Tax and Education
Education groups delivered two moving vans of petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office yesterday to force a public vote on Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers’ $1 billion income tax cut plan.
The so-called “flat tax” proposal (SB1829) was Ducey’s crowning achievement seven years after he first ran for governor on a pledge to cut income taxes to “as close to zero as possible.” It would mostly benefit the wealthy and would knock off around $7,000 in taxes for those who earn more than 500,000, or a mere $7 for those earning $30,000 or less.
Before the law goes on hold until voters can uphold or reject it in the November 2022 election, the petitions must undergo a spot-check to ensure the signatures are valid. The signature verification process could take up to a month. After the Secretary of State’s Office does a check, it separates the petitions by county and sends them to the respective county recorder to verify that the signatures match those of registered voters.
The Invest in AZ coalition also sought to refer two other tax laws to the ballot. One (SB1783) just barely made the cutoff, with just short of 124,000 signatures. Unless about 96% of those signatures are valid, which isn’t likely, that effort is dead.
They failed to gather enough signatures to hit the third tax cut they targeted (SB 1827), effectively leaving the Republican attack on voter-approved taxes for education in place.
The Free Enterprise Club has filed a lawsuit against the referendum on the flat tax, oral arguments for which are scheduled for next month. Of course, if the lawsuit fails, lawmakers could take the sneaky way out by repealing the flat tax and then replacing it with something similar, as they did when opponents of a massive election law that included the original “ballot harvesting” ban gathered enough signatures to force a vote on the law in 2014. Which simply points to the importance of electing Democrats to Governor, Secretary of State, and the Legislature.
Arizona Deserves Better was unsuccessful in getting enough signatures for any of its referenda proposals, pointing out the difficulties faced by any new group trying to run a campaign without a previously-established organization’s support as the Invest in AZ campaign had from the teachers’ union and faith-based groups. While some county parties, like ours, Pima, and Navajo, jumped on full force, the State Party sat on the sidelines as did groups that might have been expected to care about voter access but perhaps did not have sufficient early information to join the effort.
On the bright side, a lower court this week struck down one of the targets of the Arizona Deserves Better campaign (SB 1819). If that holds up, Katie Hobbs will continue to supervise elections instead of the Republican Attorney General, and counties won’t suffer unnecessary burdens in printing ballots, some of which could have endangered ballot secrecy. The Governor and AG have threatened to appeal this court decision, which also struck down the Legislature’s prohibition on mask and vaccine mandates.
What failed: Allowing counties to obtain private grant funding to support voter access and changes to the popular Permanent Early Voting List.
School advocates turn in petitions to overturn Arizona’s $1 billion tax cut