PHOENIX – Attorneys for the Invest In Ed ballot initiative were scolded today and for second time in two years, a court has deemed ineligible the group’s tax raising initiative for the ballot. The initiative was challenged by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce based on the premise that the summary language was misleading.
Invest in Ed proposed through the initiative process a tax on Arizona’s top income earners that would tax income above a certain limit. For individuals, the proposed levy would tax income above $250,000 for individuals, and $500,000 for couples at 3.5 percent and $35 for every $1,000 above those income limits.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury found:
The disappointing aspect of this case is that IIE (Invest In Ed) ignored the lessons provided by the Arizona Supreme Court in Molera in 2018. When a teacher specifically instructs the student exactly how to complete a math problem, and when the student disregards the instruction, and does the math problem incorrectly on the future test, should the student receive a passing grade? The simple answer is no. However, it is not unfair for a feeling of disappointment to arise based on the student’s performance because the student disregarded the teacher specific instruction. IIE can be described much like a student in this example. Two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court in Molera identified exactly how IIE could accomplish precisely what IIE sought to accomplish (IIE was a party in Molera.) Despite this extremely rare occurrence in Arizona jurisprudence, IIE disregarded this instruction and elected to craft the Initiative in it’s own way, using terminology from state such as Massachusetts and Maine that Arizona, by and large does not use. Like an honest teacher, the court cannot “look the other way,” pretend that the IIE has done what is required and allow IIE to pass.”
The Invest In Ed ballot summary read:
“The Invest in Education Act provides additional funding for public education by establishing a 3.5 percent surcharge on taxable income above $250,000 annually for single persons or married persons filing separately, and on taxable income above $500,000 annually for married persons filing jointly or head of household filers; dedicates additional revenue to (a) hire and increase salaries for teachers, classroom support personnel and student support services personnel, (b) mentoring and retention programs for new classroom teachers, (c) career training and post-secondary preparation programs, (d) Arizona Teachers Academy; amends the Arizona Teachers Academy statute; requires annual accounting of additional revenue.”
Jaime Molera, the leader of both the 2018 and 2020 campaign against the Invest in Ed Initiative, argued that the summary did not explain the actual impact of the initiative.
Opponents also alleged that backers of the initiative illegally paid petition circulators.
On Friday, Molera released a statement calling the Court’s decision the “right one.”
“As we made clear, the tax increase proponents’ entire process, from signature gathering to their one-hundred-word summary, was flawed and misleading. Perhaps most troubling however, is that their proposed policy would have done tremendous harm to the Arizona economy and the state’s small businesses during a particularly challenging time. Should the proponents appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court, we anticipate the same outcome.”
IIE announced in a tweet its intention to appeal:
— #INVESTinED (@investinedaz) July 31, 2020