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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Our one cent on Prop. 100

About one month from today, voters in Arizona will hit the polls for a special election to decide on a temporary one-cent sales tax increase that would continue through May 13, 2013. If the increase passes as a result of the May 18 special election, sales tax would increase by one cent per every dollar spent. The tax is expected to generate between $800 million and $1 billion per year. One third of the revenue will be directed toward health and human services, and the other two thirds will be directed toward primary and secondary education.

Many organizations on the UA campus, including Arizona Students’ Association, have endorsed the proposed tax increase and are diligently promoting discussion of the bill with tents on the mall, T-shirts and events promoting voter registration. As ASA’s mission is to work to keep education affordable in Arizona, this is a valid cause for the group to promote.

The pros and cons of Proposition 100 have notably been emphasized — not by what will be gained if the bill passes, but by what will be eliminated if it does not. According to the Arizona Education Network, as much as one quarter of all public education funding could be cut in an attempt to balance the state’s budget. This could mean that nearly two out of every 10 teacher positions would be eliminated.

For Arizona residents, voting yes on this increase seems obvious. If Proposition 100 does not pass, more than $1 billion will be immediately cut from not only education but also public safety, healthcare and corrections departments. Just as elementary and middle school students can’t perform as well in school with 20 percent fewer teachers, even those residents without children in school will feel the burden of reduced fire and police forces or a drastic decrease in the state Medicaid system far more than they would be affected by a mere temporary 1-percent tax increase.

If Prop. 100 fails, $420 million will be cut from Arizona schools on top of the $300 million that has already been eliminated. Corrections and court systems will be cut by $90 million, a funding decrease that could lead to the Juvenile Corrections Department being eliminated entirely. Another $200 million will be cut from the state’s Medicaid system.

But even despite those staggering numbers, there is another side to the argument. First, Proposition 100 is a proposed sales tax increase, as opposed to a property tax or other form of taxation. Sales tax is a regressive form of taxation, meaning that it is a greater burden on the poor than the rich. In other words, a person who makes more money will feel less of an impact of a 1-percent tax increase than a person who makes less money. The writers of the bill probably designed the bill this way because Arizona has historically been a tax-averse state, and passing a hypothetical hundreds-of-dollars property tax would be more difficult than passing a one-cent temporary sales tax increase. Another theory behind making this a sales tax may have been that visitors to the state will be paying the tax as well as residents, whereas only property owners would be paying if this were a proposed property-tax increase.

The flaw in such logic is closely related to the very reason that Arizona needs this tax increase at all: In times when the economy is slow, people travel less, spend less and, as a result, pay fewer sales taxes. The assumption on which a sales tax operates is that sales themselves will be brisk enough to generate the kind of tax revenue Arizona needs to keep from such drastic cuts to classrooms, cops and criminals.

Another important concern to note about Proposition 100 is that it will allocate no money directly to higher education. According to the official ballot text (Article IX, Section 12.1), “”Two-thirds of the revenues shall be appropriated for public primary and secondary education.”” Primary education is defined as elementary schools, while secondary education refers to high schools through 12th grade. None of the money generated by Proposition 100 would go directly toward post-secondary education (colleges), a point informed voters should be sure to note. Though it is true that there is no direct funding to the UA in the language of the bill, the revenue generated by the passage of this temporary increase will theoretically make up for deficits elsewhere in the state budget, which would allow for other money to be allocated to higher education.

A tax increase is never ideal, and much of the criticism leveled against the state legislature regarding budget concerns is valid. But the state budget deficit must be dealt with, and Prop 100 is vital to that process, no matter how short-sighted and less-than-ideal is may seem now. Arizona voters should not deprive schoolchildren of their teachers for the sake of theoretical legislative pedantry. All those who are concerned with the future of Arizona should cast a “”yes”” vote for Prop 100 on May 18.

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