A push to give a major boost to K-12 funding in Arizona has fallen short, with voters rejecting an extension of a sales tax increase that they originally approved in 2010.
The tax was due to sunset in 2013, but Proposition 204 would have made the 1-cent tax increase permanent. Boosters of the proposition said it would have provided at least $625 million annually in additional money for public schools if approved. The measure also would have created a funding floor for education that state legislators couldn't go below when it came to state K-12 spending. But opponents, including Treasury Secretary Doug Ducey, said the ballot measure was misguided and would only damage business and commerce in the state.
An alternate ballot measure that also would increase K-12 funding, albeit on a smaller scale and without a tax increase, Proposition 118, was still up in the air Wednesday morning, but it had a 6,000-vote margin with all but five of Arizona's 1667 precincts reporting. Proposition 118, which Ducey prominently supported, would increase the amount of money for K-12 coming from state trust lands, but only by about $10 million next year, a pretty paltry sum compared to the promise of $625 million in new annual money from Proposition 204, its ballot rival. The Arizona Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, supported both Proposition 118 and Proposition 204.
The rejection of Proposition 204 represents a victory for the GOP establishment in the state determined to fight off any significant tax hikes. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, supported the original sales tax increase in 2010, but not the extension. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently reported that from fiscal years 2008 to 2013, Arizona cut more K-12 spending per student than any other state. Ducey has disputed that analysis, but no doubt that study makes Proposition 204's failure that much harder for its advocates to swallow.