I am a Republican state senator, a high school teacher and a fiscal conservative.
Last year, I helped negotiate a budget proposal that included one of the largest tax cuts and debt reductions in Arizona history. However, the tax cut has been referred to the voters by a group of public education advocates, leaving Arizona’s tax structure in question.
Uncertainty in our tax structure creates doubt. That same doubt creates a disincentive to invest in our state’s economy.
Republican legislative leadership and Gov. Doug Ducey wish to pass an additional tax cut measure now, which would nullify the referral of last year’s tax cut and likely start the cycle all over again in which we pass a tax cut only to see it referred back to Arizona voters to decide.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
We can lower taxes and help kids in poor schools
Many Arizonans, including columnist Robert Robb of this newspaper, have suggested it is time for a “grand bargain” that will result in a sustained income tax cut for Arizona citizens while simultaneously increasing funding for public education.
While I don’t always agree with these public education groups on policy, to repeal and replace their initiative would be a slap in the face to Arizona voters who voted for more money for education, along with all the teachers who collected signatures to refer last year’s tax cut to the ballot.
Here are the facts:
The state is sitting on a budget surplus today of approximately $1.7 billion. Some of that is related to the excessive stimulus package passed by the Biden administration and will disappear as a reliable source of future state revenues once that money works its way through the economy.
The voters narrowly passed, much to my chagrin, an income tax increase for education at the ballot in 2020. There is unquestionably bipartisan support by Arizona voters for additional education funding.
A shortage of education funding in certain areas is leaving our most economically vulnerable populations behind. We must do more for students who live in poor communities. That includes giving them more hours of instruction, and more time before and after class in a structured educational environment. It must also include opportunity scholarships to permit parents of these children to freely choose where their child will attend – public school, private school, homeschool, or even micro schools.
The governor and Republican leaders want to further reduce taxes beyond the record tax cut enacted last year. I’m fine with that so long as we honor the will of Arizona voters and prudently invest $900 million more reliable, repeatable dollars into the programs outlined above.
Let's pass a bipartisan bill that does both
A fitting end to this unproductive cycle of partisan politics is for my colleagues to adequately fund and, at the same time, create opportunities for choice in our state’s public education system.
In the 55th session of the Arizona Legislature there are 16 Republican senators needed to pass a bill, but I will not be a part of a vote on a tax cut alone.
Let’s try to get more than the bare minimum. Let’s pass a bipartisan bill that secures the future of our economy and our state’s public education system.
I’ll vote for that.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: I won't back Republicans' tax cut unless we hike school funding