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Court Removes Invest In Education Measure From Ballot

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Supreme Court barred a ballot proposal seeking to raise income taxes on the wealthy to fund schools from appearing on the November ballot.

In an order Wednesday, Chief Justice Scott Bales said a majority of the court found that the measure’s description of the change in tax rates creates a danger of confusion or unfairness. The order reverses a lower-court ruling earlier this month that rejected the legal challenge to the measure.

The Secretary of State’s office had previously said organizers gathered enough petition signatures to appear on the ballot, but opponents kept pushing their lawsuit.

Opponents said the tax hike would have harmed the state’s economy, while supporters say it would have raised an estimated $690 million for schools.

The tax proposal came after a six-day teacher strike where tens of thousands of educators walked out of classrooms and protested at the state Capitol to demand increases in education funding. They sought $1 billion in new funding for schools, while Republican Gov. Doug Ducey pushed for a plan to raise teacher salaries by 20 percent by 2020.

Ducey’s proposal passed as part of the state budget, along with a partial restoration of nearly $400 million in recession-era cuts and a pledge to fill in the rest within five years. But many striking teachers said that wasn’t enough to address classroom needs. They channeled their efforts toward signature gathering for the Invest in Education Act.

The proposal sought to raise the income tax rate to 8 percent for individuals earning more than $250,000 and households earning more than $500,000 for the portion of their income above those cutoffs.

Under the measure, individuals who earn more than $500,000 and households who earn more than $1 million would have paid 9 percent above those cutoffs.

Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy, a group contesting Proposal 207, released a statement that said the court made the right decision.

“Not only was the initiative poorly crafted, it was the wrong plan. It would have harmed all taxpayers, small businesses, and would not have delivered on its promises for teachers, while weakening education reforms that were achieved in a bipartisan fashion under Proposition 301,” it said.

The Invest in Ed group released a statement of its own decrying the ruling.

“Our highest court has joined the entrenched politicians at the Capitol in blatantly protecting the elite and the wealthy over the rights of voters and the needs of Arizona’s children,” it said. “They’ve ignored the basic right, enshrined in the Arizona Constitution, of Arizona voters to enact laws on their own behalf.”