Initiative seeks to extend tax increase
Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat
The looming expiration of Arizona Proposition 100 in May has led to a citizens’ ballot initiative that aims to strengthen the state’s economy and education.
“Education is an economic driver and we’re going to ensure that by passing this initiative, we’re going to have good jobs for Arizonans and that we’re creating a healthy business climate so we can attract new employers and keep the ones we have,” said Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Parent Network and chair of the Quality Education and Jobs Committee.
Arizona voters approved Proposition 100 in 2010, temporarily raising the state’s sales tax by 1 percent. Two-thirds of the revenue generated helped fund K-12 education, but some of the money also went toward funding health and human services and public safety.
The Quality Education and Jobs Initiative, filed about a week ago, seeks to make the one-cent tax permanent. This initiative will help with funding for K-12 education, community colleges and universities, according to Pedersen.
The initiative also aims to create jobs and protect public safety by protecting state funding for Department of Public Safety officers and creating a transportation fund, according to the Arizona Education Network website.
The initiative’s major difference from Proposition 100 is that its language ensures funding will go exactly where voters say it’s going to go, Pedersen said. Funding raised by Proposition 100 went into the general fund and was not specifically designated for education, she said.
“This initiative will provide something we haven’t had in this state, which is a dedicated source of revenue for education,” Pedersen added. “I think this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide for our students and our families in Arizona.”
In order to qualify for the November ballot, the citizen group behind the initiative must collect a little more than 172,000 signatures by July 5, Pedersen said. In order to ensure there are enough valid signatures, it plans to collect 225,000, she added.
The Arizona Students’ Association, a lobbying group that works to ensure higher education in the state is affordable and accessible, is working closely with the campaign in order to help collect the needed signatures.
“As an organization, we’re putting all of our energy, efforts and resources into helping collect the thousands upon thousands of signatures,” said Robyn Nebrich, ASA’s executive director. “Our personal goal is to collect about 50,000 signatures before July 5.”
To raise awareness and collect more signatures, organizations pass around petitions at public events, Pedersen said. The Quality Education and Jobs committee also speaks to different interest groups, holding a speaking engagement almost every day, Pederson added.
Members of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona are learning how to help get the initiative on the ballot, and will begin circulating petitions in a few weeks.
“Whatever roadblocks may come up, whatever opponents we may have, the simple fact is that no other initiative has ever talked about giving this much money to financial aid,” said ASUA President James Allen. “That’s really why we’re doing this, because we have the potential to make lasting impacts.”
Some students believe making the one-cent sales tax permanent will be beneficial.
“I feel like our schools are having so many problems with budgeting and costs and I think anything the state can do to help should happen,” said Dylan Page, a studio art junior who is receiving two scholarships from the UA.
The benefits of a permanent one-cent sales tax are countless, said Dan Fitzgibbon, chairman of ASA and a business economics senior.
Individuals will have an easier time obtaining a university degree, which in turn will allow them to have a more rewarding career, Fitzgibbon said. Having a better-educated populace will also attract more jobs and better companies, bettering the state, he added.
“I hope when this comes to the ballot the people of the state see this as an opportunity to invest in our economic future,” he said. “The pass of this tax, without a doubt, is going to make this state a better place.”