to boost wages for cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support staff, and the rest for teacher training, vocational education and other initiatives.

The initiative comes after a similar effort backed by teachers It was tossed from the 2018 ballot when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the description of the initiative was misleading.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has been a vocal opponent of raising income taxes and celebrates restrained spending growth. He drew rousing applause in his annual State of the State speech last month with a pledge to oppose any tax increases. The speech came on the same day the new initiative was initially announced.

“Let me reiterate what I’ve said in five prior State of the State speeches, and two inaugural addresses — because apparently it bears repeating — no new taxes; not this session, not next session; not here in this chamber, not at the ballot box, not on my watch,” Ducey said on Jan. 13.

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