Wealthy Arizonans will face a higher marginal tax rate to increase education spending by nearly $1 billion a year with the passage of the Invest in Ed ballot measure.
Proposition 208, also known as the Invest in Ed Act, is the second attempt by education advocates to use a tax increase to boost funding for public schools. In 2018, a similar measure was removed from the ballot after the Arizona Supreme Court determined that a description of the ballot proposal shared with voters when they signed petitions was misleading.
This year’s measure survived a similar court challenge.
Nearly 52% of the total votes for the ballot measure were yes votes, with Mohave County having the highest percentage of opposition with 66% of the county voting no.
“This has been in the works for a few years now,” David Lujan, director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress and one of the groups behind the proposition said to the Arizona Mirror. “We’re really excited.”
Lujan said he isn’t worried about challenges to the proposition from groups that lobbied strong against it in the past and during the campaign.
“I don’t see anything in our initiative that is challengeable,” Lujan said.
It is estimated to raise $940 million for K-12 public schools, $235 million of which would be devoted to increasing wages for support staff such as 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.
Lujan said that the tax, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, will take some time to gather the funds but schools can begin to plan knowing that “help is on the way.”
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry led the charge against the measure, as it had done in the past.
“We’re disappointed in the outcome of our campaign, but we’re incredibly proud of our effort and the coalition we assembled,” Jaime Molera, chairperson for the No on 208 campaign said in a written statement. “This is a setback, but we still believe Arizona’s best days are ahead. So, it’s back to work to continue to seek ways to support Arizona’s education system across the continuum in a way that strengthens our economy.”
Molera and others are concerned that the proposition will make Arizona less competitive with other states, especially given that voters in Illinois rejected a similar tax increase and voters in Colorado voted to lower their state’s income tax.
However, Lujan is not discouraged.
“Now we are going to see that those claims are baseless,” Lujan said. “Any economist will tell you the best investment you can make is in your education system.”