State senators voted Monday for legislation Monday that could effectively undermine any effort by voters to hike their own sales taxes for education.
The legislation is designed to deal with what happens June 1, 2013 when the temporary one-cent sales tax hike approved by voters in 2010 expires. Groups seeking to raise money for education are proposing a new initiative that, if approved by voters, would keep that extra levy in place to generate about a billion dollars a year. But the measure crafted by Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs says if the tax is approved, the state would automatically cut income tax rates by an equal amount. The move disappointed Ann-Eve Pedersen of the Arizona Education Network.
"The public is very in favor of investing in education." she said. "It's disappointed to see legislators trying to thwart public will by pushing through a measure like this."
Majority Leader Biggs disagreed, "I don't know why you think that's thwarting the will of the voters necessarily. I don't know that that is."
But Senator Linda Gray noted that if voters approve the sales tax hike and earmark the funds for education, the Legislature is constitutionally required to spend the revenues from the tax hike that way. She said that means the billion dollars lost in income taxes would have to come from other programs.
"It just kind of neutrals it out," she said. "We would have to go in and cut from other areas because we wouldn't have the revenue coming in."
The Senate approved the change on a voice vote.