Public education advocates who oppose massive Arizona tax cuts file to block them

PHOENIX (AP) – A group of public education advocates on Tuesday deposited enough signatures to at least temporarily block a massive tax cut championed by Republicans in the Arizona legislature and a second cut by tax to exempt small business owners from a new wealthy tax.

But the Invest in Arizona Now coalition failed to table a third tax cut bill that caps income taxes at the current rate of 4.5%. This measure protects high-income Arizona taxpayers from a 3.5% surtax approved by voters last year when they passed Proposition 208.

Tuesday’s filing prevents two of the three tax cut bills passed by the Legislature and signed by GOP Governor Doug Ducey in late June from coming into effect as scheduled on Wednesday. They would cut taxes by nearly $ 2 billion a year by gradually introducing a fixed tax rate of 2.5% that mainly benefits the rich.

Education advocates have collected more than 215,000 signatures to block the massive tax cut, far more than the 118,823 needed to suspend the law until November 2022, when voters can intervene. deposit of approximately 123,500 signatures.

“That one is going to be hard not to get knocked down” during the signature verification process, said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.

The Education Advocates Coalition says the new tax cuts will prevent the legislature from increasing funding for schools and other major spending priorities. Arizona is near the bottom for school funding among the 50 states and teachers remain among the lowest paid in the country despite a 20% hike they won after a 2018 statewide strike.

“Imagine schools where teachers can devote themselves to classrooms and students instead of dividing their time between teaching and extra work,” kindergarten teacher Kelley Fisher said at a press conference Tuesday. announcing the tabling of the referendum. “Imagine schools where parents could be real partners in their child’s learning, instead of acting as the emergency person. “

Referendums have yet to pass a signature check to continue, and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a tax-cut lobby group, has filed a lawsuit to prevent the secretary of state’s office from certifying the measure for the ballot. They argue that the constitution does not allow dismissals for measures that provide for “the support and maintenance” of state government and that tax reduction projects fall into this category.

“Supporters of the tax increase should not yet burst the champagne,” Danny Seiden, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement. He noted that if the referrals survive the court challenge, they have yet to win a campaign against a well-funded opposition.

“In the meantime, we will maintain our position that the reforms passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ducey earlier this year make Arizona more competitive than ever,” Seiden said.

Education supporters in Arizona have risen for the past five years against what they say is the GOP’s failure to support K-12 public schools.

Over the past four years, they have successfully referred an extension of universal vouchers to the ballot, and voters have categorically rejected the extension. The 2018 statewide teachers’ strike won the 20% pay hike, and advocates also collected enough signatures to get Proposition 208 on the ballot, which added the surcharge d income tax of 3.% to the rich. An August State Supreme Court ruling put these new revenues at risk.

Arizona’s constitution allows voters to block new legislation by collecting the signatures of 5% of those who voted in the last general election. If petition sheets and signatures are verified by the secretary of state and county registrars, the law is suspended until voters decide in the next general election.

Also on Tuesday, a group circulating petitions hoping to block three new election laws they say amount to voter suppression failed to collect enough signatures, organizers said on Tuesday.

The group was due to file nearly 120,000 valid signatures to prevent the entry into force of laws approved by the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this year. But they failed and won’t file with the Arizona Secretary of State before Tuesday’s deadline, said Alison Porter, senior advisor for Arizona Deserves Better.

“We weren’t there on any of them,” Porter said. “I feel like we’ve won in terms of awareness of what our lawmakers are doing on behalf of the Arizonans’ representation on Capitol Hill.”

Arizona Deserves Better was trying to block a bill requiring voters who do not vote in two election cycles be removed from the list of people who automatically receive ballots in the mail, and a second blocking election officials from receive private grants.

A third measure contains a host of what Republican supporters call “electoral security measures,” but which opponents say are designed to suppress the vote and compromise the confidentiality of the ballot.

A judge on Monday blocked the entry into force of the law as part of a larger trial targeting the provisions of several budget bills, including the ban on compulsory school masks.

Republican supporters argued that the new election laws were necessary to provide electoral security measures.

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