Arizona voters will have their chance to decide whether higher-earning taxpayers will be required to send more money to the state’s public school system.
In a unanimous Wednesday decision, the Arizona Supreme Court ordered the Invest in Ed initiative back on the November ballot.
“Upon consideration, the court unanimously finds that the 100-word description did not create a significant danger of confusion or unfairness and reverses the trial court ruling,” Justice Robert Brutinel wrote.
The court also found evidence regarding the petition gatherers’ compensation structure didn’t run afoul of the law.
If approved, the initiative would place an additional 3.5 percent surcharge on taxable income over $250,000. The money would be funneled directly to a combination of teacher and personnel raises, vocational training programs, educational scholarships, and retention programs for teachers.
At a total tax rate of 8 percent, the measure would put Arizona’s income tax rate among the ten highest in the nation, between Wisconsin and Iowa, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury struck the initiative from the ballot, saying the 100-word description failed to accurately describe the magnitude of the surcharge.
“Instead of identifying all principal provisions in the Initiative’s description, Defendant Invest in Education circulated an opaque ‘trojan horse’ of a 100-word description, concealing principal provisions of the initiative,” he said, adding that the initiative language omitted vital details. “[Invest in Ed] tried again to couch this significant marginal tax increase in terms of ‘modest’ percentages (‘a 3.5% surcharge on taxable income’). Here, as in [the 2018 initiative], the 100-word description does not inform signers that the ‘surcharge’ would increase the marginal tax rate on those subject to the ‘surcharge’ by 77.7%.”
The ballot initiative was brought about by the Arizona Education Association and Stand for Children, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit that pushes for state-level education reforms.