Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Proposed Tax Hike, Saying It's Too Confusing

The ballot initiative, which would have raised money for education by hiking taxes on the wealthy, "creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness."


Rick D'Elia/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A proposed ballot initiative in Arizona would have raised money for public schools by hiking taxes. But it won't be on the ballot this November because its description is too confusing, the state's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Proportion 207, also called Invest in Education, would have raised the income tax rate on Arizonians who make more than $250,000 a year (or couples who earn more than $500,000) from 4.54 percent to 8 percent. Individuals with income greater than $500,000 or couples who make more than $1 million would have had to relinquish 9 percent of their earnings to the state.

Proponents of the measure, which garnered roughly 270,000 signatures, say it would have raised $690 million for education each year. But the Supreme Court ruled that the petition's brief description wasn't worded well and "creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness."

For one thing, the court thinks the proposal didn't accurately portray the tax hike. As the Arizona Republic reports:

The complaint alleged the petitions were misleading because they referred to the proposed tax-rate increase as a "percent" increase and not the more accurate "percentage point" increase. According to the complaint, the tax rate would have seen a 76 and 98 percent increase and not a 3.46 and 4.46 percent increase.

Another problem has to do with tax brackets. In 2014, Arizona passed legislation to index tax brackets, thus ensuring that people don't face tax hikes if their earnings don't rise faster than inflation. The ballot initiative would have eliminated this indexing, but the petition didn't inform potential signees of this fact.

Former Arizona state legislator David Lujan tells The New York Times that the ruling "takes away the voice of the people." But not everyone agrees. "It's been a great day for everyone looking out for freedom," Tom Jenney of Americans for Tax Prosperity tells KSAZ.

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  1. Eh…not much of a story here. If the idiots who drafted this initiative had done a better job, this wouldn’t be a story. It’s not like the court ruled that the legislature couldn’t tax the fuck out of its citizenry.

    1. A shame they didn’t rule that all laws should apply to all people equally and eliminate the discriminatory progressive taxation completely.

  2. The most important story associated with the Arizona Supreme Court involves the recent enlargement of that court.

  3. Judges > citizens.
    Got it.
    Support the second amendment.

    1. No, more like:
      Judges > partisan hacks who deliberately mis-word a ballot initiative in an attempt to mislead citizens.

      Nothing is stopping them from putting a fairly described initiative on the ballot. But yes, support the second amendment.

  4. So this is how they’ll come for me.

  5. Omitting mention of the elimination of indexing would seem to be the fatal flaw.

    1. Calling a nearly 100% increase a 4.46% increase was worse.

      1. Not so sure about that. I think they have the usage backwards.

        When someone says “taxes are going up by 5%” my mind says ‘if existing rates are 6% that means the new rate will be 11%.’ I certainly do not think of a 6% rate becoming 6.3%. But it’s also hard to say for sure, because damned if I can find any link to the actual; text of the proposition. Even the initiative website doesn’t have it.

        When the proponents of a ballot measure won’t provide you with the text of the ballot measure my skepticism grows exponentially.

        1. Think of it differently. If someone told you that your taxes were going up 50%, do you now think that the government is going to take well over half your income? What if I said that your taxes were going up 100%? Do you now think that the government will be taking more than you earn? Or do you interpret that to mean that your taxes doubled?

          At what point does your mental map change from reading that sentence as percentage points to real percent?


          The tax brackets are spelled out in the law. The law was available as part of the signature gathering process.

          The initiative process rarely works well. But, in this case, I don’t think the issues the court brought up would have changed anybody’s mind. Even in red states, solid majorities back education spending and taxing the rich.

          This is a powerful message for Democrats running. I can see the ad now: “Republicans conspired to take away your right to decide on teaching our children.” Hopefully the next legislature follows the people and passes a better drafted version of this. Otherwise, they’ll go the way of Oklahoma.

  6. They’ll fix that next time:
    “Turn over all your money to the taxman”.

  7. hiking taxes on the wealthy

    Feeling nostalgia for the days when “wealthy” meant having wealth rather than a high income…

    1. No shit. There’s a huge difference between gross and net.

  8. >>>270,000 signatures

    the people of Arizona hate the people of Arizona.

    1. Well, to be fair, who doesn’t? They kept electing that shit McCain.

      1. Not a problem anymore.

        1. Let’s not be sanguine until the results of the next election are in

  9. I guess we’ll just have to imagine what the 100 word description might say

    1. The Invest in Education Act increases the classroom site fund by raising the income tax rate by 3.46% on individual incomes over a quarter million dollars (or household incomes over half a million dollars), and by 4.46% on individual incomes over half a million dollars (or household incomes over a million dollars); designates 60% of new funds for teacher salaries and 40% for operations; adds full day kindergarten and pay raises for student support services personnel as permitted fund uses; requires governing boards seek teacher and personnel input on fund use plans; defines teacher and student support services personnel.

  10. Fuckwits. Why not propose raising taxes on a small number of people, and list them by name? Then we can have some real petty democracy.

    1. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing legislators write tax bills specifically naming billionaire grandstanders like Warren Buffett and Tom Steyer who go out in public and ask to be taxed more.

      1. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever regretted the proscription against bills of attainder.

      2. Soak Our Rich Old Seniors Act?
        Bring Up Funds From Every Trillionaire Troglodyte? Warren will have to make a lot more money first.

  11. They did the same thing here when they raised the county sales tax from 2 cents to three cents – a little bitty 1% tax increase!

  12. Education is the state level third rail. Once people see education suffering from the budget cuts, they throw out the legislature. That’s how the Brownback experiment crashed in Kansas, and just this week, six of the house members who voted against teacher pay lost their runoffs, bringing the total primary losers to 8 of the 19 who voted against it. Only four won their primaries.

  13. Judges finally striking down vague laws.

    Amazing that they are doing their jobs.

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