Phoenix demonstrations take both sides of Proposition 100

Integrated studies senior Ashley Wilcox stood on the green lawn of the state Capitol Friday morning holding a red sign. Situated in the middle of a growing group of protesters, Wilcox was prepared to deliver her message.

Handwritten in black marker, the sign simplified that message for all onlookers: “A penny for your thoughts, but no penny for my future.”

For Wilcox, that means paying an extra penny for each dollar spent on some taxable merchandise in the state.

Proposition 100, a measure on the May 18 ballot that would institute a three-year, 1-cent sales tax increase, is a subject of debate as the special election grows near. If passed, Arizona’s sales tax would rise from 5.6 to 6.6 percent, which would begin July 1 and end May 31, 2013.

The Arizona Students’ Association, a lobbying group made up of students from ASU, UA and NAU, gathered with other organizations Friday morning to voice their support for Proposition 100.

ASA chair Elma Delic, a journalism junior at UA, said the student lobbying group supports the tax increase because it will bring additional money to higher education.

“We’ve seen the largest tuition increases a couple of weeks ago,” Delic said. “That’s going to continue to happen if we don’t get our funding.”

On March 11, the Arizona Board of Regents approved tuition increases for all three state universities. Tuition for ASU’s incoming students will go up by nearly 20 percent for freshman undergraduates and about 13 percent for continuing in-state students.

According to ABOR’s Web site, the three universities suffered $191.5 million in cuts in fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30.

If Proposition 100 does not pass, one-quarter of public education funding could be cut, according to the Arizona Education Network.

“To put it in context: 1 cent per dollar or lose millions of dollars,” Wilcox said. “When you compare and contrast like that, it’s really the only option.”

Friday’s rally was organized in response to another protest, one against the sales tax.

Valley-based Tea Party groups, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Americans for Prosperity and others gathered for an event headlined by Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher and emceed by J.D. Hayworth, who is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent John McCain, R-Ariz.

“We fundamentally and instinctively understand that our path back to prosperity is not through higher taxes,” Hayworth said. “It is through less taxation and more freedom.”

Hayworth equated the taking of citizens’ money with taking away freedom.

“If you were taxed at 100 percent of what you earned, you would be a slave, toiling for and serving the state,” he said.

Gordon Bradshaw, a member of the West Valley Tea Party Patriots, said Arizona’s budget crisis is the result of increased spending by state leaders in the past.

“[And current legislators] don’t want to cut the budget,” Bradshaw said.

Arizonans must be willing to make cuts to get back on the path to prosperity and ensure freedom, he said.

“We want smaller government,” he said. “We don’t need government control.”

About 25 students affiliated with ASA attended the rally.

Even if Proposition 100 is passed, major cuts to the education system are still going to take place, according to the Arizona Education Network. Funding for each university and community college student would decrease from $9,480 to $7,100.

Wilcox, who said she is $1,600 in debt, worried about her brother entering college this fall.

“It’s very scary for him,” she said. “Thank goodness I’m graduating next year with little debt. I don’t see that same future for him.”

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