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Activists to appeal judge’s order striking down Invest in Ed tax proposal

In this June 5, 2018, photo, mathematics teacher Heather LaBelle, seated, shows Roger Baker how to gather signatures for the Invest in Education Act, a proposal to raise money on high earners to fund public education in Phoenix, Ariz. 

(The Center Square) – Supporters of the Invest in Ed ballot initiative call it “déjà vu” and plan to appeal a judge’s order wiping it from the ballot this November.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury agreed with plaintiffs Friday that the Invest in Education ballot initiative is fraudulent and would deceive an Arizona voter.

“Instead of identifying all principal provisions in the Initiative’s description, Defendant Invest in Education circulated an opaque ‘trojan horse’ of a 100-word description, concealing principal provisions of the initiative,” he said, adding that the initiative language omitted vital details. “[Invest in Ed] tried again to couch this significant marginal tax increase in terms of “modest” percentages (‘a 3.5% surcharge on taxable income’). Here, as in [the 2018 initiative], the 100-word description does not inform signers that the ‘surcharge’ would increase the marginal tax rate on those subject to the ‘surcharge’ by 77.7%.”

Invest in Education released a statement saying they would soon appeal the matter directly to the Arizona Supreme Court.

“Our state has more than 1.1 million K-12 students that Judge Coury let down today – and that’s shameful,” said Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas. “435,669 voters signed this petition during the COVID-19 pandemic and triple-digit heat to give all voters a say to fix the Arizona education crisis. Instead of respecting the voters, Judge Coury inserted his own political views throughout his baseless ruling.”

The ballot initiative was brought about by the AEA and Stand for Children, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit that pushes for state-level education reforms.

If successful, it would place a 3.5 percent “tax surcharge” for individuals who earn more than $250,000 or married couples earning more than $500,000. Coury argued this was one of the more prominently-misleading omissions of the initiative. Instead of a 3.5 percent tax increase, the use of surcharge means a 77 percent increase in the marginal taxpayer rate.

The money would go to higher teacher pay and hiring other school staff, with the rest going toward teacher retention programs.

The Arizona Supreme Court struck down a similar measure in 2018, giving particular attention to the misleading tax rate descriptions.

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