Shocking! Arizona Republican proposes a tax increase to support public education

This is like discovering that a species believed to be long extinct, like the dodo bird, is still alive and well and living in a small flock on some remote uninhabited island somewhere.

There is actually one Republican in the Arizona legislature who proposes to perform his constitutionally mandated duty under the Arizona Constitution and is willing to raise taxes in support of public education. Shocking! Republican lawmaker pitches $1 billion tax hike to prevent Arizona teacher walkout:

A Republican state lawmaker has a plan he hopes will prevent Thursday’s statewide teacher walkout and, at least temporarily, solve Arizona’s education funding crisis.

It involves a tax hike.

More than 50 Arizona school districts — and counting — will close during Thursday’s statewide #RedForEd walkout as educators push for higher pay and the restoration of $1 billion in cuts to education funding [over the past decade].

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, told The Arizona Republic on Monday afternoon that he will introduce a budget amendment — whenever Republican legislative leaders introduce a budget — for a three-year, 1-cent education sales tax increase.

The plan would require the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey [i.e., the “Two-thirds For Taxes” Amendment, Prop. 108 (1992).]

The proposal would provide the state’s public district and charter schools with $880 million a year more in discretionary funding, and require the state to fully fund Arizona’s kindergarten students. It also could provide the state’s public universities with hundreds of millions of dollars a year in extra funding, though the exact amount remained unclear.

Campbell said his proposal would serve as a “temporary bridge” to allow voters to potentially approve in the 2020 election a long-term tax measure for education.

Campbell’s plan comes as Ducey works to rally state lawmakers to support his proposal to give teachers 20 percent raises by 2020. Ducey has not formally introduced legislation for his proposal, which would still require votes in the House and Senate.

#RedForEd leaders have criticized Ducey’s plan, saying it doesn’t address all their demands and is unsustainable based on the state’s revenue.

Campbell’s plan mirrors many components of a plan proposed in December by a coalition of Arizona business leaders, including former PetSmart CEO Phil Francis. Francis and his coalition previously said they planned to bankroll a 1.5 cent sales tax measure on the 2020 ballot — a goal Campbell said he supports.

“The final answer will be with the people of Arizona, and who can argue with that?” Campbell said.

Our blog troll state Senator John Kavanagh for one. He frequently points out that legislators were elected by the people to do the work of governing for them in a representative capacity. He is correct on this point. There is no reason why the Arizona legislature cannot simply enact a sustainable source of tax revenue for public education and restore the cuts they made over the past decade. It does not need to go to the voters for approval, this is their job and what the Arizona Constitution mandates. They simply choose not to do it and disregard their constitutionally mandated duty.

Status of Ducey’s plan

The governor and legislators appear to be gridlocked on his teacher pay proposal, which partly relies on rosy [magical] revenue projections to help pay for the raises.

The Arizona Capitol Times adds, Top Republicans meet to work out deal on teacher pay:

Senate President Steve Yarbrough told Capitol Media Services Monday there is “unease” among many House and Senate Republicans with predictions by Gov. Doug Ducey that a 19 percent pay hike for teachers by 2020 can be enacted and money from a special assistance fund for schools can be restored, all without a tax hike. Ducey contends that there will be sufficient strong economic growth to both generate new tax revenues and reduce state spending on health and social service programs.

He said that’s why some GOP lawmakers are holding out until they can identify firm sources of revenue “to help us get to this very ambitious goal.”

“But we’re trying to get the really big nut cracked at the moment,” he said, that being teacher pay.

At this point, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said lawmakers will do what they do — and the education groups will do what they want, no matter what. And if that means a teacher strike, he said, that can’t be the prime concern of legislators.

“Few people down here are looking at Thursday as any kind of deadline,” Mesnard told Capitol Media Services.

“The belief here is that Thursday’s going to happen, no matter what,” he said. And he said that pretty much whatever legislators approve “will not be enough in the eyes of some.”

Ducey’s plan calls for a 9 percent pay raise next year, followed by 5 percent increases the next two years. Coupled with the 1 percent hike already given, it would mean an effective 20 percent raise by the year 2020.

Ducey has also said he intends for his proposal to directly go toward teacher salaries. Details have not been released, but opponents have said the proposal excludes support staff like teacher’s aides from the raises.

Lawmakers have expressed skepticism about both the financial footing of Ducey’s plan and the method by which the money would be doled out.

Campbell’s plan would give school districts and charter schools latitude on how they would spend the sales-tax money.

The schools could put all — or none — of that funding toward educator pay.

“We’re proposing to do what the governor wants to do,” Campbell told The Republic, “but it’s just a different manner and we’re dealing with revenue. We’re not dealing with projections of revenue,” i.e., magical thinking.

Looming teacher walkout

Meanwhile, organizers with the grass-roots Arizona Educators United group and Arizona Education Association are proceeding with a Thursday teacher walkout to pressure lawmakers to act on their five funding demands.

Those demands include an immediate 20 percent pay raise, pay increases for support staff and a restoration of about $1 billion in education dollars cut in previous years.

