Prop 100 attracts surprising supporters
By Daniel Kraker
Flagstaff, AZ – If you're looking for someone to speak out against a proposed tax increase, there's no better place than a Tea Party rally on Tax Day. About 100 people gathered last Thursday outside Flagstaff City Hall, including Mitchell Krish, a Flagstaff truck driver who held a sign reading "Taxed Enough Already."
"I'm against more taxation right now, too many of our families are starving, trying to make ends meet, trying to get from month to month."
But several Tea Party members here support Prop 100, including Janie Cook, decked out in a red shirt and cowboy hat and waving a huge American flag. Her reason is simple.
"Because AZ is seriously hurting right now, we need the money."
"We hope it's not forever."
That second voice is Ronnie Hyndman, another Tea Party member and a vice president of Flagstaff Republican Women.
"I'm for the sales tax, we're willing to pay that stuff "
It's a tough issue, for supporters and opponents alike. Joy Stavely prefers a sales tax to a property or income tax. But the co-owner of Canyoneers River Rafting Company in Flagstaff is still planning to vote "No."
" I think that the sales tax would simply prolong what we have to do, which is to cut spending we cannot keep taxing people. I'm afraid that the increase in the sales tax will have a negative impact on businesses, I'm concerned people would spend less."
The business community is rarely a fan of tax increases, but it's split over Prop 100. Prescott chamber of commerce CEO Dave Mauer says his members took a poll, and were divided right down the middle.
"I think it might have surprised some people, only because the Prescott area traditionally is fairly conservative when it comes to tax issues I think people may have expected a large number of members NOT to support the tax increase."
Over at the Prescott Unified School District, Superintendent Kevin Kapp is firmly in support of Proposition 100. He says he's already facing a two million dollar budget cut for next school year that's out of a budget of 27 million. And if the tax increase fails, he'd need to cut an additional 2 million. He says they've already issued reduction in force letters to all its art, music and PE teachers in case that happens.
"If we need to make all the cuts, definitely, education will look different in Prescott than it does now. What it will look like, it will be more of a core education approach, students simply won't have the electives we've enjoyed that truly add to the full education of a child "
But it's the state's universities that would face the biggest cuts if Prop 100 failed.
"What you're looking at is cuts in excess of 30 percent to the university."
NAU president John Haeger says the university has already had its budget cut 28 million dollars over the past two years. Without the tax increase, NAU would take another 17 million dollar hit, which Haeger say "gets into more furloughs, more layoffs, reduced academic programming "
And probably larger class sizes and a request for another tuition hike. The state legislature's contingency plan also calls for county jails to house inmates sentenced to a year or less, rather than state prisons. Coconino County sheriff Bill Pribil says that would mean a four million dollar hit to the jail district, two years after county voters approved a sales tax hike to keep it solvent.
"We've take care of our shop here in northern AZ, its' frustrating to have the legislature making decisions because apparently they didn't take care of their house."
Arizona is certainly not alone in having to make difficult cuts. Arturo Perez, a researcher with the National Conference of State Legislatures, says that's typically what states do first when faced with a deficit.
"You'll find that states tend to follow a pattern where they're facing a shortfall, budget cutting first, tapping reserves second, lastly raising revenues."
It's just that Arizona has waited longer than just about any other state to raise those revenues. Last year 12 states raised sales taxes, and many more raised income and other taxes and fees. And in almost all those cases state governments not voters made those tough decisions
For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Daniel Kraker