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Arizona voters back legal pot and a tax hike on the rich to fund schools

By: - September 17, 2020 8:01 am

Cartoon by Steve Benson | Arizona Mirror

Majorities of Arizona voters say they support ballot measures that would legalize marijuana and tax the wealthy to increase funding for schools and raise teacher salaries, according to a new poll.

The Monmouth University Poll finds widespread support for Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, which would increase the marginal tax rate on wealthy Arizonans by 3.5 percentage points. A whopping 66% of registered voters said they support the measure, and only 25% said they plan to vote against it. The proposal has its strongest support among Democrats, with 84% favoring it, but it is also supported by 53% of Republican voters and 67% of independents.

The Invest in Education ballot measure would raise an estimated $940 million a year, about half of which would be dedicated for hiring new teachers and increasing teacher pay. Another 25% of the money raised by the tax would be devoted to increasing wages for support service workers at schools, including classroom aides, security, cafeteria workers and bus drivers. The rest of the money would be divided to fund career training, mentoring for new teachers and university programs to train new teachers.

Opponents, led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, say that increasing taxes on Arizonans who make more than $250,000 for individual tax filers and $500,000 for joint filers will harm businesses, as an estimate half of those who will pay higher taxes are business owners. The big-business group also opposed a similar measure in 2018.

A majority — though a weaker one — also supports Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which would legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The ballot measure would tax sales of marijuana to fund community colleges, police and fire departments, and state highways.

The Monmouth poll found 51% of registered voters support legalizing marijuana and 41% oppose doing so. But that margin shrinks to 49% in favor and 43% opposed if turnout among voters who say they are likely to vote in November is greater than it was in 2016. And if likely voters show up at a lower rate than they did four years ago, Prop. 207’s lead evaporates, splitting at 47% for and against.

Four years ago, Arizona voters narrowly rejected a similar legalization proposal.

The live-caller poll of 420 registered voters in Arizona was conducted Sept. 11-15 via landline and cell phones, and interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points. Monmouth University is one of only six pollsters to have an A+ rating from FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on opinion poll analysis.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.