An Arizona Supreme Court ruling late Wednesday took the Invest in Education Act off the November ballot.
The Invest in Ed proposition would have raised the income tax rate for single taxpayers who earn more than $250,000 in taxable income and married persons who earn more than $500,000 from 4.54 percent to 8 percent. It also would have increased the tax rate to 9 percent for individuals who earn more than $500,000 in taxable income and couples who earn more than $1 million.
“A majority of the court finds that the proposition’s description of the change in tax rate combined with the omission of any discussion of changes in indexing for inflation collectively creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness” and finds the ballot language is inadequate by law, according to an order signed by Chief Justice Scott Bales.
The Arizona Supreme Court’s order reverses a lower-court ruling earlier this month that rejected the legal challenge to the measure, according to an Associated Press article.
Invest in Ed opponents said the tax increase would have harmed the state’s economy, while supporters said it would have raised an estimated $690 million for schools, according to an Associated Press article.
The ruling is a victory for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry which led the fight to block a public vote on the Invest in Ed initiative.
“Not only was the initiative poorly crafted, it was the wrong plan,” said Jaime Molera, the lead plaintiff in the case and a former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction in a statement to Phoenix New Times. “It would have harmed all taxpayers, small businesses, and would not have delivered on its promises for teachers, while weakening education reforms that were achieved in a bipartisan fashion under Prop. 301.”
Glad the AZ Supreme Court called out the “significant danger of confusion or unfairness” created by the tax increase initiative & nixed it. I look forward to building on what was undeniably an historic & REAL #InvestInEd year at the capitol W/OUT crushing our economic prosperity!
— J.D. Mesnard (@JDMesnard) August 30, 2018
The ruling is a significant setback for teachers and education advocates who supported the initiative as a way to generate more money for public education through a dedicated revenue stream, according to a Capitol Media Service article.
“What we saw is that the court has joined politicians at the capitol in protecting the status quo over the rights of voters and the needs of our students,” said Joshua Buckley, co-chair of the Invest in Ed ballot initiative during a press conference briefing earlier today.
#INVESTinED is off the ballot. Focus your outrage on the November elections and those responsible for Arizona’s public schools having $800 million less in annual funding today than a decade ago. AZ students cannot afford to wait for politicians with no solutions.
— David Lujan (@DavidLujan) August 30, 2018
After teachers walked out of their classrooms in late April, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a proposal to raise pay for Arizona teacher by 20 percent over several years that was later approved in the budget, but didn’t meet all of the teachers’ demands or make up for the cuts in education funding over the past decade.
Soon after that, education advocates led by the Arizona Center for Economic Progress filed the Invest in Education Act, an initiative measure to increase the income tax on upper income earners to fund teacher and classified staff raises.