The campaign behind a 1-cent sales tax released its first TV commercial over the weekend, aggressively seeking to paint the ballot measure as a direct response to legislators’ antipathy toward K-12 funding.
The ad accuses the Legislature of having cut more from educational funding than any other state, a reference to a recent study by a Washington, D.C.-based left-leaning research group that said Arizona holds the worst record in the country in reducing the budget for K-12.
The TV ad doesn’t mention that the cuts took place during the worst of the recession, when lawmakers grappled with a multi-year and multi-billion dollar deficit.
The ad’s central message is that Proposition 204 will renew a one-cent sales tax increase that voters passed two years ago. It says the initiative will create a stable and permanent funding source for K-12 education that lawmakers can’t take away.
The campaign’s narrative is that voters approved what came to be known as Prop. 100 “because politicians refused to adequately fund education.”
“Prop. 204 renews this school funding, makes education a priority and strengthens our economy,” the ad says.
In fact, politicians referred Prop. 100 to the ballot following the prodding of one of their own — Gov. Jan Brewer, who went against the Republican orthodoxy in pushing for a tax increase in the middle of a recession.
Brewer staked her political career over the one-cent sales tax, which voters approved in a special election in 2010.
When asked about the role that politicians played in making Prop. 100 happen, Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the Prop. 204 campaign, said lawmakers could have passed the tax themselves instead of passing the buck to the public.
He added that schools were still underfunded and complaints were rampant about continued cuts even after the public approved Prop. 100.
The tax approved in 2010 is meant to be temporary and is set to expire next year.
The governor opposes Prop. 204, sharply criticizing the measure as an “18 percent” sales tax increase that doesn’t guarantee results.
Brewer is referring to the percentage increase from 5.6 percent, which will be the base once the current one-cent tax expires, to 6.6 percent, which will become the permanent sales tax if Prop 204 is approved. The “18 percent” argument was one of the criticisms against Prop. 100 two years ago.
Critics also point to the state’s improving revenue situation to buttress their view that a tax increase isn’t necessary.
Additionally, opponents of the tax are preparing a vigorous counter attack, hoping to persuade voters that Prop. 204 is a permanent tax increase, is being peddled when the budget situation has improved and was drafted by “special interest” groups for their own benefit.