Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that Invest in Education Act supporters who blame him for the downfall of the ballot initiative need schooling on how government works.
Ducey’s comments come after Red for Ed and Invest in Ed supporters blamed the governor for an Arizona Supreme Court ruling on Aug. 29 that will keep the initiative, which would have raised taxes on the state’s top earner to fund education, off the November ballot.
“I would point them to a civics 101 class,” Ducey said. “The Supreme Court is a separate and coequal branch.”
Arizona teachers make up a large portion of Invest in Ed supporters.
Proponents of Invest in Ed accused Ducey of “stacking” the Supreme Court in order to further his agenda and kill the citizens initiative. In 2016, Ducey appointed two new justices to the state Supreme Court after the Legislature passed legislation expanding the court from five to seven members at the governor’s behest. He also made an appointment in 2015.
Invest in Ed supporters say Ducey’s appointed justices played a major role in killing the ballot initiative. It is too early to know, though.
The Supreme Court ruling was a split decision, but the five-paragraph preliminary ruling does not indicate where each justice stood in the debate. A more extensive written ruling will be issued in the future that will disclose the split and further explain the ruling.
A majority of the justices ruled that the initiative description of Invest in Ed’s proposed tax hike on the wealthiest Arizonans and the omission of any language describing how the law would affect income tax brackets for Arizonans at every income level was inadequate.
The two factors created “a significant danger of confusion or unfairness,” Chief Justice Scott Bales wrote in the decision barring the initiative from a vote on the November ballot.
Ducey said Monday after a campaign event he respects the high court’s decision that the initiative could have been misleading to voters.
Ducey has repeatedly refused to comment on ballot initiatives before they make it on the ballot, but he indicated that his thoughts on Invest in Ed were already clear.
“Everyone knew I was not in favor of the tax increase,” he said. Ducey said he looks forward to reading the full opinion when it is released.
After the Supreme Court decision, Red for Ed supporters quickly lashed out against the court, the governor and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry — a major opponent of the initiative — for Invest in Ed’s demise. Red for Ed supporters, who spent months collecting approximately 270,000 signatures to put the initiative on ballot, have held protests at the Supreme Court and the Chamber to vent their anger at the high court’s ruling.
Red for Ed supporters are now working to channel their energy into getting pro-public education candidates up and down the ballot elected to office this November. One candidate they are backing is Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia, who also bashed Ducey for the Supreme Court decision.
After the ruling, Garcia labeled the Supreme Court as Ducey’s “cronies” in a fundraising email.
“The stakes in the race for Governor of Arizona have just changed — utterly and irrevocably. Doug Ducey’s hand-picked Supreme Court just removed the Invest in Education initiative from the ballot,” Garcia said in the email.
The Invest in Ed ballot measure sought to raise taxes on income above $250,000, a move they estimated would boost funding for K-12 public schools by $690 million.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Gov. Doug Ducey said supporters of the Invest in Education Act who blame him for the initiative’s downfall are in need of a civics lesson, not teachers who blame him for the downfall.