Gov. Doug Ducey caught some folks by surprise when he told reporters this week that that he’s open to extending the Proposition 301 sales tax that helps fund education, and may even consider increasing it.
Reporters have asked Ducey for months to share his feelings on the .06 percent sales tax, which is set to expire in mid-2021. Education advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are pushing to get the tax on the ballot sooner than later, and many have said they would support expanding the tax to a full cent.
Ducey until Tuesday refused to say exactly where he stood. He ran for governor on a pledge not to increase taxes during his tenure, and to cut them every year. When he was treasurer, Ducey led the successful campaign against a penny sales-tax increase for education via Proposition 204 in 2012.
“Things haven’t changed — there are not going to be any new taxes. This is a funding program, and we’re going to continue a funding program,” he said Tuesday of Prop. 301.
He said he will continue meeting with education leaders to develop a new Prop. 301 proposal to take to the voters.
But “continue” intimates that serious conversations have started. And the state’s largest education groups say they’re perplexed about who exactly Ducey has been talking with.
AZ Schools Now is a coalition of nearly a dozen education advocacy groups, including the Arizona Education Association teacher group, as well as the Arizona School Boards Association, the Arizona PTA, the Arizona School Administrators Association and the Arizona Business and Education Coalition. The groups are among the leaders of the Prop. 301 renewal effort so far.
Julie Erfle, who represents AZ Schools Now, said the Governor’s Office has not spoken to any of the advocacy groups in the coalition about Prop. 301.
Legislative leaders also were caught off guard by Ducey’s comments, and the timing as they begin to dig into the budget process.
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said there were some rumblings before the legislative session began about lawmakers pushing for a ballot measure.
“And then I didn’t see a lot of, frankly, the Governor’s Office talking about it, and it just kind of fizzled away,” he said. “So I was a little bit surprised to have it revived at this moment. (The Governor’s Office) never reached out to me.”
Mesnard said he’s willing to have the conversation, but said he thinks an effort to increase the taxation amount would be a “really tough” sell to the Republican-controlled Legislature. And he said until he hears from the Governor’s Office, he’s going to focus on business as usual this session and budget negotiations.
“I’m kind of just moving along with an awareness that happened and trying to get through the session,” he said.
-Originally published by Alia Bearh Rau, AZ Central on 3/17/17 at 7:26 pm