Recent revelations about some of the campaign funding that supports Proposition 208 adds credence to our opposition to this ballot measure.
Prop. 208 is the initiative that would collect a 3.5 percent tax surcharge on income above $250,000 for an individual or above $500,000 for couples. Arizona voters will decide whether to approve this amendment to the state Constitution in the Nov. 3 General Election.
Among the leading contributors to Invest in Ed, the organization behind Proposition 208, is an Oregon-based nonprofit. Stand for Children, LLC, has contributed more than $3.3 million to the campaign seeking to pass the ballot initiative.
Want to know the worst of it?
Stand for Children has received more than $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), the federally-subsidized program aimed at helping small businesses survive the pandemic. Put another way, federal tax dollars are a major contributor to campaign that would raise taxes on high income earners. Using public funds for a ballot initiative goes against the intent of the PPP and may have deprived qualified small businesses the financial assistance they needed to overcome the economic crises created by the coronavirus.
We have come out previously in opposition to Prop. 208. Only 12 percent of the funds collected by this surcharge will go directly to teaching students. The initiative allocates 75 percent of the revenue to increase the salaries of teachers and support staff. Another 13 percent will go to teacher mentoring and something called the “Arizona Teachers Academy,” a program to stem the ongoing teacher shortage by waiving college tuition and fees for future teachers who agree to work in Arizona schools.
Organizers forecast this measure will generate about $940 million a year for the state’s K-12 school system. We think the projected income is unrealistically high and that it will decline in future years. We also disagree with the principle of designating a specific class of income earners for a significant share of Arizona’s education funding.
Our argument isn’t with Arizona teachers or with the need to provide more funding to improve salaries and educational opportunities in the state.
What we disagree with is the size of this tax, its impact on businesses in the state and the principle of segregating a class of income earners to foot a sizable portion of our education funding.
If passed, Arizona would have one of the highest small business tax rates in the nation, moving from the 13th lowest to the tenth highest.
Out-of-state campaign support from an organization that has received a federal subsidy of more than $1 million should be enough to convince Arizona voters that Prop. 208 is bad policy being paid for with misdirected tax money. If people and organizations in this state agreed with this initiative, the campaign would have strong local support and local financing.