Will Prop 204 save education or hurt the poor?

Most of this year’s ballot propositions are easy NO votes, mainly because all but two of them were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m no fan of our current state legislature.

I intend to vote NO on all of the legislature’s propositions, with the exception of Prop 119: State Trust Lands, which has bipartisan support from the legislature as well as the support of both the Chamber of Commerce and leading conservation groups. That’s a rarity.

The two citizen referrals, however, are not split down party lines and the cases for and against each proposition are convincing. I have already discussed why I’m voting YES on Prop 121: Open Elections in a previous article.

But I have gone back and forth on Proposition 204: Quality Education and Jobs Act. Though I strongly agree that we must put more funds into education, I also hate the idea of a regressive, permanent tax. We already have some of the highest sales taxes in the nation as well as some of the highest levels of poverty. The poor are those who can least afford yet another tax. That being said, those in poverty are also those who are most in need of a strong education system.

So, how do we vote on a proposition that could simultaneously hurt and help the poor? That’s a tough call, but in this instance, I think voting YES on 204 is our best option, and here’s why.

Prop 204, to its credit, uses a portion of its dollars to fund KidsCare, a health insurance program for children in poverty that has also been the target of budget cuts by our state legislature.

The business community, understandably so, does not want our state to be known for its high sales taxes. Nor do I. But perhaps this will encourage the business community to put pressure on the state legislature to reform our taxes in a less regressive way.

Several Democratic leaders at the Capitol, most notably Chad Campbell, have proposed closing some of our tax loopholes in order to lower our overall sales tax rates. Perhaps the enactment of Prop 204, combined with pressure from the Chambers, will usher in a bipartisan effort on sales tax reform. One can hope.

The best way, of course, to ensure that education is properly funded is to elect state representatives that make education a priority. Though Arizonans have shown time and again that they value a strong education system and are willing to pay for better schools, they also continue to elect legislators who are more than willing to slash funding for K-12 education, universities and colleges, early childhood education, and all-day Kindergarten all while expanding private-tuition scholarship tax credits and funding for private prisons.

Until the electorate starts paying closer attention to what is being done at the state Capitol and until we start electing legislators who give more than just lip service to education, I cannot trust that this state can dig itself out of last place in education funding without a dedicated funding source.

Opponents argue that Prop 204 will tie legislator’s hands. They’re right. Opponents argue it’s the job of legislators to manage our budgets. Right again. But history has shown that without handholding, our legislators will defer their jobs and our monies to the private interests that do not benefit our kids.

That’s too big of a risk for this mom, and I believe, too big of a risk for the future of this state. For those reasons, I’ll be voting YES on 204.


  1. Richard Usher

    Julie, although the passage of this measure has been characterized as a permanent increase in the state sales tax rate, this is not actually accurate as you have pointed to in your post. The Legislature has the authority to reduce the existing underlying sales tax in order to reduce the total sales tax rate. What the Legislature will not likely be able to accomplish is redirecting the spending of the resulting revenues away from the voters will as established by Prop 204. I don’t like the regressive nature of sales tax either; however, I know of no other way to prevent our misguided legislature from defunding education and the maintenance of our infrastructure without taking the initiative of the voters to them. Thanks for your thought provoking post.

  2. mike slater

    I plan on voting no on Prop121 and 204. No on 204 because I always vote no on tax increases but more so because of the backers of this Prop. If this passes I doubt much of the money will be used in the classroom.

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