Wednesday, September 22, 2021 7:43 pm

Education group to challenge new state tax laws

High school teacher Jim Byrne, left, joins a September 2018 protest against the removal of the Invest in Education initiative form the November 2018 ballot.

Jim Byrne

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Arizonans may get the last word on a nearly $2 billion tax cut plan that mainly benefits the wealthy.

Organizers of what had been the Invest in Ed initiative that voters approved in November have crafted three separate proposals to take to the ballot in 2022. They want the public to decide whether to ratify the decision by state lawmakers to:

  • Create a 2.5% flat tax rate, scrapping the current progressive rates;
  • Cap anyone’s taxes at no more than 4.5% including the 3.5% surcharge in Proposition 208;
  • Create a new tax category for small business owners to allow them to escape having to pay any of that surcharge.

Backers need 118,823 valid signatures on petitions by Sept. 28 to force a vote. Given the number of signatures that are normally disqualified, a more realistic goal would be closer to 150,000.

But the groups involved in the effort have a proven track record of not just getting proposals on the ballot but getting voters to go along with them.

Potentially more significant, if they reach that goal, it immediately prevents any of the challenged measures from taking effect until the 2022 election. At that point voters would get to say whether they agree with what the legislature did or not.

A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, who championed the tax-cut plans, said he would have no comment unless and until the backers got the signatures.

Instead, C.J. Karamargin said the just-completed legislative session was “one of the most successful sessions in recent memory.” And he said that includes the three items that foes hope to put on the 2022 ballot.

At the heart of the fight are two questions.

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