Gov. Jan Brewer and some Arizona legislators are hoping to reduce the effects of budget cuts in the education, health and safety departments by supporting a temporary tax increase.
In a May 18 special election, Arizona voters will consider Proposition 100, which would increase the state sales tax by 1 percent for three years — from June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2013.
The revenue from Brewer’s proposition, with an estimated $950 million generated from the tax increase, would go directly toward funding K-12 education, health and human services and public safety.
According to the proposal, the measure would also save Arizona universities from facing another cut of more than $100 million.
“Our families are relying upon us to make wise decisions that impact their safety and their education,” Brewer said in a statement. “Prop. 100 will protect core funding to K-12 classrooms, community colleges and universities throughout Arizona, as well as protect funding for law enforcement and the most extremely sick among us.”
Supporters of the proposition say that if it doesn’t pass, as much as one-quarter of all public education funding could be cut. This could mean one-and-a-half to two of out of every 10 teaching positions may be eliminated, according to a statement by the Arizona Education Network.
Spokesman for the “Yes on 100” campaign David Leibowitz said this is an issue students should be involved in.
“If this bill fails, tuition will rise again,” Leibowitz said.
If the proposition doesn’t get voters’ approval, the money lost will equate to about an entire university being eliminated, he said.
“Students need to get out and support this bill,” he said.
Leibowitz said a tax increase is the best way to make up for the nearly $3.2 billion deficit Arizona is projected to face in 2011.
“There is nobody excited about a tax increase,” Leibowtiz said. “But we need the nearly $1 billion a year that this bill will create for basic services.”
Economics professor Dennis Hoffman said the state is in a tight economic spot, and raising taxes is a way to save necessary public services from experiencing cuts.
“There really isn’t another option at this point,” Hoffman said. “Expenditures have been cut, but we are still facing deficits statewide.”
Hoffman said taxes in Arizona have historically been lowered to levels that don’t support public services like education, public safety and social services.
“In the past, people haven’t been asked to give at adequate levels to pay for these public programs,” Hoffman said. “Voters need to face the simple fact that if they don’t pass this bill there are going to be some losses.”
Brewer said Proposition 100 will help create a financially stable state, which is critical to job creation and economic development, and the foundation for fostering an “Arizona comeback.”
Opponents of Proposition 100 say the state should look elsewhere for the money to pay its debts, fearing Arizonans will be stuck with a permanent tax increase if the measure is approved.
Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl jointly expressed their opposition to the proposed bill.
“We support the right of Arizonans to decide the issue of a short-term sales tax increase on the local level. However, as Arizonans and Americans across our nation continue to face perilous economic times, we fundamentally oppose increasing taxes on small businesses and working families,” they said in the statement.
Allison Hurtado, a sophomore journalism student, is a supporter of the 1-percent tax increase.
“Where else are they going to get the money?” she said. “I think it’s a great idea … it’s the only thing that’s going to save our parks and our future.”
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