Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough said state lawmakers will fast track a bill to permanently extend a sales tax dedicated to public education through both chambers on Thursday.
The Chandler Republican told the Arizona Capitol Times today that measures to extend Proposition 301 in both the state Senate and House of Representatives will get a chance to be voted on and sent to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk by the end of the day. It’ll take a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber for the bills to be approved.
“I’m actually going to try and drive that thing home by tomorrow afternoon,” Yarbrough said, adding that both chambers are expected to devote most of their energy to those bills on Thursday.
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it’s possible the House could move in lockstep with the Senate tomorrow, but he’ll need to consult with House lawmakers before setting on that course of action. The bill has “a lot of support” in the House, he said.
If a bill is approved tomorrow and Ducey signs it, that would permanently extend the more than $644 million in annual funding generated by a six-tenths of a cent sales tax for public education that voters approved in 2000.
Prop. 301 revenues provide funding for teacher salaries and performance pay raises. If not extended, the sales tax is set to expire in June 2021.
Yarbrough, like many other Republicans lawmakers in Arizona, has resisted extending Prop. 301 without strings attached, or as Mesnard has said, reforms to the way those sales tax revenues are spent.
That’s put the Republican-controlled Legislature at odds with some in the education community and some business leaders, who’ve threatened to renew the Prop. 301 at the ballot, a move that would make it harder for future lawmakers to tweak the tax and how those revenues are distributed to schools.
It’s better for lawmakers to renew Prop. 301 themselves, Yarbrough said, because it ensures they’ll be able to “tinker” with those revenues in the future.
However, there will be one alteration to the revenue distribution in the bills, Yarbrough said.
A portion of Prop. 301 dollars helps pay debt for school facilities. Once the debt is paid, that portion of Prop. 301 revenues would be redistributed to the classroom site fund, which provides dollars to boost teacher salaries.
Roughly $64 million went to debt service payments in fiscal year 2017, according to figures from the State Treasurer’s Office.
The bills to renew Prop. 301 were given new life earlier this week, when House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, withdrew HB 2158, sponsored by Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, from a committee assignment that blocked the bill’s path to a vote on the House floor.
In the Senate, SB 1390, sponsored by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Thursday morning. If all goes according to plan, Yarbrough said the bill would receive votes on the floor that afternoon.
It’ll take a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber for the bills to be approved.