A new poll by the public school advocacy group Stand for Children Arizona finds a majority of those surveyed said the state should spend more money on education — and more than half indicated they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to do so. Poll: Arizonans say they’d pay higher taxes for education:
The poll sets the groundwork for a legislative conversation on Proposition 301, which currently designates six-tenths of a cent per dollar in sales taxes to education. The tax is set to expire in 2021.
The Legislature convenes its 2017 session Jan. 10, and Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to reveal his agenda for the year in his Jan. 9 State of the State address. Ducey has said education funding will be a priority, but has offered no details.
Moore Information conducted the poll of 500 Arizona voters, doing live cellphone and landline phone interviews Dec. 5-7. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
77 percent indicated the state should spend more money on schools.
61 percent indicated they would support a tax increase to provide additional funding for education.
65 percent indicated they would support increasing the Prop. 301 sales tax, which funds education, to a full penny. That would bring in an estimated $400 million more a year.
“A lot of people thought that after Prop. 123, everyone would be tired of education funding,” said Stand for Children Arizona Executive Director Rebecca Gau. “But across the board, people know we need to be spending more on schools.”
She said the poll results show an even higher interest in education as the state’s top priority than there was before voters passed Prop. 123.
“There’s an even greater interest in increasing spending, and in potentially using a sales tax to do that,” she said. “We were actually pretty surprised with those results. It does provide a really important temperature of voters across the state.”
The poll results reflect similar results found in a September Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll in which 74 percent of registered voters polled said the state is spending “too little” on K-12 public education.
“There are a lot of community members and business leaders who see this as a crisis and are excited about the opportunity to knock this out of the park,” Gau said. “Parents want it. Teachers need it. Our families need it.”
But the anti-tax zealots in our Tea-Publican Arizona legislature and Governor Ducey do not want it. They are ideologically opposed to raising taxes or to injecting new money into public education. a small minority of anti-tax zealots can rely on the GOP’s weapon of mass destruction, Prop. 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” amendment to block any measure.
This includes blocking Rep. Heather Carter’s so-called “grand plan” to infuse major new dollars into not just K-12 education, but also the university and community college system. School reforms lack funding. “Carter said the only way Arizona has historically made significant increases in education funding is by taking the issue directly to voters, a move that bypasses the governor.”
It will likely have to be done by a citizens initiative to bypass Governor Ducey and our Tea-Publican legislature.
Democrats need to get over their paralyzing fear of the GOP running campaigns against them that “Democrats want to raise your taxes!” — something they do in any event — and offer voters a clear choice by advocating for higher taxes for public education, because fiscally responsible governance requires that we must pay for education. The Arizona Constitution requires it. It’s up to Democrats and education advocates to make the case to voters.
UPDATE: Arizonans paid 30 percent less in general-fund taxes in 2015 than they did in 1992, according to the analysis by economists Dennis Hoffman and Tom Rex. The economists estimate Arizona would have more than $4 billion more a year in revenue had it not cut taxes over the past 20 years (since 1992).