In the face of a crippling national recession that has driven down state revenues by historic proportions, Arizona is not alone in facing stark choices about priorities for our present and our future.
As lawmakers across the country look at the dangerous consequences of weakening education, health care and opportunities for children, many are finding fair and responsible ways to protect these voter priorities. And they are getting support from the public.
Oregon did just that. Months ago, the Oregon Legislature joined 29 other states by passing tax increases to avoid deeper cuts in education, health, human services and public safety. These tax increases were then referred to the voters, who could affirm the new taxes or overturn them.
With a 60 percent turnout, Oregon voters said “yes” to both taxes – an income tax increase for households earning more than $250,000, as well as higher taxes on businesses. These votes preserved more than $700 million over two years to sustain class sizes in public schools, provide seniors with in-home care, and secure health care for thousands.
Voters said loud and clear that they favor a balanced approach to closing the budget deficit. It makes sense for people and businesses to pay their fair share to help the state recover from the economic downturn. Voters agreed it is good for business and the economy to nurture the assets most important to families and jobs.
Voters said “no” to the arguments of wealthy businessmen such as Nike’s Phil Knight and Columbia Sportswear’s Tim Boyle.
Arizona lawmakers should look to Oregon’s example. Arizona children are already missing out on affordable health coverage and safe child care; many struggling parents have lost key tools to help them succeed. The ripple effects of more spending cuts to balance the state budget will be huge as our children fall further and further behind children growing up in our competitor states.
If Oregon can do it, so can Arizona. Even before the tax increase, the wealthiest 20 percent of households in Oregon paid income taxes 2.5 times higher than the wealthiest 20 percent of households in Arizona.
And the wealthiest 1 percent of households in Oregon paid total state and local taxes 33 percent higher than the wealthiest 1 percent of households in Arizona.
But, instead of standing up for education and health care, House Speaker Kirk Adams is fast-tracking legislation that that will cut taxes for wealthy households and businesses, while health care, child care, and quality education for kids disappear into thin air. Our lawmakers should throw that legislation away and pass fair and responsible tax increases as part of a balanced approach for the sake of our fiscal stability and our future.
– Dana Wolfe Naimark is president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance.