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Arizona, Elections, Politics

Do you favor the Quality Education and Jobs Act (Proposition 204)?

Posted: October 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm   /   by

Tim Wiederaenders

The Daily Courier

The “Yes on 204” campaign would have you believe that making the penny sales tax – enacted in 2010 and due to expire in 2013 – permanent for items such as education is a no-brainer.

“Even with that new funding, the Arizona Legislature has enacted the deepest education budget cuts in the nation over the past four years,” a recent “Yes on 204” news release states. “With Prop. 204, the Quality Education and Jobs Act, voters can invest in their highest priority – education. Our schools will have a stable, permanent source of funding that the Legislature cannot cut.”

Let’s look more closely at the concepts of what you can count on.

In 2006 voters enacted Proposition 203, which was an 80-cent-per-pack tax on tobacco products to fund First Things First, early child development programs. Proponents anticipated $188 million in the first year. What the tax did was encourage people to stop smoking. The result was, according to the 2012 First Things First annual report, only $133 million raised in FY2011-12.

While they anticipated a reduced amount as suggested, think about a city or town that depends largely or only on tourism revenues. In a down economy, you will not see as much money coming in.

Thus, with Prop. 204, we are not looking at a “stable” source, but a cyclical effect tied to discretionary spending – and that is not the best thing to tie your budget needs to.

More importantly, proponents of 204 say it is just an extension of a tax you are already paying. I wish it were that simple, because the other side is scary: it will keep the current sales taxes high, not to be easily or ever lowered, and preventing municipalities from asking for a source of funding for let’s say roads, sewer or water improvements, which everyone benefits from.

They won’t want to push their sales tax even higher and hurt businesses, and would have to turn to impact fees or property taxes – two things no one likes and are paid for by a smaller segment of the population.

As for the Legislature, if the 204 tax raises $100 million, for example, nothing keeps lawmakers from cutting that same amount from what is already in the budget. If you don’t like what lawmakers are doing, get new lawmakers – instead of tinkering with economics.

Vote “no” on 204.

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Do you favor the Quality Education and Jobs Act (Proposition 204)?