Invest In Ed initiative removed from November ballot in Arizona
PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday removed a voter initiative from the November ballot that would have raised taxes on the wealthy in Arizona to help boost education funding.
A judge ruled that the 100-word description on petitions for the Invest in Education Act was inaccurate.
Opponents alleged that backers illegally paid petition circulators and that the initiative summary attached to petition sheets failed to clearly state the full size and scope of the tax increase.
The group that filed the lawsuit also alleged the initiative backers misled the nearly 436,000 voters who signed petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot and that petition circulators were paid per signature.
The proposed initiative — backed by many educators and the state teachers union — would have imposed a 3.5% tax surcharge on income above $250,000 for an individual or above $500,000 for couples. It aimed to raise about $940 million a year for schools.
“This was the right decision. As we made clear, the tax increase proponents’ entire process, from signature gathering to their 100-word summary, was flawed and misleading,” Jaime Molera, the leader of the campaign against the initiative, said in a statement.
“Perhaps most troubling, however, is that their proposed policy would have done tremendous harm to the Arizona economy and the state’s small businesses during a particularly challenging time.”
The initiative was the latest outgrowth from a teachers 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.
The group led by Molera also prevented a similar Invest in Education initiative from reaching the ballot in 2018.
Invest in Education initiative leaders have already said they will appeal the court’s decision.
“The fight isn’t over,” the group said on Twitter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.