A whopping 60% of voters support school-boosting Proposition 208 according to a recent poll — but Gov. Doug Ducey last week blasted the measure.
Republicans have increasingly turned against the income tax surcharge for people making more than $250,000 a year for an individual or $500,000 per year for a couple.
That includes all three of the Republicans running for legislative seats representing Rim Country and the White Mountains. Rep. Walt Blackman, former Rep. Brenda Barton and Senate candidate Wendy Rogers have all opposed the measure.
They maintain that more money won’t save schools’ problems, but that the 3.5% increase would nearly double the state income tax rate for the wealthy, thereby harming the economy.
On the other hand, Democratic House candidate Coral Evans and Senate candidate Felicia French both support it. So does independent House candidate Art Babbott.
They maintain that the state must invest in its schools to soften the growing teacher shortage and produce an educated workforce, thereby boosting the economy.
The measure would raise $827 million annually for the state’s K-12 schools, with most of the money earmarked for teacher raises, hiring additional teachers, training more teachers and classroom support.
The Monmouth University survey of likely voters found 60% in support, 34% opposed and 6% undecided.
Support among Republicans has declined — from 53% a month ago to 31% now. The margin of error in the polls is 4.4%.
However, 87% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans still support the increase in the top state income tax rate from about 4.5% to 8%. The state joint legislative budget committee said the increased rate would cost the average taxpayer making between $250,000 and $500,000 about $120 annually — with much higher increases for those making more.
However, Ducey who has said he wants to eliminate the state income tax entirely blasted the measure saying it would make it harder to attract corporations and businesses to the state by raising the top income tax rate. Arizona has a low income tax rate overall, after several years of cuts. However, the increase in the top end would give Arizona the ninth highest top rate nationally.
“It would be the equivalent of hanging a sign over our state that said, ‘Look elsewhere,” said Ducey in an article in The Arizona Republic. “All the pipeline of people and opportunities that are coming to Arizona would be hurt.”
He made the statement in a joint appearance with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as they toured a Phoenix charter school. DeVos has long advocated for school choice — including publicly funded charter schools and taxpayer money for school vouchers.
Arizona leads the nation in private school vouchers and charter schools. However, its traditional public schools are among the worst-funded in the nation. Arizona has among the lowest teacher salaries and the largest class sizes, according to one national survey that ranked the state’s schools 49th out of 50.