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Supporters, opponents continue push on Arizona ballot initiatives

Left: (Facebook Photo/Invest in Ed) Right: (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

PHOENIX – Arizona voters will have to decide on two statewide initiatives that would have effects on the legalization of marijuana and increased taxes for education.

Proponents and opponents of both Propositions 207 and 208 joined The Think Tank with Dr. Mike O’Neil this weekend to advocate their stances on the ballot measures in November’s election.

Prop. 207 will legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21-years-old. It will also impose a 16% tax on its sale which will go towards funding community colleges, local and state transportation projects, local police and fire agencies, public health and criminal justice programs.

The passage would also permit reviews on those who have previously been convicted of possession of small quantities of marijuana. It’s estimated that the initiative could generate over $166 million in revenue.

Former Arizona Senate Minority Leader Chad Campbell is an advocate for Prop. 207 and said the safest way to manage marijuana is to regulate it and implement safety standards.

“It’s 17 pages because we put in place the safest, most strictly regulated program in the country, monitor its use, standardized testing for it and make it a safe, regulated market that’s going to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for our state,” Campbell said.

Opponents like Public Relations Professional Lisa James say there is grave concern over the wording in the 17-page document. She and others worry that the legalization of marijuana could have adverse effects on children and cost taxpayers more money than the proposition would bring in.

“What’s important to note is that national studies show that in states that have legalized youth use goes up, and that’s a real concern for our future, for our future workforce, for our kids and for our safety,” James said.

Campbell pointed out that Centers for Disease Control studies in states where recreational marijuana is legal, like Colorado and Washington, there has been no substantial increase in data for youths using marijuana since its legalization.

“The most dangerous thing you could have is an unregulated black market that we know exists for a product that we know is being used, so the best thing to do is make this safer, make it regulated and actually ban advertising and put in place childproof labeling, childproof packaging, all of this stuff that is, in this file, a measure to protect kids and families,” Campbell said.

The initiative would also local governments the power to ban marijuana facilities and control regulation, zoning and licensing. In fact, the Town of Gilbert is already discussing an anti-marijuana ordinance that would prohibit the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana within its boundaries if Prop. 207 passes.

The other statewide ballot measure that voters will have to decide on it Proposition 208.

Prop. 208, also known as the Invest in Ed initiative, would impose a 3.5% income surcharge on personal income for those who earn more than $250,000 and couples whose income exceeds $500,000 to fund education in Arizona. That tax would take effect for any income over those threshold amounts. For example, for someone whose personal income is $501,000, they would pay an additional $35 in taxes per year.

Supporters of the passage, like Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas, say that the passage of Prop. 208 is what the state needs right now to help bring back education funding that was cut during the 2008 recession.

“We have to bring in revenue to the state. We have to dedicate it to the classroom and classroom supports so our teachers will stay and that we can get people into this system,” Thomas said.

Thomas pointed out that more than 1,700 classrooms in the state currently don’t have a qualified teacher. The money from Prop. 208 could lead to incentivizing qualified teachers to stay in the state with competitive salaries and it could lead to new businesses coming to Arizona because of the increase in the quality of education.

On the flipside, opponents like former APS lobbyist Marty Schultz argue that Prop. 208 will damage the economy in the long run and the school districts will have limits on how schools can put that money into classrooms.

“The increase of an income tax from an economic standpoint is going to have significant —  I’m not going to use the word devastating — but significant impact on the economy of Arizona, and even if it produces anywhere near what Joe and his colleagues suggest, which I believe is way too much money, the estimates I think are way off,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that school boards have to follow a formula when it comes to dispersing funds, which usually go towards building and facility improvements before going directly to classrooms for teacher salaries and supplies.

He said that instead of passing Prop. 208, the better approach would be for Republicans and Democrats to come together to focus on improving Arizona through education because it’s a driver of the economy.

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