It remains unclear how much support Campbell’s plan would have among state legislators and Ducey, who won office on a [reckless and irresponsible] pledge to not raise taxes while in office.

Campbell said he expected criticism from his colleagues.

But the Prescott lawmaker said he felt it necessary to introduce another proposal because state lawmakers remain divided on how to come up with more money for Arizona schools three days before the state’s educators plan to walk out of schools.

“It’s not good,” Campbell said Monday afternoon. “As of today, we’re complete loggerheads with the governor’s proposal and what the House wants to do.”

House Republican leaders have not publicly released a plan, but some budget documents have included proposals to use other education pots of funding to cover the raises, i.e., fund sweeps or “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“And I don’t know how that’s going to be resolved. There’s some pretty hardened attitudes in the House about arm-twisting,” he said.

Campbell said his budget amendment proposal is “tailored strictly to help get us through the next three years until we can find a long-term solution for our education priorities.”

“Right now, we’re not solving anything because we need the revenue,” Campbell said. “There’s not anybody down here who doesn’t know we need more revenue.”

Except perhaps our delusional governor, who steadfastly sticks to his “no new taxes while I am governor” pledge.

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, has an op-ed in The Republic explaining his temporary sales tax plan for public education. Why I’m proposing a temporary 1-cent sales tax for Arizona schools:

I wholeheartedly support Gov. Doug Ducey’s #20by2020 teacher pay proposal and his commitment to delivering new resources to every school in Arizona.

As a rural legislator, I also know that what may work in Phoenix may not work in Yuma or Prescott, and that’s why decisions about teacher pay must be made by local charter and district governing boards.

* * *

Voters supported a temporary tax before

In 2009, in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis, Gov. Jan Brewer championed a temporary sales tax that was supported by nearly 70 percent of Arizona voters. Why? Because Governor Brewer’s short-term funding bridge was 100 percent dedicated to education.

What Rep. Campbell fails to mention is that Doug Ducey, then the state Treasurer, led the opposition to the extension of this temporary sales tax for education in 2012. State treasurer campaigns against permanent sales tax increase for education. In May of 2015, now Gov. Ducey said that he will oppose any effort to hike taxes to boost education funding, even one where voters would make the decision. Ducey says, no way, no how to education tax.

Only recently did Gov. Ducey sign the extension of the Prop. 301 education sales tax, which only maintains current funding levels, because it passed the legislature by an overwhelming veto-proof majority — something the legislature could do again today with a dedicated tax revenue stream to restore the cuts they made to public education over the past decade.

2020 plan is good, but we need action now

Last December, a group of Arizona CEOs committed to raise $2 million to place a 1.5-cent citizen’s initiative on the ballot in 2020, 100 percent dedicated to education. I support their plan.

Yet with organizations such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Greater Phoenix Leadership clamoring for increased investment in Arizona’s education system, now is the time to act. As legislators, we have a responsibility to provide Governor Ducey with the resources necessary to make his vision a reality.

With a simple, bipartisan, two-thirds vote, our legislature can create a temporary funding bridge to move Arizona forward. That’s why I’ve written a proposed budget amendment that is:

  • Consistent with funding priorities articulated by Governor Ducey;
  • Consistent with Governor Brewer’s successful three-year temporary funding program; and
  • 100 percent dedicated to education.

4 things my 3-year tax increase would do

My three-year, penny proposal will:

1. Increase Arizona’s base K-12 funding by $880 million, providing resources necessary for teacher pay and other local priorities.

2. Treat voluntary full-day kindergarten the same as every grade in Arizona.

3. Fund grants for construction trades training.

4. Support the constitutional mission of our state university system to furnish instruction as nearly free as possible.

This short-term funding bridge, which aligns with Governor Ducey’s education vision, will support the Governor’s #20by2020 teacher pay proposal and provide Arizona’s CEO coalition with the opportunity to place their long-term education funding proposal on the 2020 ballot.

Like I said, the legislature could do this today with a veto-proof majority to take Governor Ducey’s anti-tax intransigence out of the equation, and this does not require any ballot measure in 2020 or this year to do it. It just requires a state legislature willing to perform its constitutionally mandated duty to raise taxes sufficient to support public education.

Rep. Campbell is the only Republican at this point proposing to fulfill his constitutionally mandated duty and to go at least half-way in enacting new tax revenue to support public education. This is more than I can say for any other GOP legislator and our governor. Kudos to Campbell.

2 responses to “Shocking! Arizona Republican proposes a tax increase to support public education

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Ducey and the rest of the ALEC/Koch owned AZGOP have given away tax breaks to corporations that will never pay for themselves, that generate profits that go to Wall Street in New York City.

    When pressured to do the right thing, instead of telling their corporate masters to pay their fair share, they do the cowardly thing and go for sales taxes and hurt the poorest Arizonans.

    Kansas with saguaros.

    Also, #ComeBackWileybud

  2. Julie Becker

    I have one problem with this. We, as Arizonans, have voted 3 times for tax increases for education. The money hasn’t gone for teacher’s pay, equipment, or updated books. Ducey already admitted he has a slush fund. Let’s use that.