One-Cent Sales Tax Increase: The Problem is Tunnel Vision
by Jonathan Butcher
Arizona’s teachers union has a fixation on school funding. And if the union’s proposed ballot initiative to permanently raise the sales tax in Arizona is any indication, they have also developed tunnel vision. The teachers union and other education associations want the “temporary” one cent sales tax increase that passed two years ago to become permanent.
But that’s not all.
The union’s ballot initiative would tie the hands of future lawmakers and Arizonans by saying that Arizona can never spend less on education—K-12, state colleges, and universities—than we did in 2011-12 or 2012-13, whichever is greater. Plus, the limit on school district bonds and budget overrides can never be lower than it was in 2012.
While increasing education funding is always tempting, this initiative ignores some important realities. First, state revenues fluctuate. Prices change. School enrollment changes. And with the advent of full- and part-time virtual schools, hybrid schools, open enrollment transfers, and education savings accounts, the government needs more flexibility in the future to adjust for financial needs—not less.
Second, the ballot measure would replace elected officials’ authority over Arizona’s budget with the desires of a union. By setting a minimum education funding level in stone, the union gives itself authority over the state budget, half of which already goes to education.
Education funding should be tied to students for whatever schooling environment suits their individual needs. The union’s proposal would lock taxpayers and students into a fixed system of ever-increasing costs. Voters beware.
Jonathan Butcher is education director for the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Are We Talking About a Sales Tax... Again?
Goldwater Institute: It's the Same Old Song
State of Arizona: Quality Education and Jobs Act (PDF)
Read the online version of this daily email here.